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John Penton GNCC Women’s Pro Race Report

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John Penton, legendary racer and innovator, received the honor of having this particular GNCC round named after him. Located at the Sunday Creek MX facility in Millfield, Ohio, the most notable feature (besides the moto track) is the red Ohio clay. Because of this, the weather is really what determines the kind of race that you’re going to have. If it rains, it is incredibly slippery with areas of thick, heavy mud that can instantly add 50 pounds to your bike; if it’s dry, there will be dust, and lots of it. Usually there’s not much of a middle ground.

This weekend though, vicious rainstorms Friday combined with the sun and 80°F tempatures combined to create really good conditions. There was still some dust, but a lot of the muddy sections got tacky toward the end of the AM race. Due to a Full Gas Sprint Enduro also being held in Ohio this weekend, the WXC Class only drew four participants. Though the GNCC series is currently the largest and most prestigious series on the East Coast, the Full Gas actually pays a purse to the Pro Women – something GNCC has never done. So many of the top women, including Brooke Cosner, Sarah Baldwin, and Kendall Lafollette, opted to race the Full Gas instead.

Throughout the first lap, it was current points leader Tayla Jones (Mountain/KR4/Husquvarna Performance) and the defending champion Becca Sheets (Fly/Maxxis/Seat Concepts/KTM) dueling for the lead. Sheets was able to make the pass and had the lead by nearly thirty seconds heading into lap two. The other two riders, Mackenzie Tricker (Bonanza Plumbing KTM), and Shelby Rolen (Kawasaki Team Green/Gateway Cycles/Fox/FMF) both suffered bike problems on the first lap, effectively putting them out of the race. Rolen pulled in immediately after completing the first lap; Tricker soldiered on to a 3rd place finish, fighting locking brakes the whole way.

Once the leaders got into the lappers around mile marker three, they immediately encountered the first bottleneck of the day. Jones was able to take advantage of the chaos to make the pass on Sheets. Jones was unable to pull away the remainder of the second lap, and Sheets tenaciously stayed on her rear fender. But the third lap was a different story. This time the bottleneck was even bigger. Jones again hit the “hot line” through the bottleneck, though even she says it was a mess – “the bottleneck separated us out, and after that I didn’t even know what position I was in until I came around and saw my pit board.” Meanwhile Sheets and Tricker both struggled mightily. Giant bottlenecks have a way of turning leads that were seconds into minutes. When it was all said and done, there was six minutes between first and second, and another six between second and third. A disappointing spread, considering how tight recent battles in the WXC class have been lately. As Sheets put it, “after the bottleneck, the race was over. I don’t mind getting second, but I at least want a chance to fight for it and bottlenecks like that make good battles unlikely."

GNCC racing will now take its annual summer break. The series will resume this fall, with the famous (or perhaps infamous) Unadilla. Until then, you can bet the women of GNCC will be training hard and preparing to slug it out come September.

John Penton WXC Results

1st Tayla Jones

2nd Becca Sheets

3rd Mackenzie Tricker

4th Shelby Rolen

WXC Points

1st Becca Sheets (170)*

2nd Tayla Jones (160)

3rd Mackenzie Tricker (144)

4th Rachel Gutish (100)

5th Brooke Cosner (86)

*Note that Becca Sheets is currently the only rider to have competed in all nine of the rounds so far. Once riders are scored for more than nine races, the drops will begin, with only the best nine finishes counting towards the final series standings

WXC Points (Adjusted to only include eight of nine rounds)

1st Tayla Jones (160)

2nd Becca Sheets (152)

3rd Mackenzie Tricker (144)

4th Rachel Gutish (100)

5th Brooke Cosner (86)