The Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Specialized completed round three of the 2021 season in Washington, Georgia at Aonia Pass MX with a record 2060 entries across Motorcycle, ATV and eMTB racing classes.
Steward Baylor made his intentions loud and clear at The General GNCC in Washington, Georgia, March 14, leading the race from late in the opening lap and then pulling away to over a minute lead at the finish.
After missing the series opener due to an injury, and then misfiring with a mechanical issue last week in Florida, the AmPro Yamaha rider is determined to make up the slack in the points race and bring home his first GNCC title.
With a record 2060 entries taking to the track, Baylor overcame a poor start on a fast and hard-packed course to quickly move to the front and then dominate the race.
“We had issues in Florida. That was a bit of a struggle for me. So, I knew today I had to make a statement,” said Steward. “Coming from the back of the pack to leading by 20 seconds on the first lap, I think that’s the statement made. If I can win the next six, I’ll be right back in the points lead.”
Fresh off his stellar win the week before in Florida, FMF/KTM’s Ben Kelley backed up that winning performance with a solid runner-up finish at the General.
“Today we were solid. I’m pumped on it,” said Kelley. “I was definitely beat down from Florida; one-week turnaround is tough. I had two crashes on the third lap and that kind of zapped a little energy. Just washed the front twice. These hard-pack, flat-tracky conditions are not my strong suit. To get a second is good for me when I don’t love the track.”
Josh Toth has been “riding himself back into shape” after starting the year with multiple injuries, and this weekend the FMF/KTM rider turned in his best performance of the season with a third.
“Lack of seat time is hurting me, but I just put my head down and gave it everything I had and I’m pumped to come out with third,” said Toth. “I had a gnarly crash into a couple trees. I just kind of came into two big trees and hit the rear brake a little too much and caught one and sent me into the other. Luckily, I just went field goal right through it, but my bike smacked it hard. Pumped to be unscathed from that one.”
KLM GasGas’ Grant Baylor took the long way to a fourth-place finish, starting mid-pack after the green flag and then passing Coastal Racing GasGas’ Ricky Russell on the final lap for fourth.
“I got off to a bad start and then maybe five miles in, I just caught a root off-camber,” said Grant. “When that root caught my front tire, it just sent my shoulder straight into the bottom of the root ball of the cedar tree. The spikes and everything just went straight into my shoulder. I wasn’t able to really hold on there the first two laps. I was really struggling to hold on and I couldn’t stand up. But after about the third lap it started to loosen up just a little bit and I started to come back through the pack a little bit. I made a few passes late race and ended up with a fourth place, so I’m happy with it.”
Russell, who led during the early part of the race, was not happy about giving up fourth just before the finish, however his fifth place helped him maintain his fifth overall status in the series points.
Jordan Ashburn continued his streak of holeshots, but then went down a bit later in the woods. The Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna still managed a sixth overall finish. Despite the finish, Ashburn still sits fourth overall in the standings.
“I just kind of didn’t feel comfortable on the track today, to be honest,” admitted Ashburn. “I couldn’t really get a flow going, so I just kind of tried to settle in and ride my own race. Just salvaged what we could today. Some days just aren’t your day, and I feel like that was today.”
Coastal Racing GasGas’ Johnny Girroir claimed his second win in a row in the XC2 250 Pro division with a seventh overall finish. Girroir battled with AmPro Yamaha’s Mike Witkowski until Witkowski went down with two laps to go.
“After Mike went down and I saw my opportunity to kind of gap him a little bit, so I kind of just rode smooth to the end of the race,” said Girroir.
Defending champion XC2 250 Pro class Craig DeLong turned in a steady ride to put his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna into eighth overall and second in the XC2 250 Pro.
Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang battled with Steward Baylor on the first lap and ran in second for much of the first half of the race, but tangled with Kelley on the trail. The incident snapped Strang’s front brake line, which slowed the Kawi rider considerably, and he limped in for ninth overall.
Making his first appearance of the season in the top 10, Phoenix Honda Racing’s Cody Barnes was third in the XC2 250 Pro class with 10th overall.
Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jonathan Johnson claimed his third win in a row in the FMF XC3 125cc Pro-Am class, beating out Yamaha’s Chase Colville.
Multi-time National Enduro Champ Russell Bobbitt climbed aboard a 125 Husqvarna to finish third in the class. “I don’t think I’ve done a GNCC since 2018 or so,” said Bobbitt. “I became eligible for the class and I was like, I’m going to race my hometown race. I just decided to give her a go, get back on the two-stroke and just go hang it out there. Really good battles out there. Just riding different lines than what I do on the big bikes. It was a blast.”
AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer avenged her loss last week to BABS Racing Yamaha/Fly/Maxxis/Pro Circuit’s Becca Sheets by claiming her second WXC Pro Women’s division win of the season.
Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Korie Steede turned in a stellar ride to finish third ahead of Factory Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Tayla Jones.
- Steward Baylor (Yam)
- Ben Kelley (KTM)
- Josh Toth (KTM)
- Grant Baylor (GG)
- Ricky Russell (GG)
- Jordan Ashburn (Hus)
- Johnny Girroir (GG) XC2
- Craig DeLong (Hus) XC2
- Josh Strang (Kaw)
- Cody Barnes (Hon)
Round four–Camp Coker Bullet–is scheduled for March 27-28 at Moree’s Sportsman’s Preserve in Society Hill, South Carolina.