By: Shan Moore
Paul Whibley maintained his lead in the Grand National Cross Country Series with a solid runner-up finish at the latest round of the series in Union, South Carolina. That makes four podium finishes in a row for the Monster Energy athlete, who now leads Kailub Russell by two points in the series standings after four rounds, 101 to 99.
Whibley also continued his string of good starts, grabbing the holeshot and leading the Pro pack into the woods for the first time to start the three-hour race. And while the Am Pro Yamaha rider eventually lost contact with Russell, who went on to take the overall win, Whibs came out on top of a mighty duel with 2011 series champ Charlie Mullins to claim the second spot on the podium.
“It was a good race for me,” said Whibley. “We managed to keep the lead in the standings, and we came away healthy, so we’re basically in good shape at this point in the schedule. We just need to start getting a few more wins to stay ahead of Kailub.”
The Big Buck GNCC is considered one of the most rugged events on the schedule. And while this year’s event was basically dry, it still had the usual hazards, such as mud holes and steep climbs, which ultimately decided the battle for the runner-up spot between Whibley and Mullins.
“I got the holeshot again, so I was pretty happy with that,” added Whibley. “Kailub got past me fairly early on; I was riding a bit tight and he got away.”
Mullins also went around Whibley on lap two, however the two former champs were able to hook up and pull each other along as they chipped away at Russell’s lead.
“I started to loosen up after Charlie went around and we both kind of picked up the pace, and I could see we were catching Kailub,” said Whibley. “There were three or four sections of that track that were really tough and it was those sections that made up the race.”
Over the last two laps, both Whibley and Mullins suffered mishaps, which allowed Russell to build a comfortable lead heading into the finish.
“Charlie and I had been going back and forth,” said Whibley. “Near the end, Charlie was ahead of me, but then he got stuck in a mud hole and I was able to get around him and into second for good.”
On the final lap, Whibley tangled with a lapper and went down, however, he managed to stay ahead of Mullins to finish second.
“The course was quite dry and dusty, but there were a couple of pretty tough mud holes, which is where a lot of passing took place,” said Whibley. “Those spots kind of shaped the race, because a lot of guys got stuck and lost ground. But for the most part the course was dry and hard packed.”
“Kailub is just a couple of points behind me now in the standings, so we need to start getting wins,” said Whibley. “But overall I think things are going as planned.”
Whibley now heads to Tennessee next weekend for round four of the AMA National Enduro series, where he will use the race to test setups and get seat time in preparation for the next GNCC in Kentucky on April 19th.