Kailub Russell Returns.
The 2013 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series Champion is ready for more as the 2014 GNCC Series starts Saturday at Mud Muckers in Bunnell, FL. The MotoSport-sponsored rider won the 2013 championship in the last race of the season and has no qualms about his goal for this season. In 13 rounds last year, Russell won seven times and placed in the Top Two 12 times.
Russell spent the off-season gearing up for a repeat performance but he knows doing so might be just as hard as winning the first one. It's been six years since the last repeat champion but for Russell a successful 2014 season only means one thing: GNCC Championship.
We caught up with Russell last week as he left the gym to see how he's spending the off season, what it was like to win the championship and how he's feeling heading into the new season.
Years riding pro: Six
What age did you start riding and on what: Started riding at age 4, on a PW 50
What do you ride now? KTM 350 XC-F
Hometown: Kingston, OH
Career highlights: 2009 -2010 XC-2 champion; 2013 GNCC Champion
Other sports participated in: I played most sports when I was in school
Other hobbies/interests: Golf and mountain biking
1. So what was it like to win the GNCC Championship?
It's kind of surreal to win it. I come from a family of racers and my dad was a past National Enduro Champion (1990) and growing up all I ever wanted to do was race dirt bikes. But I never knew what it would take to get there. To win it was an awesome feeling and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling and get a few more.
2. Were you able to get it out of your mind that final race and just ride or did you take less chances knowing a crash would end your title run?
I didn't think anything. I knew what I needed to do to get the job done and that was to beat Charlie Mullins. I wasn't overly anxious I just took it as another race as I had won first or second place the entire year. There was pressure but I set it aside and went out and executed and raced probably the best race I did all season. It was a pretty flawless race for me.
3. How do you now enter the 2014 season with the same intensity as you did before you won the championship?
It's going to be tough. There are four or five guys that can win any weekend and especially at the beginning of the year everyone still has a chance as everyone starts at zero. But once four or five races get under your belt and you see where everyone is, the momentum is either for or against you. I don't see why there should be any problem with winning. I've had some good practice riding, I'm in good shape and I'm the defending champ.
4. What's the offseason been like - same routine that worked for 2013 or have you implemented new training?
Once I find something that works I don't stray too far off the beaten path. I've gotten in a bit more gym work and bulked up a bit. I did that last season and I can feel huge gains in my riding ability. The gym work is basically making your muscles last longer so when you get on the bike you don't get fatigued. I'm also running and road biking, I'm feeling great and hopefully we can go out and get a win in Round 1.
5. David Knight was the last to repeat as Champion in 2007-08 - what's it going to take for you to repeat?
It's been that long, that's crazy. As I look back, the defending champion has had bad luck each year. I'll need to keep a cool head each race, don't do anything to put myself in a deficit and keep mistakes at a minimum. There are a lot of things you can't control in off-road racing so what you can control keep mistakes to a minimum and hopefully things fall into place for you.
6. When you've been racing two hours with another hour to go are you still enjoying the ride or does mental fatigue begin to set in?
That is a good question cause a lot of times you're out there and at about that two hour mark you want the race to be over. Once you get in that mindset you start dropping like a rock. There have been races like that but I've learned to block those negative thoughts to keep from distracting me. When I'm in the lead and there's a good battle going I'm focused. I'm sure there's quite a bit of people who are searching for that white flag but I just try to keep focused as well as I can.
7. Why did you get into GNCC Racing rather than Motocross?
I got into GNCC because my mom wasn't too keen on me racing Motocross growing up. I did a couple of qualifiers for Loretta Lynn's but nothing came of it because of my mom. I wasn't that good of a rider growing up, I was just an average kid who liked it and I progressed and got better and better and here I am today.
8. Would you ever crossover to Outdoor Nationals or Supercross?
There was a point in time I thought I'd rather do Motocross but it's too late in this stage of the game. I'm 24 and the kids coming up are light years ahead of where I was at that age. I'm making good money now so unless I can be in the Top 10 it's kind of pointless to put yourself in that kind of position in my eyes.
9. Short of another GNCC championship this year - how do measure a successful season?
It wouldn't be successful at all. I hate losing more than I like winning and it wouldn't be very successful if I couldn't defend it and especially if I was not winning as much as I did last year. I've put in a lot of work so I expect to win. It's going to be a strong battle. I can take being beat straight up with no mechanical issues but if I wouldn't win it would be pretty unsuccessful to me.