Motorcycle racing world focuses on Snowshoe
Possibly the single biggest event of the year in Pocahontas County happens this weekend at Snowshoe Mountain resort.
The Motosport.com Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) motorcycle and ATV races rip across Cheat Mountain for the fifth year. Hundreds of pro and amateur racers and thousands of spectators began arriving this week for the races to be held on Saturday and Sunday.
By Friday, the mountaintop will be covered with factory racing vans, tents, RVs, vendors and motorcycle/ATV manufacturer exhibits. The GNCC race is a really big deal and needs to be seen to be believed in a bucolic location like Pocahontas County.
The Snowshoe race is the seventh in this year's 13-race GNCC series. Riders in the series from around the world compete for more than $3 million in prize money. GNCC racing is televised on the Versus Network and is covered by several racing publications.
The infamous Blackwater 100, first held in 1979 in Tucker County, was the genesis of the GNCC series. The extremely difficult race was very popular with fans and the Snowshoe race is considered its heir. Like the Tucker County enduro, the Snowshoe race starts "in town."
An amazing spectacle, racers line up in groups of five - dozens of rows deep - in front of Rimfire Lodge. Bikes fill the road nearly all the way to St. Bernard Chapel. Every five seconds, a group of five is given the green flag and launches north on Snowshoe Drive and around the corner at Seneca Lodge. The racers traverse some whoop-de-doos at the top of the ski slopes and follow the course onto the rugged slopes and into the muddy bogs of Cheat Mountain.
Thousand of spectators pay an entrance fee of $20 for the entire weekend. Some choose to remain in Snowshoe Village and watch the action that occurs near the start and finish lines, while taking in the upscale environment of the ski resort.
But many others spectators venture far onto the course and far from civilization. In the Blackwater 100 tradition, rules allow spectators to go anywhere along the course and help racers pull their bikes out of the mud. Spectators who trek onto the far reaches of the course often see some of the most exciting action. But they should be prepared to deal with lots of mud and difficulty getting there.
Fans who follow the series closely will be cheering for their favorite racers.
Josh Strang, of Inverell, Australia is the GNCC XC1 Pro class points leader after six races. The 22-year old Australian rides a Suzuki RM-450 and was the 2010 GNCC series champion. Strang won the third round race at Steele Creek, North Carolina and has finished no lower than fourth in the others.
Charlie "Hot Rod" Mullins, of Hamilton, Ohio is second in the GNCC XC1 point standings. Mullins won the second round race in Washington, Georgia and the fourth round race in Union, South Carolina. The 25-year old Buckeye rides an Austrian KTM 450 SX-F.
New Zealander Paul Whibley is third in the XC1 points standing and won the most recent GNCC series bike race in Patton, Pennsylvania on May 29. The 32-year old Whibley was the 2009 GNCC champion and the 2010 OMA national champion. A highly respected rider, Whibley rides a Yamaha YZ450F.
For a profile of Paul Whibley, with inside details of the cross-country motorcycle racing world, see next week's edition of The Pocahontas Times.
For a schedule of events and information on obtaining GNCC race tickets, call Snowshoe Mountain at 877-441-4386 or see snowshoemtn.com on the Internet.