Well, here we are, the Summer break for the GNCC series is finally upon us! It’s absolutely insane to think that we’re already 9 races into the season, it really does seem like just yesterday that we were down in River Ranch kicking things off. Any part of me that wished we would just race through the Summer and finish earlier was erased thoroughly after last weekend at the John Penton. The heat for Sunday’s bike race wasn’t terrible but it was brutally hot Friday and Saturday and I would want no part of doing that more than once a year.
AmPro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley’s performance on Sunday was classic Axeman, as he pulled his 8th holeshot of the season keeping his perfect streak alive on those (Snowshoe doesn’t count) and led every single lap of the race. He had a little challenge halfway from Rory Mead but Whibs put the hammer down and finished the race with the three fastest laps of the day. I broke all this down in the Stopwatch, check that out here for full details. This race win marked Whibley’s 4th overall win at the John Penton in the last five years–his only loss coming in the 2010 mudfest where Cory Buttrick earned his first-ever GNCC win.
Coming into the race I would’ve picked FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell to take the overall over Whibley. He rode really well at Snowshoe, a track he doesn’t typically excel at, and I kind of thought the moto gods owed him one after being run down in the final few turns at last year’s Penton GNCC by Whibley and then collapsing at the finish. His first win alluded him there but he’s since made up for it this season so maybe the moto gods didn’t feel like they owed him anything? After re-reading the statistic in the last paragraph I guess betting against The Axeman at the John Penton isn’t such a good idea…
I got a chance to hang out with Charlie Mullins this past Wednesday at the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series and he’s starting to come around a good bit with his elbow. Charlie ended up taking the win in the Supersport class of racing there (it’s the equivalent to the XC2 class in GNCC) and actually got to do some riding over the weekend for the first time since his injury. Mullins is really pumped to be on the ISDE Trophy Team and is focusing on getting back to 100% by the time the GNCCs kick back just a week before he heads to Germany.
It was good to see Josh Strang make his return to GNCC Racing as odd as it was to watch him ride a KTM! Strang’s return didn’t go as well as he had hoped, but it left him hungry to get back East for another shot or two for a better finish so I’m hoping we’ll see him back at some rounds this Fall. After the race Strang was pretty worn out and he told me that he had forgotten how hard racing for 3-hours really is. The heat and humidity were definitely a factor, but a week removed from winning the final moto of the WORCS round in Utah Strang isn’t in awful shape by any stretch so it really does go to show how grueling GNCCs are and that there really isn’t anything in the States that compares.
The Penton saw Chris Bach get his best finish on his Obermeyer/JGR/Yamaha and it was good to see Bach get back into the mix. Bolt-on did a great Tuesday Toolbox with Chris that you may have overlooked since the GNCC website has been down, but they posted over on their Facebook page here.
I talked to Chris briefly today and asked him if there was something specific that “clicked” with him and the Yamaha or if it was just a matter of more seat time on the bike. His reply was “Neither,” that he just didn’t feel comfortable in the rocky conditions that made up each of the races since he switched from the Beta to the YZ back right before the Mammoth. Bach’s goal for the remainder of the season is podium finishes which won’t come easy but it’ll be good to have another guy up in the mix.
We’ll touch on some of the XC2 and top amateur stuff from this past weekend’s racing in next week’s edition of the 411. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend, I know there’s a WORCS at Pala going on and Strang will be looking to get on the box again. I’m going to nurse my wounds from a recent mountain bike crash and simultaneously nurse a few cold Coors Lights. Have a good one!
Oh, and before I go, we’re hearing some pretty interesting silly season rumors (it’s only July people!) about new teams and new riders for 2013. It sounds like it won’t be until later in the Summer that we hear more but we’ll certainly keep you posted.