We chatted with a few stars of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series to get their take on the double header season finale Parts Unlimited Loretta Lynn Ranch GNCC.
Paul Whibley Am-Pro Yamaha, XC1 Class, 1st (Friday) and 3rd (Sunday)
Friday: Off the start, Josh [Strang] and I came together, and it bent my shifter actually. So I had a hard time changing gears until we were able to bend the lever back during the gas stop. I was able to come through, I felt pretty good. I made some passes in the creeks, just pinned it across those. I got into second. It’s a shame what happened to Charlie there but that’s all a part of racing. You have to just keep pushing, you never know what is going to happen.
Sunday: Maybe some guys were not feeling it today, but I felt good. I’m usually back on the bike and training the second day after the race, so this was okay with me. And they mixed up the track a bit from Friday, it was rough but it was good.
Off the start I pinned it coming across the creek and got into the lead. I was just struggling a bit with my suspension setup today so I went back to third. Charlie was riding great and so was Kailub [Russell].
"Off the start I pinned it coming across the creek and got into the lead." - Paul Whibley
Photo: Shan Moore
Kailub Russell Team FMF/KTM XC1 Class, 4th (Friday) and 2nd (Sunday)
Sunday: I was pretty pissed after Friday, to say the least. I threw second away twice with crashes. It was a shame, just mistakes. Today I knew I could turn things around. I started off well, I started in third, I got around Paul, and then I got around Charlie to get into the lead. I made a mistake, I hit a root and flipped over the bars, and hit my head a little bit. It knocked me silly for a minute, but I was okay after that. I got up behind Toby [Price], he was riding pretty good. I just put my head down and ended up catching some of the guys, I got around Toby and Paul and got to second. Just that first lap, I set myself back, and you can’t do that with Charlie. He’s good at putting the hammer down, sprinting and establishing that lead. As soon as he does that, he’s gone and it’s hard to catch back up.
This was your rookie year in XC1. How do you think it went?
Yeah, it’s been a pretty good in some areas. But in other areas I lacked, especially at the beginning of the year. I’ve definitely put together a better work ethic at the end of the year and it started to pay off. I feel like I’m starting to figure this thing out a little better.
Jordan Ashburn, Obermeyer Yamaha, XC2 Lites, 1st (Friday) and 3rd (Sunday)
Friday: I got off to a good start and my dad was telling me where I was as far as the overall was. I knew the XC1 guys (450s) were not that far ahead, and I was able to pace myself with them. I felt good, I wasn't getting tired, but during the second half of the race, it’s like they just took off! I still felt good for the class win, though. It’s been a good second half of the year and I had fun.
Sunday: We switched to the YZ250 two-stroke today for fun, and I got off to the good start again. But that thing, it just wore me out and I was done! I definitely know which bike I’ll be riding next year!
"I was pretty pissed after Friday, to say the least. I threw second away twice with crashes." - Kailub Russell
Photo: Shan Moore
Jason Thomas, Fred Andrews Racing Husqvarna, XC2 Lites, 4th (Friday) and 2nd (Sunday)
Sunday: I broke my hand a few days before the Ironman GNCC (two weeks ago) and rode with it, the bones moved around a lot during the race and they almost came through the skin. I ended up having to get surgery, seven screws and a plate. I just put my head down this weekend and did what I had to do.
I got a pretty good start, but made some crashes and got left pretty far behind. I didn’t know if I could catch back up, but with it being rough, I had to find some smooth lines to save my hand. I actually ended up making ground back up, and I was right on those guys. I was kind of surprised! We had a good battle but I was able to get into the lead. On the last lap, Andrew was right there with me, and a lapper ended up splitting us, and I ended up on the wrong end of it, like I always do! But it’s cool, Andrew got his first win which is good. And when we rode together I think we went faster so it’s all good.
"On the last lap I was riding with Jason and I was able to get around him and get the lead." - Andrew DeLong
Photo: Shan Moore
Andrew DeLong, Fred Andrews Racing Husqvarna, XC2 Lites, 3rd (Friday) and 1st (Sunday)
Sunday: Jordan [Ashburn] kind of checked out early on us. I was riding with Jason and Stew [Baylor]. Jason made a mistake and I got around him, then I caught up to Stew and passed him when he had to pit. I kept pushing and I was able to catch Jordan and get into the lead. I didn’t want to push too hard because I didn’t know at what point in the race I was going to die! It wasn’t that bad racing two days, if we were riding the six-days (ISDE) we’d have four more days to go! On the last lap I was riding with Jason and I was able to get around him and get the lead.
You have come out of nowhere in the GNCC Series this year, but now you have a good ride with FAR/Husqvarna and now your first GNCC XC2 win. How did you come so far so fast?
Just hard work and dedication. My family puts all of their efforts into motorcycle racing, and now I’ve sort of made it a little bit.