Layne Michael Dominates Ironman GNCC Finale

Michael and teammate Craig DeLong finish strong at Ironman

Layne Michael finished the 2016 GNCC season strong with a first place finish at the Ironman GNCC this past weekend, making that his second-consecutive victory in the XC2 Pro Lites Class. His teammate Craig DeLong also had a successful ride with a fourth place finish.

Layne Michael takes first at the Ironman GNCC finale
Michael stands in the center of the podium for his second-straight XC2 victory.Photography by Ken Hill

Layne Michael
Michael came into the final round of the GNCC Series with huge momentum after contributing to a historic week of racing at the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Spain, where the USA World Trophy Team captured its first-ever World Championship in the event's 91-year history. Michael was called upon in the final hour to fill in for his injured teammate, Ryan Sipes, who brought home the ISDE individual gold medal the year prior. The 21-year-old Michael held his own all week, finishing an impressive 6th place in the E1 Classification out of 50 riders from all over the world.

In addition to his success overseas, Michael also came into Round 13 with a GNCC victory behind him so it was obvious that he was ready to go for the start of the 1 p.m. race. While he didn't get the best jump off the line, Michael eventually powered his Husqvarna FC250 into the lead on lap one where he immediately gapped the rest of the field by 30 seconds by the start of lap two. As the race wore on, Michael continued to extend his lead to as much as one minute and 30 seconds on lap five.

With a sizable lead heading into the seventh and final lap, Michael toned it down and maintained his composure to ultimately finish 30 seconds ahead of 2nd place in the XC2 Pro Lites division, also grabbing 8th place in the overall running.

"It's been a great month of racing and I'm happy to end it with a win at the Ironman GNCC," Michael said. "I really didn't touch the bike between the ISDE and this weekend but I knew what I had to do and we were able to come out with a win. I'm looking forward to going after the XC2 Championship next season!"

Layne Michael at Ironman GNCC 2016
Michael showed speed and intensity all race long in Indiana.Photography by Ken Hill

Craig DeLong
DeLong, who recently made the switch to a Husqvarna FC250 from the brand's 2-Stroke TC250 model, moved into 4th on the opening lap where he set his sights on catching the top three front-runners. DeLong swapped top-five positions throughout the first hour of racing before dropping the hammer to climb into 2nd by lap three.

Craig DeLong at 2016 Ironman GNCC
Craig DeLong powers his Husqvarna machine through the hills of Indiana.Photography by Ken Hill

From there, DeLong maintained a solid pace behind his teammate Michael and things were looking good for the Coastal Racing Husqvarna-backed duo. However, while holding a podium position on the final lap, DeLong got stuck at the infamous FMF Power Point hill climb and dropped back to 4th place. The Pennsylvania native was able to hold on to the 4th place position to conclude three tough hours of racing with less than 10 seconds separating him from the podium.

"I finished 4th, which isn't too bad for the amount of time that I have spent on the 4-Stroke," DeLong said. "I felt like I was riding well and things were clicking but I started to feel really sick and the last hour of the race was really tough because of it. I'm ready to make improvements during the off-season and be ready to go for next year."

Craig DeLong at 2016 Ironman GNCC
DeLong put forth a strong performance at the season finale.Photography by Ken Hill

After 13-rounds of GNCC, the Coastal Racing Husqvarna-backed duo will conclude the season with respectable 2nd and 3rd place positions in the XC2 Pro Lites Championship Standings. DeLong maintained a consistent running throughout the season to finish in 2nd, claiming one victory and eight podium finishes in total. Michael, who rounded out the season with two consecutive victories, claimed three total wins and nine podiums for the season to earn 3rd overall in the class.

It was a tough year for XC1 Pro rider Ryan Sipes as he only lined up for seven of the 13 GNCC events in 2016 due to injury. At Round 12 Sipes had a non-racing related accident in the start area that resulted in a broken arm. Sipes immediately had surgery and is currently completing the healing process in hopes of getting back on the bike soon.

Ironman GNCC Results:
XC2 Pro Lites Results

  1. Layne Michael
  2. Vance Francis
  3. Josh Toth
  4. Craig DeLong

XC2 Pro Lites Championship Standings

  1. Trevor Bollinger (302)
  2. Craig DeLong (272)
  3. Layne Michael (265)