Kailub Russell didn't reach the podium for the first time all season but that and a torn ACL didn't prevent him from clinching his third straight Grand National Cross Country Championship on Sunday at the famed Unadilla Motocross in New Berlin, NY.
Russell tore his ACL and suffered minor MCL damage to his knee last week in Slovakia while competing in the International Six Days Enduro but he powered through for fourth-place, enough to clinch the title with three rounds remaining.
Russell entered the 10th round of the season winning eight of nine rounds and needed just 17 points to clinch the title. Grant Baylor was the closest competitor a mere 104 points back and he finished seventh. Russell extended his lead to a now insurmountable 110 points.
"It feels really good to get (the Championship) out of the way," said the MotoSport sponsored rider. "The first few laps were really tough for me to get going, I rode really cautious and once I figured out my limits with the knee I started riding a lot better and picked some guys off on the final lap and was able to move into fourth and easily win the championship."
With the Championship secured, Russell will not race in any more GNCC events and now focuses on the National Enduro Series, where he holds a 34 point lead with two rounds remaining. After that he'll repair his knee and focus on his 2016 return.
"It feels great to make it three in a row, it has been a long time since any rider has been able to accomplish that," he said. "It still doesn't beat the first one though, having a title fight come down to the wire and being able to prevail with so much on the line like that will always feel more rewarding."
Scott Summers was the last to take three straight, a feat he accomplished from 1990-92. In 2013, Russell and Charlie Mullins battled to the end with Russell winning the final round and narrowly taking the Championship by seven points.
With Russell off the podium, new faces took home trophies as Josh Strang, who opened the year with four straight second-place finishes until a shoulder injury sidelined him, returned with his first win of the season in overwhelming fashion. Strang, the 2010 Champion who had never won at Unadilla, grabbed the holeshot and never looked back leaving Thad Duvall and Ryan Sipes to battle it out for second- and third-place.
Duvall ultimately grabbed runner-up honors, tying a season-high second-place finish and moved to within three points of Baylor for second-place on the season. Sipes, fresh of being the first American to take individual overall honors at the ISDE took third place. Sipes lost a spot in the point standings and is now five points behind Strang for fifth-place.
Elsewhere, Kacy Martinez didn't let winning the Championship early affect her performance in the Women's class as she won her sixth straight and ninth of the season. Martinez, also a MotoSport rider, wrapped up her second consecutive Championship in Round 9 before the summer break.
2015 GNCC Round 10 XC1 Pro Results
- Josh Strang
- Thad DuVall
- Ryan Sipes
- Kailub Russell - MotoSport rider
- Andrew Delong
- Chris Bach
- Grant Baylor
- Tyler Medaglia
- Jordan Ashburn
- Cory Buttrick
2015 GNCC Overall National Championship Standings
- Kailub Russell (283) - 2015 GNCC Champion
- Grant Baylor (173)
- Thad DuVall (170)
- Chris Bach (159)
- Josh Strang (148)
- Ryan Sipes (143)
- Jordan Ashburn (120)
- Jason Thomas (117)
- Ricky Russell (87)
- Trevor Bollinger (82)
Written By: AndrewT