After an uncharacteristically rough start to the season, Yamaha’s Bill Ballance is back on track, picking up his second straight win on the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC on May 10.
Plenty of rain the night before the race left the Millfied, Ohio track muddy and tough on the riders.
“It was a one of those days where you had to be smart and smooth,” says Ballance. “Sometimes you didn’t even want to be the guy up front, just because you knew people were going to be getting stuck, but at the same time, you didn't want to be getting roosted.”
Ballance was fighting for top spot with KTM’s Adam McGill and Taylor Kiser and fellow Yamaha rider Brandon Sommers throughout the race and the foursome built up a big lead over the rest of the field. Ballance took control of the lead about halfway through the race and built up a bit of a gap. McGill made a late charge on the final lap, but ended up finishing four seconds behind the eight-time defending GNCC champion. With the win Ballance now trails McGill by just 12 points in the standings.
“If anyone said Bill doesn't have that fire anymore, forget it because he was going for it,” says McGill. “We would catch a bottleneck and he would get away, and then we would hit another one and I would catch up to him. On the last lap, I knew I had a gap to make up, and you can talk about being consistent for points, but when you're second on the last lap, it’s checkers or wreckers.”
Kiser hung on for third, earning his second podium of the season.
“I’ve been putting in the hard work, riding here in the area to try to learn these conditions,” says Kiser. “It’s good to see that hard work paying off.”
Sommers, who started the race by grabbing the $100 ITP Holeshot Award, dropped from the battle when he clipped a tree and found himself upside down on the course. XC Bob/Safari Motorsports Matt Smiley picked up the pace to take fourth and nearly beat Kiser.
“I was actually ahead of him at one point,” says Smiley. “I just got stuck on a little hill and stalled it, he got back by me.”
Fifth went to The National Guard’s William Yokley, ahead of Alba/DC Cycles’ Ryan Lane. Bryan Baker was next on the factory Polaris, ahead of Yamaha/Cernic’s/GT Thunder’s Johnny Gallagher. Rockstar/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Borich had another disappointing run in the mud for ninth.
GT Thunder/Yamaha’s Don Ockerman finished 10th overall, picking up this fifth XC2 Pro Am win of the season in the process. The National Guard’s Mark Notman and Baldwin Motorsports’ Brian Wolfe completed the XC2 Pro Am podium.
In the morning ATV race, a last-lap bottleneck opened up an opportunity for Montgomeryville Cycle Center’s Stefanie Verkade to take her first-ever ATV morning overall win. Tom Clark Motorsports’ Angel Atwell and Yamaha’s Traci Cecco took second and third.
“Today, I had luck on my side, for once,” says Verkade, who collected the $100 ATV Riders.com Morning Race Overall Win Award. “I've been racing my whole life, and this is just a dream come true to get up here.”
The top Utility result came from Doug Henke on a Kawasaki KFX700 in the U2 class. Bryan Buckhannon (4x4 Open) and Cliffton Beasley (4x4 Lites) continued their perfect seasons, while Michael Swift got his fifth win in six races in the 4x4 Limited class.
The one-hour GNCC Youth race was postponed from morning until afternoon to give the track a chance to dry. An 11-year-old, Ryan Early, made history by becoming the youngest-ever overall race winner. Logan Fluharty and Jerry Welch rounded out the podium.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with The Weekend Warrior Spartan GNCC in Sparta, Kentucky.
Wiseco John Penton GNCC Results:
XC1 Pro Class Standings:
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