GNCC rips across Cheat Mountain for fourth year
For the fourth year in a row, Snowshoe Mountain Resort hosted "the toughest race in America" - the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) motorcycle and ATV races. The Snowshoe event is the ninth and most difficult of the 13-race GNCC series, America's largest off-road racing series.
Motorcycle.com-USA sponsors the event, which offers a $50,000 purse, including a generous $10,000 for the dirt bike and ATV winners. Hundreds of the world's top riders and thousands of spectators converged on Pocahontas County for the event.
The entire mountaintop was dedicated to the races during the weekend. Access was allowed only through a checkpoint at Linwood. Factory race teams occupied the long parking lot across from Rimfire Lodge, creating an impressive spectacle of colorful trucks, tents, flags, displays and lots of motorcycles and ATVs.
Smaller race teams and spectators set up RVs and campsites throughout the parking lots and open areas of the resort. Vendor tents and vans filled the area at the top of the slopes as well as a podium for the awards ceremonies.
Photographers and TV crews wandered about, covering the event for VersusTV and numerous racing publications. Spectators enjoyed virtually unlimited access to the racers and the race course area.
The course is modified every year. This year's 27-mile pro course weaved through the ski resort, crossed the top of the slopes and descended into the treacherous, rocky slopes and muddy bottoms of Cheat Mountain. A long, abominable loop traversed bogs, rocks and jungles between Silver Creek and Shavers Fork.
ATVs raced on Saturday and dirt bikes on Sunday. The GNCC is open for amateurs -- one of the reasons for the series' popularity. Amateurs struggled through a two-hour morning race and the pros started a three-hour contest of endurance in the afternoon.
The GNCC Series and the Snowshoe race, in particular, trace their lineage to the infamous Blackwater 100, an intensely difficult, 100-mile race founded by racing promoter Dave Coombs in 1975.
The Blackwater 100, held near Davis, included a nearly impossible river crossing of the Little Blackwater River. Fans, affectionately called "mud fleas" by the racers, helped the bikers get across the river and through other parts of the course.ﾠ The race continued each year until 1993, when private land for much of the course became unavailable.
Coombs expanded the very popular Davis enduro to include more races during the 1980s and the series evolved into the GNCC, now the largest off-road series in the nation. In 2007, the Snowshoe race was added and quickly assumed the mantle of "toughest race in America," formerly held by the Blackwater 100.
Austrian KTM motorcycles dominated this year's top pro XC1 class. Nathan Kanney, of High Falls, New York (3:19:22); Christopher Bach, of Crown Point, Indiana (3:20:51) and Cory Buttrick, of Logan, Ohio (3:24:00) took the top three spots, all riding KTMs.
In the XC1 ATV category, Chris Borich, of Sunbury, Pennsylvania (2:00:50); Donald Ockerman, of Marshall, Illinois (2:02:17) and Adam McGill, of West Union (2:03:13) took top honors.
The GNCC series resumes on September 11-12 at the Unadilla track in New Berlin, New York.