Taylor Kiser started the 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series in style by earning his first career victory at the season-opening River Ranch GNCC in Lake Wales, Fla. on March 1.
Kiser, who is racing on a Yamaha YFZ450, finished the 2008 season ranked sixth in the final standings while with KTM but had never before finished on top of the podium. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Borich and FRE KTM’s Adam McGill finished second and third.
“This is like a dream to win it in front of all of these people,” said Kiser in front of his home state. “I saw Chris and Adam setting a good pace out front, and I wasn't sure if I should go with them, because this course gets so rough and I knew it would be a long day. So I just played it smart and it paid off.”
Borich grabbed holeshot and took off early. Borich and McGill swapped the lead for a while before McGill hit a lapped rider.
“Another rider had just pulled out of Chris’ way, and then he pulled back onto the track just as I was coming through,” says McGill. “I flipped the thing and it broke the bolt on my front brake. That was some bad luck there.”
McGill was forced to take an extended pit stop to fix his quad, allowing Kiser to move into second. Kiser benefited again when Borich started having trouble with his clutch fading.
“I felt real good, real strong early,” says Borich. “I've been training a lot harder, hitting the gym real hard. We're ready. I ride the clutch a lot through those sand whoops, but in this sugar sand it started to fade. I really had to change my riding style on the last lap just to get in to the finish. I think everyone probably had clutch problems out here.”
After passing Borich, Kiser kept his pace up despite some clutch fading of his own and took the checkered flag by just over a minute after two hours of racing.
DeRisi Racing’s Bryan Cook finished fourth on a Honda, while last year’s XC2 champion Don Ockerman completed the top five on his factory GT Thunder Yamaha.
Defending GNCC Champion Bill Ballance, who had surgery on his ribs just three weeks ago, struggled all day. He finished 18th in the XC1 pro class after completing four of six laps.
Josh Kirkland of FRE KTM was tops in the XC2 Pro-Am class and finished 10th overall.
“This is the way I was hoping it would go, but really, I was just hoping to get to the dirt races to get a win,” says Kirkland.
Second in the class went to another KTM rider, David Crane, while third came Kawasaki privateer Scott Rich.
In the morning race, Angel Atwell took first overall in her first GNCC on a KTM. Jennifer Albright finished second overall and second in the Women's class, with Warnert Can-Am's Michael Swift taking top 4x4 honors by notching third overall and winning the 4x4 Limited Class.
The Can-Am GNCC Series continues with the Maxxis General GNCC in Washington, Ga. March 7-8.
XC1 Pro Class Standings: