St. Clairsville, OH - East Coast ATV's Chris Borich wanted to avoid this, but his back is up against the wall again in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. A few weeks ago Borich held the series points lead after grabbing two-straight GNCC wins, and the Sunbury, PA native appeared to have seven-time and defending GNCC Champion Bill Ballance against the ropes in the battle for the '07 title. But Borich blew a shock at last week's race in North Carolina, which left the 25-year-old limping to the finish line in 17th. Factory Yamaha's Ballance took the points lead back, and Borich must win the next two races to stop his rival's historic quest for an eighth-straight title.
"I wasn't too happy after the last one," said Borich in his trademark understated fashion. "I just need to win the next two and hope that someone gets in there and beats `old Billy boy at one of these. Basically all the pressure is on him. If a DNF happens to me it's all over, so I can just go for it. I know I can win these two races, I've done it before, so I just have to hope one of these other guys gets in there."
If Borich wins the final two rounds of the series--this Saturday's ITP Power Line Park GNCC in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and the finale two weeks later in Indiana--and Ballance takes second both times, Ballance will still win the championship. If Borich wins both and Ballance takes only a second and a third, Borich wins the title. Ballance hasn't finished off the podium all season.
Luckily for Borich, there's plenty of talent that can finish between him and Ballance. The list starts with LTERacing.com's Chris Bithell, the 19-year-old who collected his first GNCC win last weekend. Bithell won that race after holding off a determined Ballance on the last lap. Bithell also rides and trains with Borich, so no doubt the youngster would like to help his friend in the quest for a title. Bithell's fellow pro sophomore, Adam McGill, would also like to take a bite out of the podium, and he honestly doesn't care what points he takes doing it--the 20-year-old just wants to win. After leading several laps in Pennsylvania and New York, McGill had an off day in North Carolina and could only muster sixth overall. Expect a rebound this weekend as the series heads closer to his West Virginia base.
Borich also has a teammate who is no slouch--and no stranger to battling Ballance. Matt Smiley's renaissance season has produced a climb from 19th in the series last year to fourth in points this time, and "Mr. Consistency" is always in the hunt no matter what terrain the series races on.
As a final wild card--but this one on Ballance's side--GT Thunder Yamaha's Brandon Sommers will make his pro debut after a dominating season in the XC2 Pro Am class. The Ohio rider surely won't hurt his fellow Yamaha rider in points, but there's still plenty of anticipation to see how the hard-working Sommers will fare when racing on the front row. Meanwhile, his XC2 class is now wide open, with Don Ockerman, David Crane and Ryan Lane looking to break through on Saturday.There are plenty of other contenders as well, including GT Thunder's Chris Jenks and Duane Johnson. Both struggled mightily in 2007 after finishing third and fourth in points last year and need to end the year strong. And one of these days, Monster Energy/National Guard/Kawasaki's William Yokley will uncork a good finish. The multi-time GNCC race winner and crowd favorite hasn't scored a podium yet this season.