Motorcycles are unwelcome at most mountain resort communities, where people generally like to enjoy peace, quiet, and cool mountain air. But Snowshoe Mountain is not your average resort community. Snowshoe loves adventure and rolls out the red carpet for bikers. Last weekend, the Village was the epicenter for a major dirt bike and ATV race – the world famous Snowshoe GNCC.
The Snowshoe race is the ninth in the 13-race GNCC series, one of the top cycle and ATV racing series in the world. But Snowshoe is not just another stop on the GNCC circuit. It is well known as the toughest race on the circuit – or anywhere else. Racers must negotiate mud bogs, rock fields and dense forests, made even more difficult by the nearly vertical terrain of Back Allegheny Mountain.
Even the world’s top racers have difficulty at Snowshoe. On Sunday, Australian Josh Strang, a former GNCC champion, lost his bid to move up in the standings when he broke a wheel on his Yamaha dirt bike. With help from a mobile pit crew, the 22-year old Aussie got his bike fixed quickly, but finished in ninth place overall. West Virginia fan favorite Thad Duvall, of Williamstown, had engine trouble after two hours and did not complete the race.
Kailub Russell (2:58:03), of Kingston, Ohio, won the pro XC1 bike class for the third year in a row, riding a KTM. Jordan Ashburn (3:01:13), of Cookeville, Tennessee, came in second on a Yamaha. Andrew DeLong (3:03:03), of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, finished third riding a Husqvarna.
2012 GNCC champion Paul Whibley, of New Zealand, profiled in the June 30, 2011 edition of The Pocahontas Times, finished sixth in the XC1 class. Whibley, widely respected for his skill and professionalism, once stopped in the middle of a race to help Duvall, who was injured and lying next to the race course.
Amateur racers also compete in the GNCC. Brian Jasper, of Zanesville, Ohio, is currently in first place in the GNCC Series Silver Master (55+) amateur class.
“It’s one of the toughest races in the series,” said Jasper. “It’s as grueling and tough as it gets, with the rocks, the mud and the hills. It’s a good race for spectators. It’s a good race for a challenge. It changes up for everybody. There’s no guaranteed winner.”
Jake Leverer, of Buffalo, New York, was competing in his fifth GNCC ATV race.
“Out of all the years at Snowshoe, this one was probably the most challenging,” he said. “The rain Friday night wrecked the course. It went from a pretty awesome course and then the rain just wrecked it. But it was a fun time. The whole time you’re out there, you’re just having a blast. At the same time, it’s definitely the hardest race out there.”
The GNCC series, which now includes 13 races across the eastern U.S., started with a singular motorcycle race in Tucker County – the Blackwater 100. For 18 years, starting in 1975, the Blackwater maintained its reputation as the toughest race in the world. Tireless race promoter Dave Coombs expanded the race into a series, but nothing ever came close to the Blackwater for difficulty.
The Blackwater 100 ended in 1993, when the town of Davis declined to continue hosting the event. Not until 2008, when Snowshoe started hosting a GNCC race, did the series have a race to challenge the infamous Blackwater 100 for toughness. Next year’s Snowshoe GNCC will be special – the 40th anniversary of the first Blackwater 100.
See gnccracing.com for a full list of Snowshoe results, series information and overall standings.