Kailub Russell rides the #1 plate for the first time and he'll defend his Grand National Cross Country championship starting this weekend in Bunnell, Fl.

It won't be easy for Russell, who narrowly missed being a two-time defending champion by four points in 2012, as he will face teammate Charlie Mullins (2011 champion) and other past GNCC champions in Paul Whibley (2012) and Josh Strang (2010).

The MotoSport-sponsored Russell rides with Mullins on the Factory FMF/KTM team and both took 12 of 13 wins last year. Nearly mid-way through the 2013 season Russell began a dominating run and took six of the last seven victories to beat Mullins by seven points. Russell knows this year's stakes are just as high and even though he's coming off a championship, nothing less than a repeat will do.

"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," Russell said in a MotoSport rider profile last week. "I've put in a lot of work so I expect to win."

The last repeat champion was David Knight in 2007-08. Russell said he'll need to keep a cool head and keep mistakes to a minimum. Russell spent his off season working out to add muscle mass a routine he did last year that resulted an immediate improvement in his riding ability by helping his muscles last longer in the three-hour-plus races.

Ryan Sipes, a predominant Motocross and Supercross rider who MotoSport sponsored last year, joins this year's GNCC field as well as 2000 GNCC champion Shane Watts.

Ryan Sipes at 2013 Red Bud Motocross

GNCC Round 1 heads to a new spot in the series at an off-road riding park called Mud Muckers. It's a privately owned track 30 minutes north of Daytona and riders can expect clay and topsoil mixed with sand. Dirt Bike racing begins at 1 p.m. EST Sunday.