Nate Kanney couldn't have picked a better race to score his first win of the year. After suffering through back to back mid-pack finishes at the previous two rounds of the series, the FMF/KTM rider from New York came back with a vengeance to win the biggest race on the 2010 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country schedule - the MotorcycleUSA.com Snowshoe GNCC - which pays a whopping $10,000 bonus for first overall.
Kanney's win didn't come easy, however, as KTM XC2 rider Jesse Robinson fought Kanney tooth and nail for the win, the two riders going back and forth over the final lap in a tight and exciting race before Robinson finally got stuck in a muddy rut, leaving Kanney to cruise home with the win.
"After the last two races I went home and just spewed in my own anger," said Kanney. "Then I went out and rode rocks every day for three weeks getting ready for this race. I was determined to win this race and I told so many people that I was going to win it that I had to back it up."
There's no question that Kanney prefers the more difficult courses, and this year's Snowshoe was the toughest of the year. Set at an awe-inspiring venue - the Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Snowshoe, West Virginia - this year's event was 27 miles of the most rugged terrain imaginable and Kanney's New York rock riding skills paid off in spades. The allure of an extra $50,000 purse ponied up by Motorcycle-USA.com and Snowshoe Mountain Resort might have added a little extra incentive, as well.
"It definitely puts some pressure on you, riding for that much money," Kanney added. "I just had a sense of urgency and I went out there and got it done."
Robinson, who was riding a 250cc two-stroke in a field dominated by 450 four-strokes, led much of the race after getting off to a good start and working his way quickly through traffic. And late in the race Robinson looked like a good bet to become the first XC2 rider to "overall" a GNCC. However, his misfortunate slip into a muddy rut with just two miles to go in the race relegated him to second overall - although, he still took home a generous $5,000 bonus for his efforts.
"I hated to be the one to make the mistake, but that's how it goes," said Robinson. "Nate was leading and I went around this mud hole and he started through it and then changed his mind and that allowed me to get the lead. I pulled about 20 seconds on him and I came up on this little hill with about two miles to go and I just kind of slid out. I thought it was no problem and then I realized I was really stuck. I had to get off and push it backwards with my shoulder on the number plate to get un-stuck and Nate went around me. I have to say congratulations to Nate, he made the least mistakes today."
Completing a KTM sweep of the overall podium was Clockwork/Ride PG/KTM rider Chris Back, who pocketed $3,000 for finishing third overall.
"I just got up front and rode my butt off all day," said Bach. "We've had some growing pains during the last few rounds and I think we've got them worked out."
In addition to his third-place finish in the overall results, Bach also finished second in the XC1 division behind Kanney. Third in the XC1 class went to FMF/KTM's Cory Buttrick, who was coming off of his first-ever XC1 victory at the John Penton three weeks earlier. Buttrick came from back in the pack to land on he podium.
"I got hung up in the power line section and lost some positions and it seemed like every time I was behind someone something stupid would happen," said Buttrick. "But I knew after the first lap that most of this stuff was going to change and you wouldn't be able to recognize it. So basically I just kept riding hard and every lap I picked people off."
Charlie Mullins finished fourth after running as high as third near the end of the race. The Obermeyer/Am Pro/FMF Yamaha rider snagged a rock during the early going and broke a toe on his right foot, making it difficult to use the rear brake.
Am Pro/FMF Yamaha's Barry Hawk Jr. turned in a solid performance to finish fifth, while FMF/Makita Suzuki rider Josh Strang maintained his series points lead with a sixth.
A pair of Husqvarna riders, Glenn Kearney and Kenneth Gilbert, finished seventh and eighth, with Am-Pro/FMF Yamaha rider Paul Whibley and Jedediah Haines (Kaw) rounding out the top 10.
In addition to finishing second overall, Jesse Robinson also won the XC2 class, his second win of the year in the division. Monster Energy Andrews Cycles' Jason Thomas was second ahead of GEICO/JG Off Road/Monster Energy Kawasaki's Scotty Watkins.
"I got off to a good start and got up into the top five," said Thomas. "I followed those guys and picked some of them off, but they were going so fast that when you make a mistake you would lose 20 seconds. I just make too many mistakes today, but I picked up some valuable points."
Watkins' third place finish marked his fourth podium of the year.
"It was definitely a tough race today," said Watkins. "It got hot and I got a little tired there at the end. But this is the type of race I like - a really tough one - and the conditions were in my favor, I just wish I had done a little better."
Former XC2 champ, Justin Williamson, finished fourth on a Yamaha, while FMF/KTM's Kailub Russell, the XC2 series points leader, broke his shift lever off on the opening lap and was only able to manage a fifth place finish after holding the lead during the early stages.
1. Nate Kanney (KTM)
2. Chris Bach (KTM)
3. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
4. Charlie Mullins (Yam)
5. Barry Hawk Jr. (Yam)
6. Josh Strang (Suz)
7. Glenn Kearney (Hsq)
8. Kenneth Gilbert (Hsq)
9. Paul Whibley (Yam)
10. Jedediah Haines (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (211/4 wins)
2. Charlie Mullins (194/3 wins)
3. Cory Buttrick (175/1 win)
4. Paul Whibley (164)
5. Chris Bach (150)
6. Nate Kanney (142/1 win)
7. Glenn Kearney (135)
8. Barry Hawk Jr. (109)
9. Kenneth Gilbert (104)
10. Eric Bailey (87)
1. Jesse Robinson (KTM)
2. Jason Thomas (Yam)
3. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
4. Justin Williamson (Yam)
5. Kailub Russell (KTM)
6. Brian Lawson (Yam)
7. David Snyder (Yam)
8. Mark Fortner (Hsq)
9.Steward Baylor Jr. KTM)
1. Kailub Russell (223/5 wins)
2. Jason Thomas (215/1 win)
3. Jesse Robinson (210/1 win)
4. Scott Watkins (168)
5. Steward Baylor Jr. (144)
6. David Snyder (114)
7. Mark Fortner (103)
8. Brian Lawson (101)
9. Dustin Gibson (93)
10. Nicholas Hunter (80)