Features 27 Jun 2024

Conversation: Gus Riordan

GNCC front-runner recalls his season so far, life in the US, and plans for Hattah.

FMF KTM Factory Racing Team Landers off-road racer Gus Riordan is starting to come into his own in the US-based Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, also currently defending his Pro 2 title in the US Sprint Enduro Series that he won last season. The 20-year-old Victorian has just signed a contract extension with the official KTM team in America and MotoOnline tracked him down for this latest Conversation interview.

Image: Supplied.

First of all, tell us a bit about how your career in the US came about…

I’m originally from Mildura, but our family moved to California in August 2018 for my parents’ business. We knew Lyndon Snodgrass from back in Australia and in 2021 everything lined up for dad and I to jump in the ute and head across the country to do the Hoosier GNCC. At the end of the year I was finishing school in California and the option was to move home to Australia or stay here racing, and at the time I thought GNCC was a pretty good option.

So you moved to the east coast from there?

Yeah, we live just north of Charlotte, near Hickory. My parents actually bought the JGR MX practice facility after that team folded up, so we’ve got a pretty awesome set-up. We’ve added an endurocross track, built in some woods tracks and what-not. Apart from the tracks, there’s only a shed currently on the site, but we’re in the process of building a barndominium there that we’ll eventually live in. The funny thing is, dad didn’t buy the property for us boys – his main motive for buying it was as an investment, as the amount of housing development going on in the area is crazy. It’s a win-win for us.

Sure is! Last year you finished P2 in XC2 250 Pro and ninth overall, which was pretty epic. Looking back what were the high and low points for you?

Winning Ironman was pretty cool, even though I finished second in the championship that weekend. The crowd was insane and the track was a lot of fun. The low point would be the middle rounds of the season, where I sucked! There was one super-wet race at Hoosier that killed me – I crashed off the start and lost the front pack, then got stuck in a mud-hole, and that destroyed my race. There were some sections with mud ruts everywhere, and all of a sudden you’re up to your seat. Our KTM team has the best support system with spotters out on the track, but there are still some lines you need to take a risk on, and if it doesn’t work out, it can kick your arse pretty good.

Image: Supplied.

This year started really well for you too, since you won the opener at Big Buck, and you’ve won three rounds so far… How do you feel you’re going compared to last year?

I definitely feel like I’ve improved. I’m getting a better feel for where the lines are going to form, the terrain at each round, that sort of thing, but the tight racing with narrow trees, roots and rocks doesn’t come as naturally to me as wide-open desert racing does. I started the season with a win, and apart from a shocker at the fourth round, I feel like I’ve been more solid this year. At the round before this weekend’s race at Snowshoe, I finished second, but I was right on Grant [Davis’] rear wheel and there was only half a second between us. The two of us were only 12 seconds off the overall time and we’re on 250s.

Last week it was announced that you and Davis have both signed on for another year with KTM and Team Landers. It must feel pretty good to get that locked away quite early in the season.

Yeah, we re-signed the deal a few weeks ago and it’s great that now I don’t need to worry about where I stand for next year, and I can just focus on the racing. I love the team – it’s a fully factory team and it’s a dream come true to be part of something like that. Everyone on the team gets along really well, and we train together every day with Kailub Russell. He’s like the Aldon Baker of the off-road world now, and if you’re part of the KTM, Husqvarna or GasGas teams, you train with him.

How long are you planning on racing GNCC?

I’m still playing it by ear, although obviously I’ll be there again next year. But growing up in Mildura, I naturally love the desert. The Hattah Desert Race was my home race, so in the future I’d like to get back into that sort of racing… I’ve had to work really hard to learn the GNCC style of racing and how to hit narrow tree sections fast without caving your knuckles in.

Image: Supplied.

It’s a different game alright! You raced Hattah last year and finished fourth. Are you coming back this year?

Yep, Hattah always falls during our mid-season break, so I’ll be there again this year with the big number four on the bike. Hopefully it goes a bit smoother than last year when I hit a kangaroo about 10 minutes into the opening lap. I was braking coming into a corner and seen these roos coming, but luckily I caught it on the bounce and hip-and-shouldered it. If it had gone through my front wheel I think my collarbone would still be there! I’m really looking forward to Hattah this year – it’s one of the highlights of the year for me.

How long will you be home for?

I’ll be there for three or four weeks, then we go back to the States for our mid-season boot-camp. Then, at the start of August, I’m actually going to race the EnduroGP of Wales with the Fast Eddy Racing team. That should be a lot of fun and a great experience, as I’ve never raced a GP before. I’m also pretty keen to join the Australian team for the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE), so we’ll see how that pans out later this year.

Sounds like a packed second half of the year! All the best for it all.

Thanks mate, appreciate it.