Open Mic: Grant Baylor

Open Mic: Grant Baylor

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In 2011, South Carolina’s Steward Baylor took the XC2 (250 Class) Championship in the Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series, but a wrist injury has plagued his last two seasons. But his younger brother Grant has picked up the slack, jumping to the XC2 class this year, winning the title in his first try! Here’s Grant explaining his dream season.

Racer X: This is a weird deal, your brother won the XC2 title in the past, he was injured this year, and you came through and won it!
Grant Baylor:
Yeah I wasn’t even planning on running XC2 this year, I was too young, but they changed the rules this year. Now if you were set to turn 16 during the season, and you were in the top 20 overall the previous year, you could race it. So I had my chance. I was expecting maybe to have a few good races, maybe race with guys like Jason Thomas and Andrew DeLong a few times, but nothing like winning a title at all.

How’d you do it?
Florida didn’t go so well, but Georgia I ended up second behind Andrew. Then one after another, I was on the podium, got a few wins under me and got pretty confident. Second half of the season didn’t go so well. At Unadilla, I got the holeshot but crashed in the first corner. I scratched all day trying to catch up, but I didn’t finish where I wanted. At the Gusher, my brake locked up and I went out. Then in Ohio, same deal, I was running fifth, but I could see second place about five seconds ahead. Then I ran out of gas! One thing after another. So going into Indiana, I had to finish 11th or better if Jason won, and I was running fourth, I was about a minute behind. The fourth or fifth lap, I made that up, got around them, was gaining on Andrew, and I was going through this whoop section, and I hit a rock or stump or something and it sent me over the bars in third gear. I landed on my head and broke my Leatt neck brace. I really believe if I didn’t have that on, I’d be in the hospital right now. It was gnarly, and right now my knee is swollen like a soccer ball.

When you were on the ground, did you think you might have thrown it away?
I did. I was just lying on my stomach for about ten seconds, a million thoughts just blowing through my head. My back was sore and my bike landed right on me. I didn’t know if I would be able to get up. So I took a few breathers, I was able to get up, and third and fourth place passed me. Jason [Thomas] came up behind me and asked me if I was alright a few times, and I said yeah and he took off. I ended up sixth, Jason got fourth, and that was enough for me to win the title. That’s all I wanted.

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Grant Baylor won the XC2 title in his first year in the class.
Ken Hill photo

So Jason Thomas was the guy you were battling with for the title, and he actually slowed down to ask if you were okay?
Yeah he did.

He could have just run you over!
Yeah exactly! That was pretty nice.

So you didn’t expect to race the class, let alone win it, so do you even know how you’re supposed to feel right now?
It became realistic halfway through the season. Before then I thought I had no chance. I mean, Andrew is on a whole ‘nother level. He won every race he was in except one where he had bike trouble, but he broke his hand halfway through the season, which took him out of a few rounds. Me and Thomas were close in points all year. I broke down at one race, he broke down at the next, and I kept the points lead from there on out.

Can you explain to people how off-road works? Sounds like everyone had bad luck.
Oh yeah. At The Mammoth my bike got so hot, because it was so muddy, it melted my head gasket. That’s pretty hard to do. I bump started my bike and got back to the pits, but all the mechanics were out there looking for me. So I was by myself and had to just do it myself.

You did a top end during the race?
Yeah.

Man! Good thing it was a two-stroke.
Yup. The mechanics eventually came back and helped, but I had taken it all apart myself. My dad always has us work on stuff like that so we’ll know how to fix it in those situations. Stuff happens one after another at a GNCC.

At mud races, do you purposely conserve the bike at times, as far as the clutch and stuff?
Actually this year I was only in one race like that, I didn’t know what to do. I definitely learned a lot.

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Grant and brother Steward have won two of the last three XC2 titles.
Ken Hill photo

I know from talking to you and your brother through the years, you’ve got a gnarly program.
Well, this past week I didn’t do too much, I didn’t ride at all. I didn’t want to hurt myself the week before a championship. But we have a trainer we usually go to him three to four days a week. We’ll train two to three hours a day then I’ll get on the road bike. I ride at least two times a week. To me, riding isn’t that important. I’ve got my speed, it’s there, I don’t think riding all the time during the week is going to help me be faster on the weekends. I think I can gain more with training. But we have 100 acres with a motocross track, woods loops, and we’ve got a turn track. That helps, that’s where your speed comes from, the turns.

Where do you go from here?
Well, they have a cap on the class, you can only defend your title for one year. And I’m actually not old enough to race XC1 anyway. So I have to stay and defend my championship and run the number-one plate, which is pretty cool. The only person to ever win the XC2 title back to back is Kailub Russell. Thomas and Delong won’t be there next year, but other guys are stepping it up.

So the Baylor boys have won two out of three.
Yeah and he [brother Steward] would have defended it last year but he broke his wrist halfway through the season. Then before the last race, he broke his collarbone the week before. That’s why I didn’t ride the week before the race. I wanted to just take it easy.

Any big celebrations for this title?
Nothing special. Had some cereal this morning. I’m still a little beat up from that crash yesterday!

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