It was one of the biggest, toughest and most spectacular Can-Am Grand National Cross Country races ever, which is why it's fitting that one of the biggest, toughest and most spectacular GNCC racers ever won. The Moose Racing Snowshoe GNCC brought some of the world's best off-road racers to a massive ski resort in West Virginia and put them on a track littered with rocks, roots, hills and mud -- exactly the type of extreme terrain that Red Bull KTM's David Knight excels in. As a result, the Isle of Man native crushed the field, winning by over nine minutes, one of the largest margins of victory in the history of the tour.
"It was pretty good," said Knight on the podium, not doing himself or his win true justice. "This was one of those tracks where you just have to ride it and use your hear and get around, get up on the pegs and go. As soon as you try to go faster and race someone, you end up right on your head. I crashed a few times, but the people out there in the woods really helped me out."
Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk finished second and FMF Suzuki's Jimmy Jarrett was third. Am-Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall finished fourth and won the XC2 Lites class on a WR250F, and was in contention for a podium for most of the day, putting in a spectacular ride. He topped Morgantown Yamaha privateer Ryan Echols and Red Bull KTM's Justin Williamson to win his class.
But the race for the XC1 pro and overall win was over quickly. The field started GP-style in the Snowshoe Mountain Village at 4848 feet in elevation. Knight seized the early lead but then got lost on the trail, allowing the field to catch back up. But soon they hit an incredibly difficult section of mud, rocks and roots, as well as a massive hillclimb. Knight made it through the section while the rest of the pack bottlenecked. He pulled a big lead after that and was gone.
With Knight's win assured -- and with his huge collection of first-place trophies from extreme enduro events around the world, many thought this would happen even before the race began -- the real story became DuVall's charge through the pack on his 250F. Starting in the fifth row of the GP start, DuVall made it through the carnage on lap one to pass about 15 riders in the XC1 pro class, and then he went to work on the podium, at one point moving into second place physically on the track.
"I have no idea," said an excited DuVall on the podium. "I was charging and going good and got around a lot of guys. We've been working really hard, riding this type of terrain trying to get ready. I was trying to be smart, and I knew if I could follow Jimmy (Jarrett) I would have third overall on adjusted time since I started far back, but then just as I was thinking about that, I stalled it and couldn't get it going again. But you know, one week out here I'm blazing red hot and the next week I'm cold, so I'm just happy to finally win one."
DuVall finished fourth overall, tying Shane Watts, Juha Salminen and Kurt Caselli for the best-ever GNCC finish for a 250cc four-stroke.
Jarrett's third overall was his second podium in the last three rounds.
Knight's win also boosted him in the series standings, as his closest rival Charlie Mullins burnt a clutch while running in contention for a podium. A last-lap change in the pits allowed Mullins to salvage 16th overall and five championship points, but Knight now has a 26-point edge.
Two riders with experience in tough terrain took second and third in XC2 Lites behind DuVall. Ryan Echols is a virtual unknown in GNCC competition, but the West Virginia rider and AMA District 5 Hare Scrambles Champion put his skills to work in the rough stuff, riding a solid race to finish second in XC2 and sixth overall on a YZ250F. "I quit my job and decided to focus on this full-time," said Echols. "I've been riding a lot, up to eight hours a day, and now it's starting to pay off. That bike is totally stock, but we worked hard, and we got up here."
The 2007 Can-Am GNCC begins a summer break before returning for the final five rounds in the fall, beginning with the Geico Mountain Ridge GNCC in Somerset, PA on September 1 and 2.
Results: Moose Racing Snowshoe GNCC
June 24, 2007
1. David Knight Isle of Man, UK (KTM)
2. Barry Hawk, Jr Smithfield, PA (Yam)
3. Jimmy Jarrett Beloit, OH (Suz)
4. Thaddeus Duvall Williamstown, WV (Yam) XC2 Pro Lites
5. Joshua Strang Australia (Suz)
6. Ryan Echols Fairmont, WV (Yam) XC2 Pro Lites
7. Paul Whibley New Zealand (Hon)
8. Jesse Robinson Conellys Spg, NC (Kaw)
9. Glenn Kearney Australia (Suz)
10. Justin Williamson Sanford, FL (KTM) XC2 Pro Lites
11. Rodney Smith Antioch, CA (Suz) XC2 Pro Lites
12. Robbie Jenks New Straitsville, OH (KTM)
13. Dustin Gibson Cumbrland Frnce, TN (KTM) XC2 Pro Lites
14. Brian Garrahan Boulder Creek, CA (Yam)
15. Joe Marsh Pittsburgh, PA 250 A (Yam)
16. Charles Mullins Hamilton, OH (Yam)
17. Russell Bobbitt Fayetteville, GA (KTM)
18. Joseph Scherer Renfrew, PA (Yam) 250 A
19. Scott Watkins Leetonia, OH (Kaw) XC2 Pro Lites
20. Gary Fridley Lost Creek, WV (Yam)
2007 Can-Am GNCC Overall Series Standings
(After 8 of 13 rounds)
1. David Knight 179/4 wins
2. Charles Mullins 153/1 win
3. Barry Hawk, Jr 144/1 win
4. Garrett Edmisten 123
5. Glenn Kearney 116
6. Jimmy Jarrett 104
7. Paul Whibley 98/1 win
8. Shane Watts 92/1 win
9. Jesse Robinson 90
10. Joshua Strang 85
XC2 Pro Lites
1. Rodney Smith (147/3 wins)
2. Justin Williamson (134/1 win)
3. Scotty Watkins (128/1 win)
4. Thad DuVall (122/1 win)
5. Dustin Gibson (115)
6. Josh Weisenfels (114)
7. John Barber (103)
8. Brian Lawson (76)
9. John Bennett (64)
10. Cole Calkins (63)