GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox with .... Kailub Russell

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 | 12:00 AM

We’ll get this out of the way: Kailub Russell is the son of GNCC Trail Boss Jeff Russell. That actually makes things hard on KR, because everyone at the races has to go out of their way to make sure to not show any favoritism toward him. Last year, Jeff even handed the track design duties over to Lieutenant Trail Boss Buren Hamrik, just so everyone knows he’s not building the courses that his son races on. Kailub, the 2005 GNCC Youth Champion and 2007 200 A Champion, has been solid this season in his XC2 debut, but he just took things to another level by grabbing his first victory over the weekend at the Weekend Warrior Spartan GNCC in Kentucky. He earned his first Tuesday Toolbox, so here goes.


The graduate.
Hooper photo


So this is a big week for you. I hear your graduated high school and won a race all within a week.



So when did you graduate?

May 24th.


So did your schedule literally change the week before the race?

Not really.


So you were able to do all of the training and riding and stuff around school?

I got out of school around 11:30, and then it was off to do riding, or go to the gym with some buddies, whatever I had to do.


So how different are things now that you’re working with Steve Hatch?

Basically it takes all the guess work out of it. He sends me emails and tells me what to do, and I know as long as I follow that plan, I’ll be on my game. Me and Steve working together has made a huge difference. My confidence is higher, and I know a lot more about focusing for a race.

KR heading to his first win.
Hooper photo


How much harder was it switching to XC2? At your level, you were winning right off the bat easy in almost every division you competed in, from Youth up to the A class. But then you switched to XC2, and the wins don’t come so easy there.

It’s tough, because you can ride your best race ever and still finish fifth. But as long as you gave it everything you had and you feel good about what you did, it’s all worth it.


Your first race in that class came at Unadilla last year. You were right there in that race but ended up having some bike problems. Did it surprise you that you didn’t get right up on the podium soon after that?

It didn’t surprise me, actually. I did have some bike problems at that one, but it was a hard race and those guys were really going fast. I got tired and I knew I would have to work at it. It was just a learning experience to know what I needed to do this year.


Then this year you said in Florida that school was your first priority, and you were going to work on the race results after that. You’re a man of your word, because the first race after you graduated, you won!

(Laughs). Yeah!


How much weight is off of your shoulders to finish up the school thing?

Yeah, it was a real big issue with my family, that I stay in school and get good grades and finish that up first.


Now what happens? You have full focus on racing.

It’s all on me now. I have to put in the time during the week to make it easier on weekends.


So what have you learned racing this year?

It takes everything. You have to be fast, but also smooth and not make mistakes, let things come to you. Now that I’ve learned what it takes, I just need to do it six more times.


Yeah that’s the confidence I’m talking about! You’ve been battling the same group almost every week up front. Have you learned some strengths and weaknesses of your competition?

Yeah. Thad, he’s a great rider and he’s pretty good everywhere. Josh Weisenfels is the same. Dustin (Gibson), he’s really strong in the technical stuff. (Andrew) Matusek, he’s good all around, but he’s really good in the fast stuff. But it really doesn’t matter. In that class, anyone can have a good race and a good day and come out with a win.


Does it make you feel better when you do it here, because it took so much more work?

Oh yeah. Last year, in the A class, I was able to win every week and it wasn’t that hard. Now I have to put in the work to get there. It makes it feel a lot better when you get it done. Everyone here is at a different level, and it’s making me faster. And I’m in the best shape of my life right now.

After a slow start to the season, KR is hitting his stride.
Hooper photo


So, do you do this training so you can win, or do you do it just because you like to do it?

Well, that’s a hard question to answer (laughs). I do it, I do it because winning makes it worth it. Winning is fun, but it’s not fun doing the work.


So if you just had some regular job, you probably wouldn’t be hitting the gym every day?

Nah, probably not.


So take us through this race.

First two laps I struggled. I got a mid pack start and then I crashed pretty good. I had to work my way up. Thad and I got together, and we started picking our way through. ON the second lap, he broke down, so from there on out it was just me. I got to Matusek and got around him. I got a pit board that I was catching Dustin a little bit, but I didn’t have much hope because he’s usually really strong at the end of the races. I just put my head down and gave it everything I have, and I was able to make it happen. My last two laps where the fastest in the class.


You’ve come a long way from Florida, huh?(Note: Russell took the Holeshot Award in Florida but later got sick during the race).



You wish you had that one back?

Yeah, I do wish I could have that one back for the points. I’d probably be right there with Dustin for second.


So now, you have all of this confidence. You going to race somewhere this weekend?

I’m racing the 24 hour race in Alabama. I’m racing with Louwrens Mahoney and Kenny Gilbert, the South African guys. Should be cool.


Wow how did that come about?

They asked me this weekend. I wasn’t sure, but I figured it would be fun, so I’m going to do it.


Have you ever raced through the trees at night?

Only on a bicycle.


Well, good luck there. And good job this weekend with the win. What happens if Thad’s bike stays together? Can you run with him?

I hope so. He’s a good friend and he’s a great rider. He’s smooth and doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what I need to do.