Gundersen

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

Kjetil Gundersen has won the 2017 edition of the Gotland Grand National cross-country race – one of the toughest in the history of the event.

The Gotland race, if you haven’t heard of it before is the largest dirt bike event in Sweden, if not the world.

Held on the Swedish island of Gotland itself, which lies in the Baltic Sea, East of the country, the event attracts thousands of riders. The combined entry for 2017 totalled 3144 competitors – it really is huge.

Conditions are often tough, but the 2017 edition proved to be one of the most extreme ever. During the day of the race, the rain did not stop – turning the two-point-two-mile course into a wet, slippery mess.

The course is a mixture of fast tracks over limestone and clay based terrain, but with the rain and the passage of thousands of riders, this simply turned to slop.

Brownie holeshot

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

Husqvarna’s Mike Brown turned up to race the event, unfortunately his suspension and exhaust did not. Luckily Husqvarna Scandinavia put a bike together for Brown and he made the start. The American actually took the holeshot, and was racing for a top-five position when he was forced to retire from too much mud in his eyes – a problem shared by a lot of riders.

Last year’s winner, KTM’s Kenneth Gunderson was aiming for his second win when a crash whilst leading and further mechanical issues caused him to retire.

The ‘King of Gotland’ 48-year-old Mats Nilsson, an eight-time winner of the event, took the lead on the second lap and looked set to increase his tally of wins. A crash and time lost in the mud holes eventually cost Nilsson the win, but the Swede battled on to finish a creditable third.

“This is probably the happiest I’ve been over a third-place finish”, told Nilsson after the race.

GGN2

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

The fight for the win went down to two riders, Albin Elowson - who finished third in this year’s Enduro Junior world championship, and Kjetil Gunderson – younger brother of last year’s Gotland winner, Kenneth.

The pair fought closely throughout the race, but it was ultimately a mistake by Elowson that cost him a chance of victory.

“I almost forgot I had to enter the pits to refuel,” admitted Elowson. “When I changed my line in the mud I hit a deep hole and got stuck. The bike was deep, deep in the mud, I had to dig for it with my hands and probably lost more than two minutes.”

Albin Elowson

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

Kjetil Gunderson was then free to take the win, his first at the event. The Norwegian was over the moon with his result.

“This is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time,” smiled Gunderson. “This year I’ve been working towards the Gotland Grand National since early summer. I rode the Six Days with the Norwegian Team, but for me it actually preparation for Gotland.

“I’ve been here so many times, I’ve seen my brother win four times and I’ve been in the lead myself a couple of times. This time I got it all together. It’s probably the biggest win in my career.”

Podium

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

Fourth place went to Rikard Hansson, son of Peter Hansson with Kevin Olsen completing the top-five.

In the women’s category, Martina Reimander took the win, her sister Emilia was second with Emelie Borg Nilsson third.

Women Podium

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

Results

  1. Kjetil Gunderson (NOR)
  2. Albin Elowson (SWE)
  3. Mats Nilsson (SWE)
  4. Rikard Hansson (SWE)
  5. Kevin Olsen (SWE)

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GGN1

Photo credit: Kalle Lundstedt / racemagazine.se

 

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Kalle Lundstedt
Swedish Contributor