Snowshoe, WV – It was one tough, gnarly race, but the fans liked it and so did Yamaha’s Bill Ballance, who grabbed momentum on the track and in the series to win the Moose Racing Snowshoe GNCC in West Virginia, round eight of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. The massive ski resort at Snowshoe presented beautiful accommodations and a paved stretch of road for the start, but several miles of the course were made of almost impassible by mud, hills and rocks. Ballance moved around his rival Chris Borich early in one of those sections, and Borich ran out of time in his comeback bid, finishing second on his East Coast ATV Honda. Borich’s teammate Matt Smiley took third.
“There was probably three miles of the track out there that was just as gnarly as probably anything we ever see on any track throughout the whole season,” said Ballance, the seven-time and defending GNCC Champion. “At one time there was five or six of us together, I think Chris and Matt and Bithell, and we come into that one section and everybody started splitting off and going different directions, and I picked a line and thought, ‘Oh Lord, this is way out of the way, I’m getting ready to get passed by a bunch of people,’ and wound up getting on through it, and wound up being an easier but longer line and I didn’t get hung up, and I think I got around those guys right there. I just put my head down and started pushing.”
Borich dropped to the tail end of the top five but kept charging until he was closing on his teammate Smiley for second. “It was a really fun track out there,” said Smiley. “Just a couple of real muddy sections that you really had to use your head and not get hung up behind anybody. If somebody got stuck in front of you, you were screwed, so I was hoping to just stay with them and pick them off in there, and just make dust in these last few sections, but hey, what are you going to do? I wanted to make a move at the end there, but I guess Bill pitted earlier and he got away a little bit.”
Fourth overall went to LTERacing.com’s Chris Bithell and fifth to West Virginia’s own Adam McGill. Monster Energy/National Guard/Kawasaki’s William Yokley was sixth on a KXF450, with Chris Jenks seventh and Bryan Cook eighth.
The XC2 Pro Am class presented a big battle of its own, and GT Thunder Yamaha’s Brandon Sommers came from behind to notch his seventh win in eight races this year, as well as ninth overall. “I don’t think I dropped any further back than about third or fourth all day,” said Sommers. “I just had to keep pushing, you’d lose a lot of time when you’d get hung up and just run hard and usually make more mistakes when you’re running hard, but it all worked out in the end.”
Mark Notman got third, and he was happy with the GP style start. “It’s been rough all year,” said Notman. “I haven’t been able to get a good start. With this start we did today, I was able to get up front with the top guys and run with them, and stay up there all day.”
“It feels great,” said second place overall and 4×4 Open winner Bryan Buckannon, on a Can-Am 650. “Everybody said they were waiting for the utilities to come up here and overall, and today here we got it, and I don’t think anybody thought that there’d be this line up that’s up here, but we’re just showing that we’re here to race and run for everything we’ve got.”
Third overall in the morning went to another Can-Am racer, Limited Class winner Michael Swift. “There were three spots back there that were pretty nasty,” said Swift. “You’d come and it’d just be a parking lot. Most of them were through creek beds, the trees were so thick you just got to hope you can mow ’em over, so you gotta’ pick the littlest ones you can find and just mow ’em, sometimes you have to back up and do it two or three times so the front end will finally fall over on them. You couldn’t do it if you didn’t have four-wheel drive. These bikes are so fast in the open stuff, you can pass a lot of the sport bikes. It was a good track.”
Yamaha’s Traci Cecco saw her seven-race win streak snapped when she had a battery die on the last lap. Yamaha rider Lexie Coulter took her first career win in the Women’s class and finished seventh in the morning race.
All told just under 1400 racers competed in the event.
The 2007 Can-Am GNCC begins a summer break before returning for the final five rounds in the fall, beginning with the Geico Mountain Ridge GNCC in Somerset, PA on September 1 and 2.
Start, Ballance and Borich photos by David Scearce, ski lift photo by Jason Hooper.