The 2021 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship Series, completed round one of racing on Sunday, February 21, 2021 in Union, South Carolina. For the second-straight year, cool and partly sunny conditions greeted the GNCC Racing nation.
Coming back from a seventh-place start to take the first overall win at Big Buck was KLM Milwaukee GasGas’ Grant Baylor. As Baylor steadily made his way through the field of riders, he made the pass for the lead with three laps remaining. Baylor put his head down and pushed, building almost a 20-second lead as he crossed the finish line to a waving checkered flag.
Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Thad Duvall earned second overall on the day. After missing the majority of 2020 due to injury, Duvall was eager to get back to racing at the front of the pack. Duvall made the move into second after two laps of racing and remained there until the checkered flag flew.
Earning some extra cash was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang as he crossed the line first for the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Open Pro Holeshot Award. Strang battled throughout the race as he made his way back up to third on the last lap of racing.
Jordan Ashburn earned fourth overall aboard his new Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna team. Ashburn had a rollercoaster ride of a day: he held the lead at one point and even managed to hold onto third for majority of the race. However, Ashburn was unable to hold off a hard-charging Strang and crossed the line 12 seconds behind.
After holding the early lead, FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley had to make up ground on the third lap, as he came through timing and scoring in seventh. As the race went on, Kelley began picking off riders and making the passes stick. By the time the checkered flag waved, Kelley had salvaged a top-five overall position.
Earning sixth on the day was Coastal GasGas Factory Racing’s Ricky Russell. At the halfway point of racing, Russell found himself running third overall but was unable to hold off some of his hard-charging competitors as the race wore on. Russell also missed most of the 2020 season after an injury at round four had him on the mend.
AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael came around on the opening lap in second place and continued to battle up front for the first couple laps of racing. As the race wore on, Michael was unable to hold off some of his competitors, ultimately coming through the finish line seventh in XC1 and eighth overall.
Coming through to take eighth in the XC1 class was FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth, who had just had hand surgery two weeks ago. After starting in the back of the pack, Toth remained focused and try to push to make the necessary passes toward the front of the pack, however, Toth ran out of time as he crossed the finish line in eighth.
Factory Beta’s Cory Buttrick ran a consistent race on his new 430RR Beta race bike. Buttrick would hold onto the ninth-place position in XC1 for the duration of the three-hour race.
After making his way to the United States just days ago, and being stuck in the Texas ice storm, Red Bull/MCS Racing Sherco’s Benjamin Herrera rounded out the top 10 in the XC1 Open Pro class. Herrera, who is a hard-enduro rider, stepped out of his comfort zone to try his hand at the GNCC event and landed 16th overall on the day.
AmPro Yamaha’s Mike Witkowski grabbed the $100 Hot Cams XC2 Holeshot award. As the pack of XC2 250 Pro class riders came through timing and scoring Witkowski found himself in fourth-place position as Coastal GasGas Factory Racing’s Jonathan Girroir led the way. Witkowski put his head down and pushed, making the pass for the lead stick. After six laps of intense racing Witkowski crossed the finish line first in his class with over a minute gap back to second.
Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Craig DeLong made his way up to the front after a mid-pack start to the day. DeLong would come through to finish second in the XC2 250 Pro class after battling with his fellow XC2 competitors for multiple laps of the race. DeLong, who is currently defending his 2020 XC2 Championship, was happy to come away with a second-place finish and will be ready to battle for a win in Florida.
Rounding out the XC2 podium was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Lyndon Snodgrass. After earning a podium at Ironman last year, Snodgrass made his return from Australia to take on XC2. Snodgrass had a back-and-forth day, as he swapped positions multiple times before making a last-lap pass to hold onto the last podium position. Max Motorsports/FXR/Forma Boots’ Evan Smith brought home a fourth-place finish in XC2, with Phoenix Racing Honda’s Cody Barnes rounding out the top five. After leading the opening lap, Girroir finished sixth.
As the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class took off, it was Lojak Cycle Sales/Yamaha’s Chase Colville grabbing the $100 Lojak Cycle Sales XC3 Holeshot Award. Colville soon felt the pressure from Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jonathan Johnson, as Johnson would make the pass for the lead on lap one. Johnson and Colville battled for most of the day swapping the lead around the halfway point. Colville took the lead as they came around on the fourth lap, but Johnson soon regained the lead as the white flag was waving. Johnson came through to take the FMF XC3 class win, with Colville 29 seconds back. The 2020 FMF XC3 Champion and Carolina KTM/Moose Racing/XC Gear’s Zack Hayes battled his way back from a fifth-place start to round out the podium in third.
More than 670 riders took to the woods of South Carolina for the 10 a.m. race, and, as the WXC class took off, it was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Korie Steede grabbing the $100 Trail Jesters WXC Holeshot Award. As the pack of WXC riders headed into the woods, AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer made the pass for the lead and continued to place a gap over the rest of the field for the duration of the 2-hour race, ultimately crossing the line more than a minute ahead of the competition.
Battling her way back for a second-place overall and WXC class finish was the WXC defending champion, and Babs Racing Yamaha/Maxxis/Pro Circuit’s Becca Sheets. Sheets started off the day in third as she came around on the opening lap, but would soon fall back to fourth before making the necessary passes as the white flag flew indicating one more lap to go. Factory Beta’s Rachel Gutish rounded out the WXC podium at round one after running at the front of the pack for majority of the day.
- Grant Baylor (GG)
- Thad Duvall (Hus)
- Josh Strang (Kaw)
- Jordan Ashburn (Hus)
- Ben Kelley (KTM)
- Ricky Russell (GG)
- Mike Witkowski (Yam)
- Layne Michael (Yam)
- Craig DeLong (Hus)
- Lyndon Snodgrass (Kaw)