Yamaha Racing Snowshoe: Women's Race Report
It was another remarkable weekend for the women in racing at round nine of Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Specialized, and AMA National Championship. A pinnacle event for the series, the Yamaha Racing Snowshoe took place on Cheat Mountain at elevation 4848'. The female athletes were met with foggy skies and intermittent showers after natures' water truck had already visited a few times during the week! They all lined up to brave the difficult conditions in true Snowshoe fashion, let's dive into how the women of GNCC finished.
The WXC EMTB's kicked things off on Friday as the rain began to fall just before the green flag waved. Defending champion, Ginny McFall would lead the way into the woods and continue to build on the gap to second each lap to finally take her third win of the season Ashley Hendershot has been finding more of a groove each round this year, had a consistent race.
"Well, I almost died on the start! There was a ditch I didn't know was there, so I nosed into it and thankfully was able to ride out of it. I thought I broke my bike, but everything seemed alright, so we kept going! It was a great race. I feel like the more rain that came down the better I got. I don't know why, today just seemed to really click which I'm really grateful for. Just really glad for a good, not necessarily clean race, but good race!
"Man, I was just happy to make it! Every time I came through the finish line, I was just praying there was a checkered flag! It was rough, but it was good. One small little crash, but I jumped back on quick and just tried to stay upright, so I can't complain."
"I started off pretty good, I had a good first lap. Then the rain was going the whole time and the course was rough, but it was fun! Just looking to keep improving."
Saturday morning was time for the WXC ATVs, and more rain came! With heavy fog on the mountain, Ricky Towery waved the green flag for the live engine starts of the WXC rows. Fly Racing/OBOR Tires/HMF's Hannah Hunter would lead the way onto the track with BNR Motorsports/GBC Tires/Fly Racing's Jessica Elioff on her wheels and Traci Pickens right behind on her GBC Tires/Yamaha Racing/Fly Racing machine. Before checking in for lap one, Elioff was able to make the move on Hunter and begin to build a gap.
The rainy, muddy conditions and ever changing track made for a fairly spread out race from there. Jessica Elioff was able to continue building on her gap each lap despite a couple mistakes and reach the checkered flag with over three minutes to spare. Defending champion, Hannah "Hurricane" Hunter had a consistent race on the mountain to ride it in for second place. The crowd and 12 time WXC champion, Traci Pickens, were ecstatic as she was able to hold her third place position the entire race to take her first podium of the season!
The WXC ATV championship battle is heating up as Elioff moves into first after round nine with just a few points separating her from Hannah Hunter. Three rounds remain! Here's what the athletes had to say after the epic day on Cheat Mountain.
Jessica Elioff, excited after her fifth win of the season said, "That was a battle from start to finish! Off the start I tucked in right behind Hannah. I followed her for almost a lap then I was able to make the pass for the lead. End of the second lap I ended up clipping a lapper, which was totally my fault, and threw myself off my bike. That was a little bit of a scrape, ripped my pants a bit. I just pushed through the last two laps! I had my big tires on so that was a savior, I felt like a monster truck out there just plowing through everything. It was a great race, just had to survive the whole thing. Like Traci said, the conditions changed lap to lap. You had to really look ahead to make sure you weren't getting into lappers that were stuck, rocks that were appearing and disappearing, and water getting deeper. There was a lot going on out there!"
"I got the jump off the start," said Hannah Hunter on the podium. "Then Jess flew by me! I thought 'go ahead you're going fast'. I tried to keep up but just pulled it in for second today."
"I didn't have a good start," Traci Pickens said with a big smile on her face. "But when I hit the first turn a couple girls slid out and I was able to duck in behind Jessica and Hannah. I just tried to stay with those two girls and did my best to stick with them! They pulled away a bit and just tried to keep my head down and go. I came around the first lap in third. When I crossed back over the road, it was just chaos. There was a utility quad pulling another quad out and people everywhere. I had to get spun back around and Brad Whitehead got me pointed the right direction. I completely lost them after all that. From then on, I just put my head down. The track has changed every lap. The first lap it was mud and rocks, to the last lap it was all running water, you can't even see the rocks anymore, and all the water holes are filling up! The afternoon race is going to be very challenging."
By the time Sunday's 10am race rolled around, the sun was out but the mud still remained. On row one of the WXC Bike lineup, veteran and mud lover Rachel Gutish dominated the picturesque Snowshoe start to lead the way on her GasGas/OverandOutMoto 350. As they neared Howard's Hole, defending champion and points leader Rachael Archer maneuvered her Ampro Yamaha through a faster line to make a pass for the lead and start building her gap. As the gap from first through third spread, our attention moved to the battle for the final podium spot between Trail Jester's Korie Steede and Fly Racing/BluCru's Prestin Raines.
Battling back and forth multiple times each lap, by the final lap, a young Prestin was able to solidify the pass and move into third. But that wasn't the end of the excitement! Gutish, who had built her gap in second place, began experiencing bike issues in the final lap. Finally able to get her bike fired, she had to nurse it all the way to the checkered flag. Prestin was able to catch her and move into the second place position as they raced together just a few seconds apart. Waiting eagerly at the finish line, we saw Raines emerge first from the woods with Gutish on her tail. In the final straight before the checkered flag, Raines found herself stuck in a line behind a lapper and Gutish launched around the final turn to salvage her second place position. Rachael Archer dominated the race with over ten minutes to spare to continue building her points lead. Here's what the fastest females on the mountain had to say about their Snowshoe race:
"It was really good," said Rachael Archer. "I was in third off the start and then I passed Gutish in Howard's Hole and never looked back. I had a pretty clean couple laps, I crashed twice, and then just rode a good race. I kept building the gap and pulled off another win!"
Rachael Gutish, now in the triple digits of Pro Podium finishes said, "Well I was off to a really good start, and then I'll be honest when I got to Howard's Hole there were so many lines I just panicked. I ended up losing Archer there, but I was still riding strong and smooth and was happy with it. The very last lap at the end of Howard's Hole my bike started experiencing the same electrical symptoms as it did at The Penton and The Hoosier. I was expecting to not finish at that point. I stalled the bike and couldn't get it to light. After a while it finally did, so then I rode that whole last lap terrified because I knew if I so much as stalled it I was getting towed in again. I managed to make it through, Prestin and I came through neck and neck. Super proud of how she rode here and stoked to see her on the box. Just a very stressful end of the race for me!"
An ecstatic Prestin Raines on a breakthrough race said, "It finally clicked! This is the first time I've really enjoyed Snowshoe. I got off to a pretty good start, I was following the top girls for a little bit. Some girls from behind caught me and then I stayed with her for a bit. I just stayed smooth all day and wasn't really pushing too hard. About the second lap I got a bit of a lead from 5th and was battling back and forth for third. I always do pretty well in Howard's Hole, so I made it through there every lap clean, that was my goal. Just tried to stay off the ground. It was good, it wasn't easy, but we made it work!
The WXC classes aren't the end of the females in our sport, there's a place for everyone to prove their talents from youth girls to veteran women.
In the Girls Supermini bike class, Addison Harris grabbed her eighth win of the season in the Snowshoe mud to solidify her second championship in class! Zoey Kimble and Jalee Coen had an intense battle all race long up to the checkers. Kimble was able to use her strengths on the straightaways to take second and Coen third.
In the Schoolgirl Sr ATV class, Ryleigh Dearing was able to inherit the lead after Isabella Gouker wasn't able to continue from lap two. Ryleigh took her second win of the season with Madison Luckadoo in second, and Ava Strellec third in her 2023 debut race.
Ellie Winland who's been on the podium every single round in her first "big bike" season took her first win of the year in the Women's Bike class. Jessica Jacobs made her 2023 season debut race one to celebrate taking second place. Annelisa McAlinney took third.
In the Women's ATV class, Malia Crump extended her points lead with another win by over three minutes on the mountain. Consistent podium finisher Makenna Bruderly grabbed second place, and Tory Mittendorf raced in for third.
Congratulations to every single female athlete racing GNCC on making it to the summer break! With a couple months off to train and build, we're excited for the September comeback for the final three rounds. It's been an epic season of racing so far, and we can't wait for more! In the meantime, be sure to follow @women.of.moto on Instagram to keep up with all things women's racing.
For more information on the GNCC series, visit the official website at www.gnccracing.com or call (304) 284-0084. Join the conversation on the series Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to always hashtag #GNCC.
About GNCC Racing
The Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship, is the world premier cross country racing series. Founded in 1975, the 12-round motorcycle and ATV championship and 9-round eMTB championship, is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The grueling two and three-hour GNCC races lead as many as 2,800 riders through racetracks ranging in length from eight to 12 miles. With varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks, and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. The series draws talent from all over the U.S., Central America, South America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. GNCC Racing is televised live on RacerTV.com. For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Founded in 1924, the AMA is a not-for-profit member-based association whose mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. As the world's largest motorcycling rights and event sanctioning organization, the AMA advocates for riders' interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. The AMA also provides money-saving discounts on products and services for its members. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, the AMA honors the heroes and heritage of motorcycling. For more information, visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com. Not a member? Join the AMA today: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/membership/join.