Spectators from across the globe flocked to Snowshoe this past weekend for the 2015 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country race.
Teams from the United States and as far away as Australia and Japan gathered to compete in the tribute race to the Blackwater 100.
“This series attracts the top off-road riders of the world and at the top level,” GNCC Event Director Tim Cotter said. “Snowshoe is a bucket list race. It’s the toughest off-road race in America, and it’s truly a badge of honor to even finish it.”
Winding its way from the top of the mountain and back again, racers found themselves faced with a number of challenges – both man-made and natural. Dense forests, mud bogs and rocky terrains were just a few of the challenges posed by the mountain.
“Mother Nature made these mountains, and they’ve got tremendous uphills and gnarly downhills,” Cotter said. “These courses are especially designed for these vehicles [ATVs and motorcycles] and gives a very challenging course for the athletes.”
GNCC also takes pride in being a truly unique series.
“The 1 p.m. races on both days are the pro-riders – the top professional athletes in this discipline,” Cotter said. “They are the Michael Jordan of ATV and motorcycle racing, and it’s not very often that an amateur gets to race on the same course.”
With GNCC, that rarity happens.
The race attracts racers of all ages and classifications from across the globe, and each race is divided into three categories: youth, amateur and pro. Each category takes on the same course but for different distances.
The youth race course is six miles long, while the amateur race runs for eight miles. The longest of the races, the pro race, lasts for 15 to 18 miles.
When asked how the courses differ depending upon the type of vehicle being used, Cotter said that the difference was minimal.
“For the dirt bikes, GNCC takes out some of the quad track and replaces them with bike track,” he said. “Motorcycles like single-track, narrow courses while the quads like something a little wider.”
Cotter then went on to explain how the course was made. He reiterated God and Mother Nature’s roles in the design but also spoke about the man-made aspects.
“We try to keep the course the same every year,” he said, “but about fifteen percent is always different. We’re reclaiming the same trails, and we work together with [Snowshoe] mountain to plan it out.”
GNCC does their best to keep their course to pre-existing trails or areas that can be reused once the racers have gone. More often than not, Snowshoe doubles their use of the trails laid out by GNCC by using them for mountain bikes and snowmobiles for the remainder of the year.
When asked why GNCC chose to make a stop at Snowshoe, Cotter attributed it to our blood.
“In West Virginia, motorcycles and ATVs are in our bloodline,” he said. “There are so many ATVs, and people want to compete, so it works really well.”
Cotter also made the point that no matter how far north, south, or west GNCC and its racers go, the center lies in the 40-year-old series’ home state.
“When you look at all the dots on a map–and we chart everyone who races with us–West Virginia is the epicenter of it all,” Cotter said.
“Snowshoe is very special because of its amenities, its location here in West Virginia, and because our race families come here and enjoy the whole week,” he added.
With all that the mountain has to offer, it’s a perfect marriage for GNCC and Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
Saturday’s 1 p.m. ATV race saw Jarrod McClure, of Kaska, Pennsylvania, come in first in the pro XC1 ATV division. Walker Fowler, of Rogers, Ohio, and Brian Wolf, of Medina, Ohio, came in second and third, respectively.
Cole Richardson, of Edinburg, Pennsylvania, came in first in the pro XC2 ATV division, with Randy Hamilton, of Denville, New Jersey, and Cody Collier, of Carroll, Ohio, right behind him in second and third places.
Kaliub Russell, of Kingston, Ohio, won the pro XC1 bike division for the fourth year in a row on Sunday, while West Virginia native Thad Duvall, of Williamstown, came in second and Jordan Ashburn, of Cookeville, Tennessee, came in third.
The XC2 bike division saw Jason Thomas, of England, secure a first place victory. Trevor Bollinger, of Morganton, North Carolina, came in second while Michael Witkowski, of North Liberty, Indiana, came in third.
For a complete list of Snowshoe results, information on the series, and overall standings, please visit gncc racing.com