All he needed was ninth-place.
Instead Kailub Russell took the checkered flag for Round 11 of the 2014 Grand National Cross Country series on Sunday at Mountain Ridge in Central City, PA and with it a second-straight Championship.
It wasn't easy, or at least as easy as Russell made it seem in prior rounds. After the first lap, he was in fifth-place and then by Lap 3 only 15 seconds separated Jordan Ashburn, Russell and Josh Strang. All three riders stopped for fuel with Ashburn keeping his lead on the way out. Strang, however, returned to the pits after fuel spilled on his lap. Russell finally grabbed the lead with two laps remaining but Ashburn held on just 10 seconds back for much of the final lap before Russell opened the throttle and won by a minute.
"Winning a championship always feels good, just to have that sense of knowing you're the best at what you do," said Russell, a MotoSport rider. "It feels great to get the championship wrapped up early. My team worked so hard to help me accomplish this goal and I am so grateful for their hard work."
Kailub Russell takes the checked flag in Round 11 and the 2014 GNCC Championship - All Photos: Ken Hill
Russell also recorded his fifth-straight win and eighth of the season. He is now tied with Scott Plessinger for fifth-place on the All-Time Bike Wins list with 21. Charlie Mullins, Russell's FMF/KTM teammate and primary competition, missed his fourth straight Round after a broken wrist sustained in practice prior to Round 8 knocked him out of a championship run. Russell and Mullins traded victories through Round 7.
"Charlie being hurt in the middle of the season sucked. I wanted to be able to square off with him again and win," Russell said. "It's good to have a rivalry like that and it keeps me motivated to get better throughout the year."
Russell and Mullins went down to the wire last year to determine the eventual 2013 Champion but despite Mullins' absence for much of the year, Russell said this year's Championship win feels better than last year. Prior to the season starting, Russell commented how difficult it is to repeat and returning champions always seem to ride into a bit of bad luck.
Then, perhaps a bit prophetically, in the first race of the season, Russell, Mullins and two other riders crashed on the first turn of the first lap and held a yard sale. Russell managed to grab the lead later in the race but then encountered mechanical problems and he settled for ninth in the XC1 class and started the season in 14th place for the Overall Championship. But he rebounded and won three straight grabbing the points lead after Round 4.
"Being able to defend the title and bring it home two years in a row is tough," he said. "I'm going to try and keep this train rolling as long as possible and I can't wait to see what next year brings."
Russell has no plans to sit on the sidelines for the final two Rounds. If he wins out KTM gets a season sweep which has never happened. Besides, Russell says he hates losing more than he likes winning.
"I'm always going to go for the win," he said.
In other GNCC news, Ryan Sipes, a former Supercross/Motocross rider and MotoSport sponsor, took fourth in the XC1 class and fifth overall, his best outing of the season in his first year riding off-road. Ashburn held on to second in the XC1 class but took third overall after Grant Baylor's XC2 class victory. Ashburn also grabbed the runner-up position to Russell in the Overall National Championship standings from Strang. Only one point separates the two from second and third place. Mullins dropped to fourth-place.
GNCC Round 11 XC1 Pro Results
- Kailub Russell - MotoSport rider
- Jordan Ashburn
- Andrew Delong
- Ryan Sipes
- Paul Whibley
- Jason Thomas
- Chris Douglas
- Takeshi Koikeda
- Thad DuVall
- Chris Bach
Overall National Championship Standings:
- Kailub Russell (293) - 2014 GNCC Champion
- Jordan Ashburn (187)
- Josh Strang (186)
- Charlie Mullins (180)
- Grant Baylor (177)
- Paul Whibley (152)
- Andrew Delong (152)
- Ricky Russell (117)
- Chris Bach (108)
- Trevor Bollinger (106)
Written By: AndrewT