Red Bull KTM’s David Knight opened the 2008 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series with a big win at the Parts Unlimited The Triton GNCC in Melbourne, Florida, today. Suzuki’s Jimmy Jarrett finished second, and local favorite Garrett Edmisten, of Vero Beach, Florida, riding a WalpoleInc.com/ Kawasaki edged out“ and we mean edged out“ Am-Pro Yamaha’s Barry Hawk for the last spot on the podium.
Knight’s race, however, did not start well for the defending GNCC champ. His KTM four-stroke didn’t light on the first kick, and the XC1 Pro start line left without him. Pretty much dead last going through the first couple of turns, Knight had his work cut out for him on what was a challenging, root-infested race-course. But Knight was up for that challenge.
By the end of the first lap, Knight held sixth, a lap later he was second, and soon after that, he was in the lead and pulling away. Knight stretched out his lead to over two minutes where he pretty much held that distance it to the end.
"I thought I was done," said Knight of the start. "I had such a bad start. I was following guys and picking them off one by one, but they were kind of holding me up. I realized it was easier if I went faster and just stayed on top. So you couldn't cruise, but there was no place to rest. It was pretty brutal."
Jarrett also started deep in the field and just fought and fought and fought until he had control of second place late in the race. But he couldn’t relax, as the Edmisten/Hawk duel for third carried them closer towards Jarrett. But Jarrett had enough in the bank to take the runner-up spot with three seconds to spare.
"I didn't get a good start, and then I got arm pump, and I knew this wasn't a good way to start the day," Jarrett said. "It went away, and then I took a few good lines through those bog holes and I was right back in it. I put my head down and had a good battle with Garrett and Barry. They were right there. It felt like that last lap took two hours. A few years ago I would have pulled off. But now I'm in it to win it."
The battle for third wasn’t decided until the checkered flag dropped. With Edmisten running third, Hawk put in a last-second push, and the two riders came into the final few turns side-by-side, with Edmisten barely hanging on to take the final podium position.
"That was all I had," Edmisten said. "I had a huge blister open up, and that was on the first lap! I tried to rest out there at times but then people would catch me. I charged on the last lap but Barry was right there. I just wasn't going to let him by. I dug deep, the people out here cheering me on really helped."
Fifth place, finishing a little over a minute behind Hawk, went to new Suzuki recruit Paul Whibley, followed by early race leader Red Bull KTM’s Nathan Kanney, Am-Pro Yamaha’s Jason Raines, Kawasaki rider Jesse Robinson, and Husqvarna’s Gordan Crockard.
Rounding out the top 10 overall was the XC2 Pro Lites winner Thad Duvall on the Pro-Am Yamaha WR250. Duvall spent much of the race dicing with Monster Energy/Andrews Racing Yamaha’s Josh Weisenfels before taking the win. Third in the XC2 Pro Lites class was another Monster Energy/Andrews Racing Yamaha rider Dustin Gibson, who finished a few seconds ahead of Kawasaki’s Andrew Matusek.
Suzuki rider Travis Pastrana put in a good showing. Pastrana got off the line quickly and took the lead early in the race and held the point through out the 30-minute first lap. Fatigue, though, would eventually get the best of Pastrana, who said he hadn’t really ridden seriously since December. Pastrana slowly faded through out the three-hour race, eventually finishing 12th in the XC1 Pro class and 17th overall.
"At first I felt awesome," Pastrana said. "I was thinking, 'Yeah I can run this pace,' but then I realized, 'You know, it's a three hour event, and maybe that's why they pace themselves.' But I thought I would be a little stronger, because I only made it to the second lap. Then I just died. I really have respect for these guys, and I have even more respect for what Doug Henry did a few years ago, coming down here and winning. This is brutal and these guys are amazing athletes."