Knighter Welcomed Back to GNCC with Snowshoe Win
The Snowshoe GNCC, round nine of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, yielded big surprises for some and heartbreak for others.
David Knight returned to the podium with a dominant win on his privateer Kawasaki KX450F, followed by GEICO/JG Racing Monster Energy Kawasaki's Paul Whibley taking a surprise second and Shock Doctor KTM's Nate Kanney's first appearance on the podium since round one.
Defending GNCC champion Knight who just recently left a BMW ride in Europe to make this GNCC trip possible, took home the $10,000 overall win prize, as well as an additional $1000 for topping the XC1 class. The big-purse Snowshoe event, the only off-road race of its kind to take place at a ski resort, also paid a $5000 bonus to Whibley and $3000 to Kanney.
"The first thing is to have fun on the bike again," Knight said. "The track wasn't difficult. I just had to use my head a little bit."
Knight battled with FMF Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang for most of the race, until Strang crashed into a deer on the fifth lap, knocking the four-time race winner on the season out of the running in shocking fashion.
Strang and his teammate Charlie Mullins, Whibley and his teammate Jarrett and Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk made up the first line to take off in the modified start, which took place on a blacktop road with a live-engine start next to the Snowshoe ski village. Hawk led the pack around the first corner and into the toughest track of the 2009 season, where mud bogs, almost verticle hills and even wildlife challenged the riders. The double loop course was more than 20 miles in its entirety and riders needed more than endurance to make it six laps.
Knight, who started four rows back, quickly caught up to the group, and by the end of the first lap, Knight and Strang were in a tight battle for first-place physically on the track, with Knight taking the overall lead with time adjustments. While Knight and Strang played cat and mouse, they began to increase the gap between themselves and the hard charging pack of Jarrett, Whibley, Kanney, Mullins and Hawk.
The race broke down to a Knight versus Strang battle for the win. In the fifth lap, disaster struck for Strang when he crashed into a deer in the woods of the course, leaving Whibley to make up significant time and climb into second place. The deer essentially allowed Whibley to extend his GNCC points lead over Strang.
"It was a long day for me," Whibley said. "I couldn't get up with them today. I managed to come in second and get some points. Jarrett and I got stuck in a mud hole for awhile and Josh passed us by. I never saw him again."
With Strang and Hawk out of the running for the podium, Knight significantly increased his lead, coming in five minutes ahead of Whibley who came in second and Kanney in third.
"The first lap was a bit dodgy in a few places," Knight said. "I didn't know where Strang was in the lead and I went the wrong way a few times. At the moment I'm happy to be doing my own thing again."
Nate Kanney took third for the second time this year, moving him up in the point standings.
"It was one of those days where it felt like it was one step forward and two steps back," he said. "It seemed like it was like that for everyone. In the end it was just being consistent and getting to the finish. It's been an up and down year but it is what it is. In the end, this is what you get if you work hard."
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series is now on a two month break and will return with the Can-Am Unadilla GNCC in New Berlin, NY on September 12-13.
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