The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicked off its 2010 schedule in grand style as riders from nearly 25 states attended the opening round at the Westgate River Ranch in Lake Wales, Fla. on Sunday, Feb. 28.
Chris Borich came into the Parts Unlimited River Ranch GNCC as the heavy favorite after dominating last year's series, and the Yoshimura Suzuki rider backed it up by coming from behind to take a thrilling win in the XC1 final. Meanwhile, Honda-mounted Brian Wolf took the win in the highly competitive XC2 division, also turning in a come-from-behind performance.
Yamaha's Don Ockerman grabbed the holeshot, leading fellow Yamaha riders Taylor Kiser and Bill Ballance through the first turn to start the four-lap XC1 race. Warnert Can Am's Adam McGill and Borich were not far behind, with McGill taking the lead when the front-runners ducked into the woods for the first time. Kiser, Borich, and Warnert Can Am's Chris Bithell followed McGill, running second, third and fourth at the two-mile mark.
With a little over a lap to go, Borich picked up the pace and moved around Kiser to take second. A lap later, he passed McGill to take the lead. Kiser was also on the move, and picked off McGill in the mud.
"We were all running nose-to-tail and Adam took a bad line in a mud hole and I passed him," says Kiser. "I wanted to challenge Chris in the end, but there just weren't any good lines to get by"
At the finish, the top three riders were separated by less than two seconds, with Borich taking the win with 1.4 seconds to spare over Kiser. McGill followed another 0.4 seconds back.
"It feels good to get the first one out of the way," said Borich. "I knew it was going to be a rough track and I just paced myself and then made my move. I just let the track come to me and everyone made little mistakes and I was able to take advantage of it. I pretty much made my moves around the mud holes and anywhere else I could find."
Kiser, a native of Florida, was happy to make the podium in front of a hometown crowd, but he was disappointed at not getting the win. "I kind of laid back a bit and just tried to pace myself and once I pitted I dropped the hammer and just tried to move to the front," said Kiser. "I guess I should have put the hammer down a little sooner. There was just nowhere to get by Chris on that last lap."
After leading much of the first part of the race, McGill was pleased with putting the Can Am on the podium.
"The fuel-injection worked really well and I was able to get the start," says McGill. "I've been working with [the bike] for a while and I'm happy with it. I heard somebody when I was running out front and I looked back and it was Chris [Bithell, McGill's teammate] and I was like, 'Yes!'
"I ran strong at the beginning and then they go strong at the end. I don't know if they are playing me or what, but we are going to get it figured out."
Bithell ended up finishing fourth with nine-time champ Bill Ballance getting fifth on the Yamaha. Jerrod McClure, on the Polaris, beat out Yamaha-mounted Jeffrey Pickens for sixth, with Yamaha riders Johnny Gallagher and Don Ockerman finishing eighth and ninth ahead of FRE KTM's Bryan Cook.
In the XC2 race, Brian Wolf took advantage of first-lap mistake by KTM's Josh Kirkland. Kirkland got hung up when Parker Jones hit a tree, allowing Wolf to take a lead he would never relinquish. Kirkland ended up with second place in the class, with Yamaha-mounted Kevin Yoho finishing third.
"I snuck around Kirkland when he got hung up and I just held on to the lead to the checkers," says Wolf. "My team has been working really hard and we spent all day Thursday working on suspension and I think that was the key to getting this win."
Women's class Lexie Coulter put her Can-Am on top of the podium for her first national win, also winning the GT Thunder ATV Amateur Overall award. Yamaha rider Jennifer Albright finished second ahead of defending Women's champion FRE KTM's Angel Atwell in third.
Can-Am riders dominated the podium in the 4x4 Open division, with Bryan Buckhannon, Rick Cecco and Zac Zakowski going 1-2-3.
Kevin Trantham topped the 4x4 Lites class on a Can-Am, beating out Kawasaki rider Andrew Stuckey and Honda-mounted Rob Herbert to get the win. Meanwhile, in the 4x4 Limited division, Can-Am factory rider Michael Swift topped fellow Can-Am riders Andrew Langston and Ken Robey.
|XC1 Standings||XC2 Standings|
|1.||Chris Borich||Suzuki||30 (1 win)||1.||Brian Wolf||Honda||30 (1 wins)|
|2.||Taylor Kiser||Yamaha||25||2.||Josh Kirkland||KTM||25|
|3.||Adam McGill||Can-Am||21||3.||Kevin Yoho||Yamaha||21|
|4.||Chris Bithell||Can-Am||18||4.||Dustin Canipe||Kawasaki||18|
|5.||Bill Ballance||Yamaha||16||5.||Parker Jones||Honda||16|
|6.||Jarrod McClure||Polaris||15||6.||Josh Beavers||KTM||15|
|7.||Jeffrey Pickens||Yamaha||14||7.||Gabe Phillips||Yamaha||14|
|8.||Johnny Gallagher||Yamaha||13||8.||Eric Howland||Yamaha||13|
|9.||Donald Ockerman||Yamaha||12||9.||Blake Kramer||Suzuki||12|
|10.||Bryan Cook||KTM||11||10.||Corbin Knox||Honda||11|