Tuesday Toolbox: Kailub Russell

Author: Jennifer Kenyon

After dominating the XC2 ranks in 2010, FMF/KTM/MotoSport's Kailub Russell made his debut into the XC1 Pro class this year. Russell didn't have the best luck in rounds one and two, but since then, the rookie has been steadily improving his game - even chalking two podiums in the first half of the season. Sunday's Wiseco John Penton was a milestone race for many heading into the Summer Break. Paul Whibley was looking for his third XC1 win of the year and Russell the first of his career. In a three-hour duel, both pushed to the point of exhaustion, and Russell led all the way to the final section when Whibley jumped past him to steal the win. We caught up with Russell yesterday to reflect on a race where he gave it his all but came up just a few feet short.

How are you feeling today?

I feel pretty achy today, not really sore but I kind of tweaked my knee during the race. I didn't really notice it yesterday but it's hurting pretty good today. We're out playing a round of golf right now, relaxing a little.

3 hours is a long time to be out there, let alone in the ridiculous heat. How did that affect your riding strategy?

There at the beginning of the race, I was out front with [Paul] Whibley and I was kind of following him for while. We were kind of taking it easy on the first lap and then I made a pass on him for the lead but I found myself kind of trying to push a little bit too much and I backed it down because I knew I wasn't going to get away from him. I was trying to conserve as much energy as I could for the last two laps because I knew it was going to be brutal and I found myself a couple times using way too much energy and I just backed it down and settled into a pace that I knew I could do the whole three hours.

So you and Whibs switched off the lead throughout the race. You made up time through the moto section, where were your strong points out there?

I think maybe the last 2-3 miles I was a little bit faster but for the most part we were pretty even the whole time except for on the motocross track, I was a touch faster until the last lap I guess (laughs).

Kailub Russell GNCC Wiseco John Penton

You guys were super close on the last lap, what was your strategy for the last lap?

I really wasn't strategizing at all; I don't really think I was thinking anything at that point (laughs). The last lap I was right behind him [Whibley] and we got to the John Penton section and we both got hung up on a hill that had a bunch of lappers stuck on it. There weren't a whole lot of places for us to go to get around them. I ended up getting up the hill before him and when I got to the top, I started trying to get back into the pace and I just couldn't do it - my body was shutting down on me right there. He caught back up pretty fast and I let him by and he got away from me, probably putting 10-15 seconds on me there. When we got out of that section, I finally got my second wind - got the air back in my sails (laughs) and I caught back up to him about the last 2.5-3 miles. He took an outside line around this hill and I went right up the middle of it through the ruts and stuff and ended up making the pass and then I was just trying to hold him off. I knew he was going to be tough the last couple miles and I knew he was pushing just as hard as I was to get back around me.

He passed you literally feet before the finish. Explain how that went down.

It was a pretty tough pill to swallow, seeing him jump right there beside me. For some reason, I had a feeling he was going to do it. I thought I could close the door on him but he got to the inside and it was over from there. When we got to the moto track I was just hoping to hold on. It was all I could do to hang on through the ruts and bumps out in the woods so when you put that added jumping in, I was already exhausted to where I wasn't even thinking straight. I'm happy to get on the podium again this week for sure. It is what it is and Paul rode a great race.

When you pulled off the track, you dropped to the ground. We're you overheated? Sick?

Yeah I was just severely fatigued from the heat. Like I said, like halfway through that lap I could feel my body just shutting down on me, it wasn't producing any more energy - it was all gone.

Kailub Russell GNCC Wiseco John Penton

Right now you're in sixth place points as a rookie in the pro class, what do you think about this season?

Honestly, I expected myself to be doing better at this point. I would have liked to be more consistently on the podium by this point in the season but you know, those first two races set me back in the points standings. I think if I would have had solid top five finishes at the first two races, which I think was not out of the question at all, I would be right there with Whibs for third in points. As the season goes on, I see myself progress both on the bike and my training program. I've been trying to keep in shape and I've really taken a liking to mountain biking, I've been doing that quite a bit lately and I think that's helped out a lot the last few races, especially Snowshoe and the John Penton.

Yeah, I hear you're quite the mountain bike racer!

Yeah, it's pretty much like a GNCC, same kind of start and everything and it's through the woods but not quite as long and it's pretty quiet (laughs). Every Wednesday evening there's a race here and my buddies at the bike shop in town got me into it and it's really benefited me to have someone to ride with and just have fun.

Do you have any big plans for the Summer Break?

Well I'm going to go to the beach next week for a little bit of fun and relaxation. After that though, I'm going to try to hit a WORCS race as soon as their series starts back up again. There's a race up in Washington that i'm going to try and head to so that should be good. I also want to try and hit a couple outdoor motocross races this summer. I really enjoy doing those, they're a lot of fun and it's good to change things up a bit. Hopefully I can get to Unadilla and Steel City.