To be the best, you need to learn from the best and that’s the theory that young American cross-country rider Cody Barnes hopes will work for him.
A rising star on the Grand National Cross-Country (GNCC) racing scene in the United States, Barnes this month accepted an invitation from Manawatu’s former Kiwi international Paul Whibley and his partner April Mainland to attend a “boot camp” in New Zealand, a particularly welcome offer since the opportunity for him to train at home is limited at the moment, with sub-zero temperatures blasting the east coast of the US.
The 18-year-old Barnes will be in New Zealand for three weeks, the Illinois racer here to train under the watchful gaze of two-time former GNCC champion Whibley and fellow dirt bike racer Mainland.
“We’ve created this boot camp experience to be in line with what I underwent when I was preparing in New Zealand for my American campaigns,” said Yamaha ace Whibley.
“My intention is to show Cody (Barnes), and other US riders in the future too, what I did to train when I was at the top of my game. It also helps to keep me motivated for my own racing here at home.”
In addition to winning two GNCC crowns (in 2009 and 2012), the now 39-year-old Whibley is a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) in the US and, on resettlement back home at the end of his final season in America in 2014, he quickly took his Yamaha YZ450F to become 2015 New Zealand cross-country champion.
The skills, drive, determination, strength and stamina that took Whibley to the top of cross-country racing scene internationally will be passed on to Barnes and, when he returns to the US next month, Barnes will be well-prepared to turn those lessons into results.
“It has been perfect so far for me,” said Barnes. “Training at Paul’s place (at Taikorea) was great too because the sand there is exactly like what I’ll face when the GNCC series hits Florida and it was perfect training for muscle endurance too.
“Coming here was the first time I’d ever been on an airplane and, obviously, my first time in New Zealand, but I’m loving it. Paul took me up a mountain the other day and, so far, he’s been kicking my arse. The training has been a real effort but that’s what I need.
“Paul’s still a legend in the US and it’s great to come here and see what he did to make it to the top.”
Barnes says he will most likely be racing a Yamaha YZ125 in the XC3 class at the 2018 GNCC series, which kicks off in South Carolina on February 25.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan