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James Stewart

Defending Champion Josh Strang faces stacked field in GNCC Opener

Josh Strang, the 2010 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Champion, already knows that defending a championship may be harder than winning one. The FMF Makita Suzuki rider can look to 2009 GNCC Champion Paul Whibley for proof. Whilst Whibs struggled through much of 2010, Strang went to another level and claimed his first major off-road championship.

The opener of the 2011 Can-Am GNCC tour, the Moose Racing Westgate River Ranch GNCC in River Ranch, Florida, takes place Tuesday, 08 March (USA time)  Strang understands the challenges, but the 22-year-old Australian plans on facing them head on - with even more fitness and speed than last year. He'll need it, because the competition is stacked.

His closest pursuer in 2010, Charlie Mullins, is back racing for a new team this year. The rejuvenated FMF KTM factory team signed Mullins in an effort to gain back the GNCC Title it held from 2005 through 2008. Mullins led most of last year's River Ranch event before sucking water into his bike's engine, which means he'll be out to avenge that next week. He will ride a 450 XC-F, with two of the strongest young talents serving as KTM teammates. Kailub Russell graduates to the premiere XC1 class after back-to-back XC2 Lites Championships. And Corey Buttrick hopes to build on a solid 2010 rookie campaign that saw him win a race and take fourth in the series. Both Russell and Buttrick will race the new 350 XC-F.

Then there is Whibley, anchoring the Am-Pro Yamaha outfit. After a slow transition to Yamaha last year, Whibley hopped on a YZ450F over the summer and showed up with new-found speed, winning the last two races overall. No one outworks the New Zealand veteran, and he hopes to carry his momentum over from last season. His always-fast teammate Thad DuVall, the 2008 XC2 Lites Champion, hopes to develop the consistency needed to challenge Strang. The speed is already there and even Strang's Suzuki squad has strengthened it ranks, adding Arkansas' Josh Weisenfels to the roster to pursue the XC2 Title on an RM-Z250. There, he will face FAR Husqvarna's Jason Thomas in an expected duel for the Lites title, with talented KTM riders Jesse Robinson and Steward Baylor also in the mix.

Honda is getting into pursuit of the GNCC Title for the first time since Scott Summers' XR600 heydays in the 1990s. The GEICO JG Off-Road squad, which won the 2009 GNCC Title with Whibley, will ride with Honda backing. Veteran Jimmy Jarrett, who won last year's Unadilla GNCC, will race the XC1 class with Scott Watkins fighting for the XC2 title.

Beta debuts a factory effort as well, signing last year's fifth-overall XC1 rider, Chris Bach, to ride their factory machine. With Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM, Honda, Husky and Beta competing for GNCC wins and titles, the field is one of the strongest ever assembled.

The XC1 and XC2 classes will race for three hours on a demanding, whooped-out sand track at the Westgate River Ranch. The race begins at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 08 March, fitting into the Daytona Bike Week schedule. Classes are also available for a full roster of amateur riders.

The 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicks off this weekend, in conjunction with Daytona Bike Week. Bike practice will take place on Monday and racing on Tuesday. For more information, go to

  1. 05 Mar - 08 Mar   River Ranch, FL
  2. 12 Mar - 13 Mar   Aonia Pass,GA
  3. 26 Mar - 27 Mar   Morganton, NC
  4. 09 Apr  - 10 Apr   Union, SC
  5. 30 Apr  - 01 May  Hurricane Mills, TN
  6. 14 May - 15 May  Gosport, IN
  7. 28 May - 29 May  Patton, PA
  8. 25 Jun  - 26 Jun   Snowshoe Resort, WV
  9. 09 Jul  - 10 Jul      Millfield, OH
  10. 10 Sep - 11 Sep    New Berlin, NY
  11. 24 Sep - 25 Sep   TBA
  12. 08 Oct  - 09 Oct    St. Clairsville, OH
  13. 22 Oct  - 23 Oct    Crawfordsville, IN launches all-new mobile website

The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country series has announced an all-new mobile website at

Visitors on iPhones, android-based devices, and other web-enabled phones will now be able to access all of the features of the full website, including live timing and scoring, as well as GNCC videos, in a more mobile-friendly format.

"The world has gone mobile, and it's important to Racer Productions that fans and participants of GNCC Racing are able to access the information they need to follow the series from the convenience of their handheld devices," said GNCC Event Director Tim Cotter. "The new mobile site makes this a much better experience than before," Cotter added.

The mobile site will come especially in handy on race weekends, as fans can check out live scoring updates on their favorite rider from their handheld device. For fans that don't have a web-enabled phone, GNCC Live Laps Texting Service is a way to receive lap-by-lap real-time updates from your favorite GNCC events via text message.

Users simply need to log on to on a web-enabled mobile device to use the new mobile site. Those who prefer to access the full website can turn the mobile site off at the bottom of the screen.

The 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicks off this weekend, March 5-8, with the Moose Racing Westgate River Ranch GNCC in River Ranch, Florida in conjunction with Daytona Bike Week. ATV practice will take place on Saturday and racing on Sunday, followed by bike practice on Monday and racing on Tuesday. For more information, go to

Cross country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The grueling three-hour GNCC races lead as many as 1,800 riders through tracks ranging in length from 10 to 12 miles, competing for more than $3 million in prizes. With varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed.