Exciting race weekend at Snowshoe Mountain
Snowshoe Mountain resort hosted the Grand National Cross-County (GNCC) ATV and motorcycle endurance races for the fifth year on June 25 and 26. A Pennsylvania pro took home the first place ATV trophy, while a 22-year old Australian pro won his second GNCC-series motorcycle race of the year.
The Snowshoe event was the seventh in the GNCC 13-race series. Pro riders competed for a $5,000 first place paycheck.
The Pocahontas County race is one of the most popular in the GNCC series because of the generous prize money, the resort's amenities and special activities, including the GNCC University riding school and the GNCC golf tournament - both very popular and fun for all participants.
The Cheat Mountain race course is considered one of the toughest in America. The Snowshoe contest traces its lineage to the infamous Blackwater 100, an extremely difficult enduro held in Preston County between 1975 and 1993. That race featured an almost impossible river crossing and many racers were proud just to finish.
This year's Snowshoe GNCC motorcycle race was particularly difficult, due to generous spring rainfall and a shower just before the race began. The rain made the rocky, muddy Cheat Mountain course even more treacherous than usual.
Amateur racers in the two-hour morning session took longer than anticipated to complete their laps, indicating the difficulty of the conditions. Pro racers endured a three-hour test in the afternoon, with a half-hour start delay due to amateurs clearing the course.
Thousands of spectators lined the race course in front of Rimfire Lodge for the always-thrilling start of the pro bike race. Colorful motorcycles with riders in gaudy racing suits filled Snowshoe Drive from Seneca Lodge for hundreds of feet back to St. Bernard Chapel.
After a 30-minute delay, the starter waved a green flag and a group of five riders roared down Snowshoe Drive and around the corner at Seneca Lodge. The racers negotiated obstacles at the top of the ski slopes and continued on to the muddy, steep, treacherous slopes of Cheat Mountain.
Hundreds of spectators congregated at a large mud hole above Shavers Lake, where even the best riders got stuck in the awful quagmire. Many spectators lined a power line road west of Snowshoe Drive, where riders negotiated a difficult hill climb. More intrepid fans ventured onto the far reaches of the course, where they witnessed parts of the action that few get to see. GNCC rules allow spectators anywhere on the course and even allow them to help riders extract their machines from the mud.
The lead changed six times in an exciting race, with just two seconds between the top two finishers.
Josh Strang, of Invrell, Australia took first place in the top pro XC1 motorcycle class, just two seconds ahead of Nathan Kanney, of New Paltz, New York. Charlie Mullins, of Hickory, North Carolina, finished third. New Zealander Rory Mead finished fourth. New Zealander and fan favorite Paul Whibley managed to finish fifth, despite throwing a chain several times after hitting a rock.
In Saturday's ATV race, Adam McGill, of West Union, took first place honors. Chris Bithell, of Irwin, Pennsylvania finished second; Bryan Cook, of Casar North Carolina, third; Jarrod McClure, of Kaska, Pennsylvania, fourth and Donald Ockerman, of Marshall, Illinois, fifth.
The next race in the GNCC series is the Wiseco John Penton in Millfield, Ohio on July 9-10. GNCC races are televised on the Versus Channel. For more information, see gnccracing.com.