2019 Black Sky GNCC Race Report

Kailub Russell claims his 60th Grand National Cross Country victory.

Kailub Russell went down on the final lap, which allowed Ricky Russell to close on him. However, Kailub was able to retake the lead just before the finish to grab the win.
Kailub Russell went down on the final lap, which allowed Ricky Russell to close on him. However, Kailub was able to retake the lead just before the finish to grab the win.Darrin Chapman

FMF KTM Factory Racing's Kailub Russell took a landmark win at the Black Sky GNCC at Johnson Family Farm in Harpursville, New York, this past weekend, claiming his 60th career Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) victory by just 0.02 second ahead of AmPro Yamaha's Ricky Russell.

Ricky Russell missed the victory by just 0.02 second.
Ricky Russell missed the victory by just 0.02 second.Darrin Chapman

After battling back and forth, Kailub went into the final lap with the lead; however, a pair of crashes enabled Ricky to close on Kailub and eventually take the lead with about a mile left to go in the race. With just a couple of turns remaining before the finish, Kailub took a different line than Ricky and came out ahead of the Yamaha rider just in time to take the checkered flag and the victory.

“Halfway into the race my right hand guard fell off, and then later I clipped a little sapling with my front brake lever and it just sent me tumbling.” Kailub shared. “I dinged myself up pretty good, so Ricky moved in on me. He was charging, just hitting everything smooth. You couldn’t really attack the track [because] it was so rough; I felt like there was a limit to it. Riding in a tall gear and just kind of being smooth was the key to success today. [Near the finish], I didn’t realize [Ricky] was quite that close. I was kind of just taking my time coming into the grass track and all of a sudden he blew by me. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Luckily, I got him back. I just took a different line down there a quarter-mile from the finish and was able to sneak back around him and get the win.”

Thad Duvall got off to a slow start but came on strong in the end to finish third.
Thad Duvall got off to a slow start but came on strong in the end to finish third.Darrin Chapman

Ricky missed four rounds at the start of the season due to an injury, but the Washington native has been steadily returning to form with each race since returning to the series.

“We made some suspension changes over summer break and it’s been drastically better,” Ricky said. “I told the boys coming into here, ‘You watch. It’s going to happen.’ We proved it [and] had a good ride. We were up front all day battling for that lead. That last lap I made some critical mistakes. I crashed pretty hard twice. I got back up to Kailub and he didn’t really know that I was right there and I was able to sneak a quick pass on him. It came down into this last field around the pond. You can’t make any mistakes when Kailub’s hot on your heels. He got right back by me and I just had to follow him through the S-turns to the finish. It was kind of frustrating because I felt like I had it.”

Ben Kelley claimed his 10th XC2 250 Pro class win and wrapped up the championship.
Ben Kelley claimed his 10th XC2 250 Pro class win and wrapped up the championship.Darrin Chapman

Thad Duvall came into the New York venue riding a wave of momentum, having won the race just before the summer break. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider got off to a slow start but managed to work his way into third by the finish.

“I just struggled the first two hours,” Duvall explained. “The bike was a little off, but I just had to adapt. I just had to learn how to ride it the way it was. The track was gnarly, but it was fun. I just kept crashing. I had a good lap, and then I had a really, really bad lap. The last hour I figured it out and was just full send. I was tired of just riding around in fourth and fifth. I was able to catch those guys but just ran out of time. Anytime you’re on the box I guess it’s good, but I definitely want to be in the center [of it].”

Moose Racing/Shaw Wines/Rockstar/Husqvarna’s Tayla Jones topped Fly/Maxxis/Pro Circuit/KTM’s Becca Sheets by 10 seconds to win the WXC class.
Moose Racing/Shaw Wines/Rockstar/Husqvarna’s Tayla Jones topped Fly/Maxxis/Pro Circuit/KTM’s Becca Sheets by 10 seconds to win the WXC class.Darrin Chapman

Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Steward Baylor came from outside the top 10 to fourth place at the finish, seven seconds ahead of fifth-place finisher Ben Kelley, who wrapped up the XC2 250 Pro class championship by claiming his 10th straight win in the class on a Trail Jesters KTM.

“It feels awesome; I’m stoked to get another championship and to back up last year’s title, but it wasn’t easy,” Kelley said. “Craig DeLong was keeping me honest there for a while, but I just stayed smooth and stayed off the ground and was just pushing the whole time as best I could. The track was fast, but you had to be on your toes. I had a few close calls, but overall I’m just stoked to get another win and the championship.”

The FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class was won by Trail Jesters KTM’s Jesse Ansley, who was the only rider in the class to make the full eight laps.
The FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class was won by Trail Jesters KTM’s Jesse Ansley, who was the only rider in the class to make the full eight laps.Darrin Chapman

After battling up front at the start of the race, Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn settled into sixth overall at the finish. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Trevor Bollinger crossed the line in seventh ahead of Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Craig DeLong, while Husqvarna-mounted Layne Michael rounded out the top 10.

Trail Jesters KTM’s Jesse Ansley won the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class ahead of Yamaha-mounted Chase Colville and XC Gear/Enduro Engineering/Husqvarna’s Jake Froman. Moose Racing/Shaw Wines/Rockstar/Husqvarna’s Tayla Jones finished 10 seconds ahead of Fly/Maxxis/Pro Circuit/KTM’s Becca Sheets to win the WXC class, while AmPro Yamaha’s Rachel Archer, from New Zealand, rounded out the podium.

2019 Black Sky GNCC Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Kailub Russell KTM
2 Ricky Russell Yamaha
3 Thad Duvall Husqvarna
4 Steward Baylor KTM
5 Ben Kelley KTM
6 Jordan Ashburn Kawasaki
7 Trevor Bollinger Husqvarna
8 Grant Baylor KTM
9 Craig DeLong Husqvarna
10 Layne Michael Husqvarna

2019 GNCC Overall Point Standings

Position Rider Brand Points
1 Kailub Russell KTM 280
2 Thad Duvall Husqvarna 228
3 Steward Baylor KTM 198
4 Ben Kelley KTM 166
5 Trevor Bollinger Husqvarna 141
6 Josh Strang Kawasaki 113
7 Jordan Ashburn Kawasaki 107
8 Andrew Delong Honda 103
9 Ricky Russell Yamaha 98
10 Josh Toth KTM 92