The 43rd Annual Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) series came to a close this past weekend, October 28, with the popular AMSOIL Ironman GNCC. At the beginning of the season, Walker Fowler began a new chapter in his career and crafted his very own team. Supported by hand-picked sponsors and countless fans, Fowler clinched his third National title with an almost flawless season winning 12 out of 13 races.
Fowler snagged the holeshot once the green flag waved on the season finale, with the goal of setting the race pace. After a concussion took him out of last year’s Ironman GNCC, Fowler struggled to remember parts of the track which allowed Jarrod McClure to latch on to his rear wheels. McClure, last year’s Ironman GNCC winner, applied heavy pressure to Fowler and before they knew it the duo had a gap over the rest of the competition. While the two were busy swapping the lead, Adam McGill stepped up his pace on the second lap and ended up catching them and sliding into the lead. Fowler made his way back into the lead, but took a bad line across a creek and cased it which knocked the wind out of him.
The next two miles Fowler tried to regain his composure as he reset his focus on moving back into the lead. When he came back around timing and scoring the white flag was out signifying a shorter race than he had anticipated. Fowler quickly upped his pace and caught back up the McClure on Mile 8. After being wheel-to-wheel through pro pits Fowler found took a split line and moved back into the lead as the trails combined.
“After that I had a short field section, Twin Hills and the motocross track,” explained Fowler. “It was a similar situation to 2014 when Chris Borich was able to sneak by, and I told myself this year was different. I kept my head clear and defended the lead until the checkered flag.”
Fowler’s record breaking finish further extended his record where he now has the most wins, either bike or ATV, in a single season with 12 overalls. “It's the closest thing to a dream season I could have imagined. It may never happen again, and it was an honor to be able to achieve it,” said Fowler.
In addition to branching out on his own program, Fowler also pulled double duty racing in the XC1 Pro UTV class where 2017 turned out to be a learning year for the rookie. Fowler started two rows behind his assigned row due to the ATV podium celebrations lasting longer than normal. As if the urgency wasn’t enough to deal with, Fowler started to have issues with his car just as the race began. The blue smoke coming out of the exhaust didn’t stop the car from running, but did effect the usability of the machine but Fowler kept pushing through.
After the second lap, Fowler had made his way past the cars he should have started in front of and begun to make up ground on the top 10 guys. When the white flag came out, Fowler was sitting in fourth and was struck with more bad luck when a tire and wheel issue arose. Just like he had done the rest of the race, Fowler adjusted and continued to push through, making the pass for third with only a half a lap remaining.
Right after the pass, Fowler came across a blocked trail. As he tried to navigate around the machines, he got stuck as well and his tire issue became a deal breaker – taking him out of the race with only a half a lap to go.
“Our day ended there as we could no longer move the machine,” explained Fowler. “To be so close to finishing where I know we belong is beyond frustrating. But, it also motivates us even more to get these issues fixed and sooner than later be the top contender I know we are capable of being. This winter will be vital testing and tuning time for us!”
With the 2017 season now over, Fowler now has three ATV titles and finished 13th overall in the UTV standings. Fowler will use this offseason to train to defend his National Championship and become a podium regular in the UTV race.
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