Kailub Russell enters Round 9 of the Grand National Cross Country Series in a bit of unfamiliar territory.
He's favored to win his sixth race of the season and with an already considerable Championship points lead there's an opportunity to put a nearly insurmountable spread over the second place and injured Charlie Mullins and third place Josh Strang before the three-month long break.
A win at the difficult Snowshoe on Sunday in West Virginia gives the defending champion Russell a 53 point edge over Mullins and prevents Strang from taking second-place. Mullins is expected back for Round 10 in September after breaking his wrist in a practice crash after Round 7 but he'll only have four rounds to catch up. Russell has dominated the last two rounds, with and without Mullins, and has no intention of letting up. He's looking to be the first back-to-back champion since David Knight in 2008-09.
"I'm really looking forward to it. I have been riding nothing but trials related stuff lately and this place lends its hand to people with that skill," he said. "But hopefully I can get out there and get another win before the summer break."
Kailub Russell practices at home
Snowshoe is one of the more difficult courses in the series and the most unique. It's located in West Virginia's largest ski resort on Snowshoe Mountain. Riders face deep bogs, tree roots and a variety of hills both climbing up and rolling down. Despite all the obstacles, grabbing the holeshot is not a necessity to win the race.
"We start on the main road at the top of the mountain in rows of five with a live engine start, and it's never an issue of where you start at this race because it's such a tough course to be leading the first few laps," Russell said. "It's a little easier to follow people through the bad mid holes and rock sections to kind of pick out where and where not to go."
Pro bikes begin Round 9 at 1 p.m. Sunday at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, 10 Snowshoe Drive in Snowshoe, WV.
2014 GNCC Overall National Championship Standings
- Kailub Russell (203)
- Charlie Mullins (180)
- Josh Strang (153)
- Jordan Ashburn (129)
- Grant Baylor (116)
- Paul Whibley (115)
- Ricky Russell (99)
- Andrew Delong (98)
- Steward Baylor (86)
- Chris Bach (79)