Ben Kelley and Mackenizie Tricker feature in our 2017 GNCC highlights reel. We also give a few shout outs to our great sponsors and crew.
I have been waiting for the right time to update everyone on Ben Kelley. Some of you may know that Ben broke his right wrist during moto training on Sunday November 13. This was the day after he won his second JDay Offroad Sprint Enduro championship. It’s the kind of wrist break riders dread most … the scaphoid bone. This is the break can end a racers career and so not to be taken lightly. After medical consultation and getting advice from his coaches Ben elected for surgery to pin the bone to better enable a complete healing.
The surgery went well and Ben’s wrist was immobilized to let the healing process begin. Ben changed to an off the bike only training program but obviously couldn’t do anything at all with his right arm. It took more than 3 months until the doctor released Ben to begin riding and able to race with a custom wrist brace (the kind Justin Barcia has worn in SX/MX). Only 12 days to get back on the bike and be ready to line up at GNCC round 1 in Union, SC.
Ben’s new 2017 KTM 250 XC-F bikes were ready to go and so he did 2 days of suspension testing in NJ. He couldn’t really run at his normal pace at all but at least Gilles from GTR Suspension could get the new cone valve forks dialed in. Ben then headed to South Carolina to stay with friends and try to get some woods riding time in. He did get in two days of trail riding but the pain stopped him from pushing too hard or training for long periods on the bike.
The weekend came and it was time to go GNCC racing. None of us really knew how he would fair or even if he would last the whole 3 hour race. Ben got a good start (6th off the line) but steadily moved backward the first lap. He settled in running in 13th place XC2 and about 30th overall. As the 2 hour mark passed we noticed Ben standing in his “attack” position and pushing. So we all (jesters crew was placed around the track) started to signal him to push harder and chase a group of XC2 riders about 30 seconds ahead of him. It was amazing to watch him charge and pick off the places. These weren’t easy passes either, at that point in a race no one is just moving over to let you by for position. We saw some good bar to bar action as he moved up. In the final hour Ben passed forward 7 places in XC2 and 4 in XC1 those last 2 laps to finish 6th XC2 & 18th overall.
When he got off the bike he was clearly not that fatigued … just had a lot of wrist pain and pretty bad blisters on both hands. Ben had fought arm pump the first hour of the race … we believe it had to do with compensating for the right wrist injury. My take from this is he will race himself up to speed in the coming weeks and it’s just a matter of time before the pain subsides and his arm strength and wrist flexibility returns.
We want to thank Antti Kallonen, Brooks Hamilton and KTM North America for their support and guidance these past few months. Thanks also to Steve Hatch for the mental and physical coaching, on the bike and off, to help get Ben back in the game.
Here we go … we are ready to race!
The final 2016 GNCC round was held at the popular Ironman grounds in Indiana. Our GNCC rookies were determined to end the series on strong note. And wow did they deliver … with Ben 7th in XC1/7th overall and Josh 3rd XC2/11th overall.
XC1 you say?? Yup, Ben signed a one race XC1 deal with AmPro Yamaha. Ben went down to South Carolina (with Josh) and had 3 days testing the bike and decided together with Randy Hawkins that he would race it at the final round. Ben basically rode with Daniel Milner’s engine and suspension set up. Now you have to realize that Ben has never raced a 4 stroke or a 450. Most people I spoke to on Saturday and Sunday before the race expected that he would fade after the half way point given the extra energy it takes to race a big bike. But Ben isn’t a normal person and he has the heart of a lion. When the race started Ben got off to a slow start and after lap two began to really feel the bike and ride more aggressively. As the laps progressed he reeled in and passed his way up to 7th (3 seconds off 6th place). That’s a pretty great result and I think Ben turned a lot of heads with his ride.
Josh wrapped up his four race 2016 deal with AmPro Yamaha with his third podium finish out of four races for them. Josh got a poor start but had worked his way up to 5th by half way thru the first lap. Then he crashed pretty hard and bent the front end up good. Took him a while to get around to the pits and with help from the mechanics got the front end straightened out and forks working again. He then put his head down and charged all race passing into 3rd on the last lap. A strong finish to a great year for Josh.
The guys complete their first GNCC series with very respectable class and overall results. In fact … and I realize I am a bit biased … but their results demonstrate they are the Pro Lites rookies of the year in GNCC.
- Ben Kelley – 5th XC2 & 12th overall. Ben earns national #12 for 2017.
- Josh Toth – 4th XC2 & 14th overall. Josh is national #14 next year.
Both are in contract talks with multiple teams/manufacturers for 2017 … stay tuned.
Offroad Champions sat down with Ben Kelley after his big win at Tough Like RORR. Read what Ben has to say about Tough Like RORR, his GNCC rookie season, ISDE plans and more. Click Here.
Trail Jesters riders Ben Kelley and Josh Toth were highly anticipating what many say is the toughest and most technical GNCC round of the series. The crew was in good spirits and looking forward to seeing our boys back in action. Then reality set in and race day started by having to do a “bike swap” for Josh when we couldn’t get his race bike to start via the estart reliably. Josh had his brand new KTM 250xcf ISDE bike in the van … so Mike Toth, Mike Kelley, Wolfi Neuwirth, Jesse Arsenault and several others jumped in to swap suspension, wheels, bars, levers, exhaust, etc etc and get Josh a bike he would be confident on.
The race start at Snowshoe is different from any other GNCC event in that the riders are placed in rows of 5 and do a hot engine start on pavement. Based on their current overall GNCC series standings Ben was on row 3 and Josh on row 4. We were all thinking … all right, they will both get great starts this race. And they did … until somewhere on the first lap a group of XC1/XC2’s got off course and lost for a bit. It cost Ben 3 minutes and Josh 4 minutes the first lap putting them back in the middle of the A class running in 14/16 XC2 and in the mid-30’s overall.
That’s when it got interesting … they both just put the their heads down and charged … moving up steadily lap after lap in class and the overall. On lap 7 Josh had a pretty good crash and after that he put it more on cruise control to finish 6th XC2 and 13th overall. Ben got stronger as the race progressed and started to pick off factory riders passing into 3rd XC2 and 8th OA on the last lap. A huge comeback over the 3 hours for both of them.
They say this is the toughest technical GNCC race of the year … all I know is the boys from New England sure know how to ride the snotty rooty rocky hills of West Virgina.
Steve Hatch says “If you want to be the best, you have to train with the best!”
We are super stoked to say that Trail Jesters GNCC team is now working with Steve Hatch. Steve is well known in the offroad racing world for bringing riders to peak performance and the top of the podium. Ben Kelley and Josh Toth will begin training with SRH this summer. They both are working to move to next level results in GNCC and better prepare for the FIM ISDE in Spain this Fall.
For more information on Steve Hatch Racing check out their web site at www.stevehatchracing.com
The 27th annual John Penton GNCC was held at the Sunday Creek Raceway in Millfield, Ohio. The day brought very hot and humid race conditions with dirt that had great traction in some places and was like ice in others.
Josh got a good start and was in 7th after the first lap and Ben was up to 11th XC2. The course was fast and the slick conditions got Josh on the 3rd lap whole running 5th XC2 and 15th OA. Josh skipped out into a tree and hit the deck hard. Ben was close behind and stopped when he saw Josh down. Josh waved Ben on and recovered from the wind being knocked out of him. Josh tried to out the lap but realized he was going to do more harm and pulled it into the pits. A wrenched knee and some good bruises all over is all he had for the day. Ben continued to push forward picking off riders and working his way up eventually finishing 6th XC2 and 12 overall. A solid ride given the track.
The John Penton was the seventh round of the 2016 Grand National Cross Country series, an AMA National Championship, and marks the half way point in the season. Our two GNCC rookies are sitting in the top 10 XC2 and top 20 overall. Ben 5th XC2 & 15th OA. Josh 10th XC2 & 20th OA.
The guys are looking forward to race closer to home next round and I hope a lot of New England turns out for the Tomahawk GNCC to cheer them on.
“Bringing Connecticut to the map of the GNCC racing nation.”
That one phrase by the RacerTV announcer sums up our Limestone 100 experience. Very gnarly track and conditions. All the best riders XC1 & XC2 went down at least once today including all the big dogs. But it turned out to be our best day at the national level to date. Josh got 6th off the line and when they came out of the woods 2 miles later he was in 1st XC2 and pulling away. He stayed out front for three laps until he went over bars jumping a log. In the time it took him to get his bike upright, turned around and back on the track he had dropped 4 places. In parallel Ben had been working his way up from a bad start and passed Bolinger for the lead … and gapped him by about 40 seconds. So now Ben is leading XC2 and stayed out front for 2 full laps. This was a game of picking the right lines and avoiding lappers. Ben unfortunately picked a wrong line … and while stuck in a mud hole he was passed by Bollinger and Delong. Ironically Kaluib Russell’s Mom helped get Ben out! By then he had lost a lot of time but was still in 3rd so he then set out to reel in Delong … finishing 6 second behind 2nd place at the checkers. It took Josh about 2 laps to get his flow back but then he started picking off riders, laying down very fast lap times and ended up a personal best 4th XC2 and 9th overall.
Podiums and personal bests aside … we want to thank the Trail Jesters Racing support crew and our great sponsors for getting us here. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.
Thunder, lightening, down pour, mud holes, killer ruts, rooty … sounds like a good track for the New England rippas 🙂 and another solid round for Ben and Josh.
After the first two grueling GNCC rounds to learn about what it takes to survive and succeed racing at the national level … the team headed North to re-group. During the two week break Ben focused on getting his suspension dialed in (thank you GTR!) and Josh had several things to sort out as well (thank you Edelmann’s and Justin MacBurnie).
With fresh gear (thank you MSR!) the team then headed out to round 3 of the GNCC series in Morganton, North Carolina. When the flag dropped Ben got a mid-pack start and Josh was near the rear. But when they came around for the first lap Ben sat 7th XC2 and Josh 9th. The race progressed and our boys worked their way up passing XC1 and XC2 riders as well as a lot of lappers. For laps 4 and 5 the guys were running nose to tail and swapping positions as they moved up in the overall. The last two laps saw Josh loose his rear brake pedal and take the energy hit trying to maintain his pace while keeping the bike on the trail. Ben pressed forward maintaining a torrid pace to move up a place each lap to take a well earned 4th XC2 and 12th overall. Josh finished 8th XC2 and 17th OA. Another solid race to build on for the team.
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