2017 Ironman GNCC Race Report
The final round of the 2017 Grand National Cross Country Series headed to Ironman Raceway in Crawfordsville, Indiana, on the Shaver family farm. History is made here every season, and this year would be no different as Kailub Russell prepared to break Scott Summers record of all time wins in the GNCC series. Russell would have his work cut out for him as the weather turned cold and wet leading up to race day; however that did not stop nearly 2,400 riders from competing throughout the weekend. The stage was set as cool winds blew across the fields and the colorful fall foliage made an incredible backdrop to the season finale.
Ricky Russell was the rider on the move after securing the XC1 holeshot, and he would lead Kailub as they worked through the first few miles of the nearly 13-mile course. Kailub made a pass and soon would make a mistake allowing Ricky to reclaim the lead. The pair would battle as they put a very small gap on one hard-charging Thad Duvall. Duvall had been absent the past few rounds as he allowed an injury to heal, but he was back on the bar and charging hard. As the three-hour race became a war of attrition for many, the top three pulled away and soon Ricky would feel Duvall’s wrath as he overtook the second-place position and now tried to close the gap on Kailub.
Even though Duvall’s race was strong, he would come up just short as the clock ticked down and the final lap was scored. Kailub would cross the finish line taking the win and putting his name atop the all-time GNCC win list besting the legendary Scott Summers’ record. Summers was on hand to congratulate Kailub marking the passing of the torch. With Duvall’s second-place effort, he showed he may not be at 100 percent but that he was hungry and the 2018 season is going to be an all out war for the number-one plate.
In XC2, Pascal Rauchenecker made his GNCC debut and a big statement by besting the class and taking the win ahead of some serious talent. Class champion Josh Toth would have to settle for second as Craig Delong made another podium visit with third. This class will be interesting to watch early in 2018 to see which riders move up and who stays to slug it out.
The FMF XC3 class was as exciting as usual as the 125cc two-strokes fired off the line with some added riders who bolstered the class’ numbers. In the end, it was Jack Edmondson who came out on top with Chris Venditti and Hunter Neuwirth taking second and third respectively.
The season seemed to fly by as new venues were added and big changes made to legendary facilities that kept things interesting all year. 2018 stands to be one of the most hotly contested XC1 classes in some time even though for most of this season we saw Thad Duvall bring the fight to Kailub Russell. If things remain close to the same, we could see some battles that rival any ever run especially if Steward Baylor Jr. and Ricky Russell can find just a few more small things that can keep them out front and on top of the box round after round.