2007 Can-Am GNCC PreviewMonday, March 5, 2007 | 8:51 PM
The champion has left the building, so a bunch of contenders
are looking to move into his office. After Juha Salminen dominated the Can-Am
Grand National Cross Country Series for the past two seasons, the friendly Finn
decided to return to
Salminen out, a potent field of contenders now has sights firmly settled on the
GNCC Championship, a fact which promises to present one of the best GNCC title
fights of all time. You will have the typical GNCC elite—riders like Barry
Hawk, Charlie Mullins and Glenn Kearney, all fired up over the chance to battle
without Juha—tangling with Salminen’s KTM
replacement, off-road world beater David Knight. Adding more intrigue is the
invention of a new class, the XC2 Pro Lites class, which is a 250F class
designed to launch the next generation of GNCC stars. Add it all up and you’ve
got a lot of questions to answer heading into the series kickoff in the
Jonty Edmunds photo
factor is literally the biggest of them all. The big man from the Isle of Man
has won everything in sight during the last two years, including two World
Enduro Championships (including a perfect season last year), and overall win at
the ISDE, two wins at the Red Bull Last Man Standing, a Maxxis EnduroCross
triumph, and even a win in a beach race over Stefan Everts a few months ago.
Knight has been almost unstoppable over the last two years, as his combination
of strength and size (he stands 6 feet 4 inches) as well as skill (he grew up
as a trials rider and possesses alien-like talent and technique in technical terrain)
make him hard to stop. As big of a gap that Salminen has left, it’s not hard to
imagine Knight being able to fill it. At the very least, the Red Bull KTM team
is counting on it. Knight broke a bone in his hand a few weeks ago which has hampered his training, but reports from those who have seen him testing indicate he'll still be plenty fast even when he's not 100 percent.
Knight did race a GNCC last year to
get a feel for the series, and he ended up with an unheard of (for him) fourth
place finish. Many think Knight took the race too lightly, especially when he
took the early lead and started pulling away. But a lot can happen in a
three-hour GNCC, and assorted bike troubles and other issues sent him back into
the pack. Did he dig down deep enough? Was he caught by surprise? The mental
side of that one race in
Hawk and Mullins have spent the
last few months training at Randy Hawkins’ ranch in
“It’s pretty intense,” says the super-talented Mullins, who completed the best rookie season in GNCC history last year. “We’ve been working a lot harder than the past few years we were down here. My conditioning now, it’s nowhere near compared to last year. At this point, it’s pretty much all mental, really. Just to know you can ride that hard and that strong. I’ve been sand riding a few times, and pounding down the laps, I don’t get nearly as tired as I did last year.”
But Knight is still the big factor.
There are many—including Hawk—that believe the loss in
But the rest of the GNCC pack won’t let him have it easy. When asked if he will be happy with another solid season with a few wins and second in the series standings again, Hawk says: “No. No way. Second place is first loser.”
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