Over 1,400 riders were on hand in St. Clairsville, Ohio on Sunday for the penultimate round of the 2013 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series.
At the 12th running of the ITP Powerline Park GNCC, Charlie Mullins captured a big overall win to put an end to Kailub Russell's previous five-race winning streak and tighten up the championship spread to just two points with one round to go.
Defending XC2 Pro Lites champ Jason Thomas kept his championship hopes alive with a third place finish in the class where he will now face points leader Grant Baylor head-to-head at the season finale.
Coming into the ITP Powerline Park GNCC, Russell held a seven-point lead over his Factory FMF/KTM teammate, but this time it was Mullins who prevailed after three hours of grueling battle in the rough and fast-paced 12-mile course.
AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley claimed the early lead after grabbing the $250 All Balls Racing Holeshot Award but the KTM duo of Mullins and Russell were close behind as they made their way into the woods on the opening lap.
The XC1 Pro Class saw a few additional names along the front line at Round 12, including the return of defending XC1 Champion Paul Whibley, who missed the last two rounds due to injury and Factory FMF/KTM's Steward Baylor, who made his XC1 Pro Class debut after recovering from an ongoing injury.
Sweden's Robert Kvarnstrom made his GNCC debut at Powerline Park, immediately putting himself inside the top five in the early part of the race. The Factory Beta rider jumped in behind Russell and Mullins in the fourth place position on the opening lap, followed closely by Shenandoah Honda/USWE-Sports.com's Thad DuVall, Nytro Handguards/B.R.E KTM's Chris Bach and Steward Baylor.
By Lap 2, Mullins had made his way out front but Whibley continued to hold a strong second place position despite a hard charge by Russell around the halfway point. Russell caught and passed Whibley before the 2-Lap card fell, where he attempted to set his sights on the leader Mullins. In the meantime, Whibley didn't let up as the "Axe Man" kept the points leader in sight during the final laps of the three-hour race.
In addition to the highly anticipated championship battle up front, the race for the fourth place position began to heat up around the halfway point as AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC's Josh Strang and Bach engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle. Ashburn held off a hungry Strang for a majority of the race but as the 2-Lap card fell, the 2010 XC1 Champion made his move to claim the fourth place position, while Ashburn and Bach continued to chase him down in the final laps.