In 2017 the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series introduced the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class to its list of Sunday afternoon bike classes. Acting as sort of a stepping-stone class for riders in-between the amateur ranks, and the XC2 250 Pro class, XC3 gives riders a chance to hone their skills before making the step up.
Acknowledged as an AMA National title, riders in this class start directly after the XC1 and XC2 pro classes. For those who don’t know much about GNCC racing, each class starts on its own row one class at a time with XC1 (350s and 450s) taking off first, then XC2 (250s) and then the 125cc riders in XC3. Then the amateur rows begin to take off. The XC1, XC2 and XC3 classes are recognized on the podium after each event. Oh, and maybe you missed it, the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class is a 125 two-stroke only class.
Having just completed the 2018 season, and earning the national championship in this class, Jesse Ansley took some time to chat with us about GNCC racing, winning a championship, and shredding a 125 two-stroke three hours each race.
(Note: The following interview was conducted via iMessage and has been lightly edited for clarity.)
Racer X: For those unfamiliar with the GNCC scene, tell us a little bit about you. Who is Jesse Ansley?
Jesse Ansley: Most people know me as the Florida boy. It’s something I hold close to my heart just because I’m super grateful I’m able to compete at such a high level being from the Sunshine State. I’m 18 years old and have been racing nationally since [I was] 12 years old.
Explain a little bit to those reading what exactly GNCC Racing is.
GNCC is a gnarly three-plus hour off-road race which has just about anything you can imagine. Moto, single track, mud holes, hill climbs, and much more. GNCC is not for the faint of heart, it’s the real deal.
Did you grow up racing motocross at all, or strictly an off-road guy?
I started with off-road, but at age 11 I did a couple motocross nationals. That only lasted a year... I enjoyed off-road more. So that’s when we made the decision to start racing GNCC full time.
You compete in the XC3 class, which is a 125 Pro-Am class. Has that kind of helped with your transition into the pro classes a little better than just diving right into XC2?
Yes. Absolutely. I think the XC3 class was a great addition to GNCC. With the backing of FMF we get a little side money as well along with some cool “fake” checks to hang up at home! We get a little exposure and have a shot at a podium each race. The podiums are good practice, it gets you ready for when you need to make no mistakes when you speak (in XC1/XC2). As for the riding, it’s awesome we get to start third row and pick our starting “gate” according to class points like XC2. The 125 fits my build and my style currently in my career. I know sooner or later I will be on a 250F and later a 350/450 but as of now I’m very comfortable on the 125.
You must be comfortable, you won the class championship this year, right?
Correct. I was actually able to clinch the championship one round early which was awesome. We had a rough start to the season, I was just very inconsistent, but I matured a ton this year. Mainly because of my competition. Although I was getting beat some rounds I would be real with myself and diagnose why. I would literally go back and the weeks between the races I would work on that one specific thing [laughs]. It’s made me a very well-rounded rider, I believe, and it absolutely helped considering I won every round after the summer break.
Is that kind of what you believe it takes to be a champion? Diagnosing your mistakes and working on them endlessly?
For sure. Many of us, myself included, always look for the “excuse.” Who likes admitting they aren’t good enough? But at the end of the day this is our career and it’s important to be real with yourself. There has been a lot of hurdles this year but staying grounded and never making the excuse I believe that’s what lead me to get things clicking there towards the end, because eventually all the hurdles didn’t bother me. I knew I could overcome whatever was thrown at me.
What sort of things did you have to overcome to finish this season on top in your class?
A lot of little things, but mainly focusing on myself. I’ve learned to mentally block a lot of things out; people, pain, issues, etc. I never really understood how much part of racing was mental until this year. It’s been an awesome year of learning no doubt!
You said you’re 18 and in Florida, what’s your life like during the week? Just riding and training every day, or do you go to school too?
I have a trainer who provides a weekly schedule for me which is awesome. Especially since I’m still young I can get distracted pretty easily. Fortunately I finished school last year so it worked out that I was able to stay up north and not get angry texts from Ellen—my grandmother—to turn in assignments. I have plans to go to college for something small, I’m not educated enough nor have the desire to be a doctor or anything major like that so a two to four year degree will be plenty for my future plans in life.
Speaking of future plans: are you looking to defend your XC3 championship next year or will you be moving up to the XC2 class?
Nothing is confirmed yet. I would love to stay back to defend most definitely but again nothing is concrete yet. I will know with time and when I know 100 percent is when I will release the decision between the team and I.
You say team decision. Do get some support being an XC3 rider?
Back in 2015 I was picked up by a KTM satellite team, RPM Racing. This was my third and final year with them. We’ve had great success and [I] can’t thank them enough for all the help and guidance throughout the three years. Winning the XC3 [championship] opened up some new doors for 2019 and beyond, so for sure I think companies and manufacturers are getting more interested in competing in that class. Which in my opinion is good for the sport and the younger riders coming through the ranks.
I’d be remiss to not ask you what it’s like to ring out a 125 two-stroke for three-hours.
The only word to describe the feeling is amazing! My Nihilo/TF Racing motor equipped with my FMF system is so fast and my bike sounds so awesome. I really enjoy seeing the comments when I post a video. Mason Rader has been doing an awesome job getting clips of us all this year.
Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Jesse, and congratulations on your championship. Anyone you’d like to thank?
Thank you for the opportunity! A big thank you to all who make it possible: Tom & Ellen Fleming, Steve Thomson Homes, RPM KTM, Maxxis, FMF, IMS, Pro Moto Billet, Klim, Sidi, Just1, HBD Graphx, Seat Concepts, DP Brakes, DT1 Air Filters, TM Designs, Motion Pro, Engine Ice, Central Florida Powersports, Nihilo, Rekluse, Motorex Oils, TF Racing Suspension, SuperCool Bike Shop, BulletProof Designs, DDC Racing, Nitro Mousse, George Pollard, and my trainer Charlie Mullins.