Yadkinville, NC - Luck turned in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, as sophomore pro Chris Bithell of Irwin, Pennsylvania snagged his first career win by topping Bill Ballance of Smith Grove, Kentucky and Brent Sturdivant of Montrose, West Virginia at the Elka Yadkin Valley Stomp GNCC in North Carolina. Series points leader Chris Borich struggled to 17th on his East Coast ATV Honda after blowing a rear shock. Now Yamaha's Ballance, who is looking for a record-breaking eighth-straight GNCC title, holds a 13-point lead in the series with two races to go in the series
In front of that, Bithell rode his heart out for his first win. "I knew I really wanted this win," said Bithell. "I didn't get a great holeshot at all. I was probably sitting tenth into the woods. I started putting my head down and knew I could slowly make passes-that's the only thing I could do."
Bithell eventually made his way all the way to the front of the pack, as Borich, the early leader and winner of the ITP Holeshot Award, started struggling when his shock gave out. Then Ballance made a mistake and Bithell ended up with the lead on the last lap. Ballance dug deep to try to get him back.
"Honestly, I really thought I had this thing in the bag," said Ballance. "About the nine mile marker, I had a line picked out and charged into it and just hit the line three inches too quick, and got wrapped up in a grapevine and had to break it get on through the line. But we come out of here in second and made up some valuable points today. Chris Bithell was riding awesome out there today, got to take my hat off to him. It's good to be up here and have the point's lead with two races to go."
. "I'd like to thank everybody in the family," said Bithell. "Everybody that gets me here, the pit crew, everybody does their job so I can be here."
Sturdivant took his first-ever GNCC podium ahead of a big battle throughout the top ten, holding off Matt Smiley and Adam McGill for the spot.
"I gave Borich a run for the holeshot award there; I thought I almost had him," said Sturdivant, a college student from West Virginia. "I was just following him for the first couple of laps. Then his bike started beating him up, and he let me go and I pulled away. I kept pulling away and got down in a big muddy section, and I overshot the turn, ended up in the mud and everybody went by me. I had to dig my quad out, but man, this is a dream come true. Not too long ago, I was standing out there in the crowd watching everybody get up here and this is a dream come true for me."
Sixth overall went to GT Thunder Yamaha's Brandon Sommers, who also won the XC2 Pro Am Class and clinched the class championship for the season. Don Ockerman and Jeff Maloney rounded out the top three in that class.
"I came into this year just looking to get some solid finishes, and it turned out real well for us," said Sommers. "It's the whole combination. It's like spokes in a wheel. You have to have the training, the determination, the bike, and sponsors, my dad and everybody behind me. It's awesome. We're going to go run the Pro class in the last two races, and I'm real excited about that. No pressure, just go out and give it everything you got."
Borich struggled to score any points at all, with his machine pogo-sticking him around the course. The Sunbury, Pennsylvanian rider grabbed the holeshot and the early lead in the race and looked ready to check out, until the shock faded and he was left to just try to survive and finish 17th.
In the two-hour ATV morning race, the sport class jumped all the way to the front of the pack when Joey "Bam" Mageria held off Scott Sleppy for the win. Margaria rides a Yamaha Blaster 200 and Sleppy a Honda 300EX, showing the depth of the morning race competition. Third overall went to 16-19 C class rider Chris Newton. Angel Atwell won the Women's class for the third straight race on her LTERacing.com Honda, but Traci Cecco's second-place finish on her Yamaha landed her the Women's Championship for the year.
"It's been a great season, but you can't win championships without having people behind you," says Cecco. "Without having all my sponsors behind me, without Yamaha. I can't do this alone, and I'm just so grateful that they're there helping me, and I'm just happy that I can go out there and do my thing and win races for them."
Can-Am mounted Bryan Buckanon topped Rick Cecco and Scott Kilby in the 4x4 Open class, while Jerime Dudding won the 4x4 Lites class over Cliff Beasley and Michael Swift won the 4x4 Limited class. Four-Stroke Tech's Michael Benson won the Utility Unlimited Class on his Kawasaki KFX700.
The Elka Yadkin Valley Stomp was run under nearly perfect weather conditions, with temperatures in the 80s. The course was tight compared to most on the tour, but there were enough passing zones to mix up the racing. "I think the virgin stuff that they cut out for us this year offered at least a few lines, a handful maybe, but it's just tough," said Ballance. "This track is so tight that it seems like a lot of people can run the same pace. I was surprised we weren't more bunched together than what we were today, but it was still a tight race and I feel pretty good about it."
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with the Power Like Park GNCC in St. Clairsville, OH on October and 30.
Elka Yadkin Valley Stomp GNCC
September 29, 2007
ATV Overall 1. Chris Bithell Irwin, PA HON 02:16:48
2. Bill V Ballance Smith Grove, KY YAM 02:16:50
3. Brent Sturdivant Montrose, WV HON 02:18:20
4. Matt J Smiley Kunkletown, PA HON 02:18:23
5. Brandon Sommers Millersburg, OH YAM 02:18:51
6. Adam McGill West Union, WV HON 02:18:59
7. Jarrod McClure Kaska, PA HON 02:19:14
8. Duane Johnson Trenton, MO HON 02:19:32
9. Craig Reed Crawford, TN HON 02:20:29
10. Michael Houston Hickory, NC YAM 02:20:48
11. Santo Derisi Casar, NC HON 02:21:24
12. Bryan Cook Casar, NC HON 02:21:57
13. Donald Ockerman Marshall, IL HON 02:22:01
14. Jeff Maloney Hudson, NC HON 02:22:16
15. David Crane Golden, MS HON 02:22:31
16. Michael Burrows Gilman City, MO HON 02:22:44
17. Chris M Borich Sunbury, PA HON 02:23:14
18. Taylor Kiser Alva, FL YAM 02:23:49
19. Shawn Hess Muenster, TX HON 02:26:38
20. Richie Brown Dahlonega, GA HON 02:26:43
Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series Standings
(After 11 of 13 rounds)
1. Bill Ballance 287/4 wins
2. Chris Borich 274/6 wins
3. Chris Bithell 212/1 win
4. Matt Smiley 166
5. Adam McGill 160
6. Taylor Kiser 148
7. Brandon Sommers 139
8. Bryan Cook 119
9. Chris Jenks 110
10. Duane Johnson 104 About GNCC Racing:
The AMA/ATVA-sanctioned Can-Am Grand National Cross Country series is America's premier off-road racing series. The 13-round series is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The nearly three-hour long GNCC races lead as many as 1,800 riders through tracks ranging from eight to twelve miles in length. GNCC Racing airs weekly television shows on Versus (formerly Outdoor Life Network) every Saturday at 3 p.m. and Thursday at 4 p.m. beginning on April 14. With varied terrain including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include BRP Can-Am, Parts Unlimited, Moose, Maxxis, Pirelli, Wiseco, Acerbis, Elka, Geico, Klotz, FMF, ITP and Weekend Warrior, and riders compete for over $3 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Alpinestars, Cometic, EK Chain, HiPer Technology, Laegers, Moose Utility Division, The National Guard, Powersport Grafx, Race Tools, REM, Scott, Thor, Tire Balls, Twin Air, and MotoTee's. Media Sponsors include Racer X Illustrated, ATV Rider, ATV Sport, ATVRiders.com, Quadzone.com, Dirt Rider and ATV Insider. For more information log on to www.gnccracing.com.