Photo: Ken Hill

Is there any stopping Kailub Russell?

The two-time defending Grand National Cross Country series Champion started the 2015 season with, what else, a win. Believe it or not, his victory on Sunday at the very challenging Rodman Plantation in Palatka, FL marked the first time Russell won in the first round.

All odds are on Russell, a MotoSport rider, to win a third-straight Championship and he wasted little time getting started. Jordan Ashburn, who took third last year, grabbed the holeshot but couldn't hold on to the lead as Russell charged forward and left the field to decide who would join him on the podium.

Josh Strang, the 2014 runner-up, Ryan Sipes and Thad Duvall battled it out for a bit until Sipes, the second-year GNCC rider and former Supercross/Motocross standout, hit the dirt hard and lost out on podium contention. He managed to remount and finish sixth in the XC1 class and seventh overall. Strang held on to second, while Chris Bach passed Duvall for third place halfway through the race. Duvall managed to catch up to Bach and the two put on a show in the final lap but ultimately Bach held on and Duvall settled for fourth.

"I've always had a few issues at this race," Russell said. "It feels really good to finally get a win in Florida and start the season off right. It was really hot today which I have not been used to lately but my conditioning over the winter break paid off and I felt pretty good."

In the XC2 class, which also competes for the Overall National Championship, MotoSport rider Brad Bakken took ninth in that class and a 20th overall. MotoSport rider Kacy Martinez, the defending WXC Champion, started 10th but quickly grabbed the lead and never looked back.

Charlie Mullins, Russell's primary competitor in recent years, is out until at least May. Mullins broke his wrist during practice after Round 7 last year and was leading Russell by seven points at the time after posting three wins and three second-place finishes. He returned to action in Round 12 and re-broke his wrist in Round 13.

GNCC Round 2 is March 15 at Aonia Pass Motocross Park in Washington, GA.

2015 GNCC Round 1 XC1 Pro Results

  1. Kailub Russell - MotoSport rider
  2. Josh Strang
  3. Chris Bach
  4. Thad DuVall
  5. Tyler Medaglia
  6. Ryan Sipes
  7. Grant Baylor
  8. Jordan Ashburn
  9. Takeshi Koikeda
  10. Cory Graffunder

2015 GNCC Overall National Championship Standings

  1. Kailub Russell (30) - MotoSport rider
  2. Josh Strang (25)
  3. Chris Bach (21)
  4. Thad DuVall (18)
  5. Tyler Medaglia (16)
  6. Nick Davis (15)
  7. Ryan Sipes (14)
  8. Ricky Russell (13)
  9. Jason Thomas (12)
  10. Grant Baylor (11)