Big Sky, MT, – Monster Energy Athlete Paul Whibley took a big win at this weekend’s Fourth Annual Big Sky Cross-country at Big Sky Resort, topping a large contingent of off-road heavyweights at the high-altitude event in Montana. With the win, the Am Pro Yamaha rider also pocketed $5000 of the overall purse for his efforts.
Set on rugged alpine trail ranging in altitude from 7500 feet to 10,000 feet, this year’s Big Sky XC was a true test of speed, riding ability and determination for the nearly 50 Pros entered. And Whibley proved he was most certainly up to the challenge, taking the lead on the opening lap and stretching it to a five-minute margin by the finish of the three-hour race, which also doubled as the final round of the AMA Western Hare Scrambles Championship.
Q: Was this the first time you have raced out west?
A: Yes. Up until this point all of my races here in America have been GNCC and off-road races in the east. I’ve heard a lot about Montana and I have always wanted to visit and when the opportunity came up to race at Big Sky we decided to take it.
Q: What was the course like?
A: It was rocky and tough and a little bit dusty, and not anything like I was expecting. I was thinking it was going to be faster trail and kind of desert terrain, but it was pretty tight and really rocky. Fortunately I was able to get out into the lead fairly quickly because the dust made it difficult to pass.
Q: Was the altitude a factor?
A: It certainly affected the bikes, the power was pretty weak, and I could tell the air was thinner. In some of the more difficult areas you would struggle to get your breath, but it wasn’t anything that really bothered me.
Q: Go through the race for us.
A: I got a good jump at the start but Brenden Ritzman beat me to the first turn, so I followed him for most of the first lap. There was a pretty good scramble after the start, but I was able to get through it with the lead bunch. Like I said, it was kind of dusty, so I followed Ritzman for a while before I finally made a pass and took the lead just before a really rocky uphill. After that, it was just a matter of putting my head down and riding a clean race.
Q: After winning just about everything you can in the east, it must be satisfying to come out west and win a race against some of the top guys out there.
A: Yes, there were all the top guys from the AMA Hare Scrambles series and a few of the EnduroCross regulars, so it was good to be able to ride against new competition.
Q: You seem to be on quite a roll now, winning this year and recently wrapping up the OMA title.
A: Yes, it’s been a good summer, and I just hope I can carry it over into the final rounds of the GNCC series.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Katherine and I are flying home from Montana and then we are traveling to Tennessee for next weekend’s Tennessee Knockout extreme race at the Trials Training Center.
Q: Do you have any experience at extreme off-road racing?A: No, that will be a first, so we’ll see what happens.