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.
Round 2 of the GNCC series took Trail Jesters Racing to Sparta, Georgia. The riders and crew were in good spirits and looking forward to the upcoming grueling duel with many of the top riders in the world. The guys got off the line pretty well and moved into the top 10 in XC2 and in the low 20’s overall. After two laps Josh sat 7/21 and Ben was 8/22 only 2 seconds back! They shortly thereafter hit their first pit stop for fuel … coming out Josh’s bike wouldn’t start and that pretty much ended his day at 2 laps completed. Bummer for Josh to take a mech DNF, but he will bounce back next round.
Ben rode hard and smart picking up places and maintaining a great pace to take 6th place XC2 and 17th overall. Ben now sits 5th in the XC2 championship points chase.
The race season officially began for Trail Jesters Racing at Wild Boar GNCC. Now in our third year as a team, racing the entire GNCC series is the biggest challenge and opportunity to date for our young guns from New England. We were fortunate that team mate Jason Klammer could join in for round 1 as well. On race day spirits and anticipation were high in the Trail Jesters pits. The Wild Boar sand whoops and terrain proved to be brutal on the riders and the lappers only added to the obstacles to overcome! All in all it was a great start to the season with Josh finishing 6th XC2 & 16th overall, Ben took 7th XC2 & 18th OA and Jason placed 9th XC2 & 20th OA. That’s right! All three jesters in the top 10 XC2 Pro Lites and top 20 Overall!!! Great showing by the team at this grueling test of man and machine.
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