Paul Whibley got his first win of the year and Josh Strang got his first-ever national title at the 12th round of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series at ITP Power Line Park in St. Clairsville, Ohio. It was a tough race for both riders, but each had extra incentives, with Whibs desperately wanting to get a win before season’s end and Strang hoping to wrap up the XC1 title early with a good finish. Whibley wound up edging Glenn Kearney for the win and Strang claimed the title by finishing one position ahead of series rival Charlie Mullins.
Paul Whibley has had a rough season so far. The defending series champ started the year on Yamaha’s 450WR and struggled to compete with the motocross bikes ridden by his competition. During the summer break, Whibs was given the go ahead to ride the new YZ450F but the New Zealander injured his thumb in his first ride on the bike at Unadilla. The thumb was much better in Ohio and Whibley grabbed the holeshot and battled a field of GNCC’s best for three hours before bringing home his first win of the year.
Josh Strang came into the Ohio race needing to finish ahead of Charlie Mullins in order to wrap up the title early. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider managed to get the job done, but not without a struggle. Strang was off the line in last place but managed to work into fourth place by mid-race, one position behind Mullins. On the final lap, Strang made the pass just two turns before the finish. Afterwards, he called the race the toughest of his life.
Glenn Kearney has had a tough season as well, riding Husqvarna’s TXC 250 against a field of 450Fs. Husky finally gave GK a 2011 310cc engine and the red-headed Aussie turned in his best finish of the year with a second. Kearney led much of the race, battling back and forth with Whibley, but Whibley got the upper hand in the end, forcing Kearney to settle for second. “This year has been a real struggle, racing the 250 against the bigger bikes, but the new motor is really strong and I have to give props to Husky for make a great bike,” said Kearney.
Charlie Mullins went on a three-race win streak at mid-season, but a derailed chain at the John Penton slowed the Yamaha rider down. In Ohio, Mullins’ plan was to prolong the title chase until the final round in Indiana, in hopes that something drastic might happen. Mullins held off Strang for most of the race, but with just a few turns left, Strang found just enough room to squeeze by, edging Mullins for third and wrapping up the title.
Australia’s current Enduro champion, Toby Price, came to the Power Line Park race to test the waters for a full-on assault on the GNCC series in 2011. Riding a KTM on loan from Shane Watts, Price was fast early, but faded near the end and wound up with an eighth-place finish – not what he was hoping for. Price said the Australian events are only two hours in length, while the GNCC races are three hours.
FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell also wrapped up a title early, taking his second-straight XC2 championship with a come-from-behind performance. Like Strang, Russell charged to the front after a poor start and crossed the finish line with almost a minute to spare over runner-up Scotty Watkins. The win was Russell’s eighth on the year. “I knew it was going to be tough to catch up on this track and it was,” said Russell. “I was mid-pack and I couldn’t see the ruts in the woods and I fell over and everyone passed me. I finally got it together but I still didn’t feel comfortable all day. I just did what I needed to do to get the win and it feels good to get the title.”