Aussie Josh Strang continued the iron grip that foreign riders have recently held on the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series by wrapping up this year’s XC1 title with one round left on the books. “The Strangler” jumped out to a huge lead in the championship chase after starting the season with four straight wins on his FMF/Makita Suzuki-backed RM-Z450, but fell into a funk at mid-season after hitting a tree at round five. However, a superhuman effort at the Power Line round gave him just enough points to put a bow on his first AMA title.
You got off to a pretty quick start to the season.
Yeah, I put in a lot of hard work training at Rodney Smith’s house during January and February so I was ready. Plus, this is my fourth year doing GNCC so I’m used to the format and I’m used to all the tracks. We also started out on the ‘09 bike, which is basically the same bike we’ve been riding for two years, so we had a good set-up coming in.
You’ve said before that Rodney Smith and his wife Lori are taskmasters.
They kick my ass. I dread going there because I know it’s going to be all work and no play, but I also know I’m going to be ready when I leave.
You changed to the 2010 bike at the fourth round and you got a win on that bike, but then you crashed in North Carolina and that started kind of a downhill spiral.
Yeah, that kind of derailed the streak we had going. I felt like I was riding well there, but I think the crash had a bit to do with the set-up we had on the new bike. The set-up we had wasn’t working and I didn’t realize it at the time and I think that helped cause the crash. It actually scared me a little because I’d never hit a tree before – never that hard.
Did you struggle a bit after that?
Yeah, we went from that race to the rocky one and I was off the pace a little. Then we went into Snowshoe thinking we had everything dialed and we had a bit of a bad race there too. So it was kind of up and down for a few rounds.
You got back on track at the Titan in Tennessee. You had to be relieved to get another win.
That was probably the most important win of my career, just because I felt I needed to do it. To beat Charlie at that race meant a lot to me and it made me feel I was back to the form I had at the start of the year.
At the next round in Ohio you came from last place to pass Mullins in the final stretch to wrap up the title. That was a gutsy performance.
The Tennessee race was probably the most important – career-wise – for me. But the Ohio race was probably the toughest race for me, ever. There was a lot of pressure and I was trying to pretend it wasn’t there, which made it even tougher. And to make it worse I got a bad start.
So have you finalized plans for 2011?
I’m definitely staying with Suzuki and I’ll be back for GNCC – and hopefully with another title.