CLASH OF CHAMPIONS AT FINAL ROUND

Ben Townley (Suzuki RM-Z450), was the day’s big winner at the final round of the cross-country nationals.

 

It was a real clash of champions when the 2017 New Zealand cross-country nationals wrapped up near Cambridge on Saturday.

Taupo’s Brad Groombridge has already successfully defended his senior title, the 26-year-old wrapping it up at the penultimate round in Marlborough two weeks earlier, but there was still plenty to fight for with Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450) keen to make it a clean sweep of wins similar to the unbeaten run he enjoyed in the same series last season.

In addition, there were also the individual class titles and the overall junior crown still to be decided on Saturday.

With three wins from three starts and only three of the four rounds to be counted, as riders discard their one worst result, it meant Groombridge could not be beaten for the senior crown on Saturday, but, with Tauranga’s former world motocross champion Ben Townley turning up on his own Suzuki RM-Z450, it was never going to be easy for him to make it a clean sweep of victories this time around.

Mokau’s four-time former national cross-country champion Adrian Smith was also in attendance, bringing his Yamaha YZ250FX to the party, and also staking his claim for final round bragging rights.

And that’s how it ended up, Townley breaking free from a fight with Smith to take the chequered flag, winning the three-hour marathon by one minute and 39 seconds, with Groombridge battling back through traffic after a massive crash on the second of eight laps to eventually claim the third podium position for the day.

With Townley a non-starter at any of the earlier rounds, he had no hope of winning the title outright, but, remarkably, his one race win was enough for him to claim 13th overall for the series.

The 32-year-old Townley said he really enjoyed the rare outing.

“I had so much fun today, but I am feeling quite knackered. I suffered a bit of cramp at one stage today, but managed to shake that off.”

In finishing runner-up on Saturday, Smith boosted himself from eighth overall in the series at the start of the day to an eventual final ranking of fourth.

Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade finished 10th overall on Saturday and this became his one race to discard, his three runner-up finishes at the previous rounds already ensuring he finished the championship runner-up to Groombridge.

Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar compiled at 3-3-4-6 score-card over the four rounds, earning him third overall for the series, four points ahead of Smith.

Groombridge won the over-300cc four-stroke class title; Smith won the over-200cc two-stroke class; Raglan’s Brandon Given won the under-200cc two-stroke class; Kotemaori’s Reece Lister won the under-300cc four-stroke class; Stratford’s Karl Roberts won the veterans’ 35-44 years’ class; New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert won the veterans’ over-45 years’ class and Otorohanga’s Jan-Maree Pool took the women’s class honours.

Meanwhile, there was also plenty of interest in the 90-minute junior cross-country race that was held earlier in the day.

There were perhaps as many as four or five riders in contention for the outright win, but, in the end, it came down to a battle between Te Awamutu’s Daniel White and Raglan’s Logan Shaw.

Whomever finished best on Saturday out of these two riders would claim the crown and Shaw had been looking the likely winner until, on the final lap, he crashed, sensationally handing the title to White.

Saturday’s junior race was won by Oparau’s James Scott, who finished ahead of Cambridge’s Seton Head and then White, but, like Townley, Scott was a non-starter at the series’ earlier rounds and so was never in contention for the title.

As well as winning the junior grade overall, White won the over-200cc four-stroke class; Eltham’s Adam Loveridge won the over-100cc two-stroke class and Dannevirke’s Ben Paterson won the under-100cc class.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

FINAL ROUND WILL DECIDE THE CLASS WINNERS

Otorohanga’s Jan-Maree Pool (KTM), who has already wrapped up the women’s cross-country title for 2017.

There will be no holding back at the fourth and final round of the 2017 New Zealand Cross-country Championships near Cambridge this weekend.

Taupo’s Brad Groombridge has already made a success of his senior title defence, the 26-year-old wrapping it up at the penultimate round in Marlborough two weeks ago, but there is still plenty to fight for with individual class titles and the overall junior crown yet to be decided.

With three wins from three starts and only three of the four rounds to be counted, as riders discard their one worst result, it means Groombridge cannot be beaten for the 2017 crown, adding that to his first cross-country title he won last season, but there’s still the opportunity for others to claim a few bragging rights at round four near Cambridge this Saturday.

Riders such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar, Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Te Kauwahata’s Jacob Brown, to name a few, will all fancy their chances of snapping Groombridge’s win streak on Saturday. 

Brown currently leads the race for over-200cc two-stroke class honours; Nelson’s Jackson Walker leads the under-200cc two-stroke class; Groombridge has already won the over-300cc four-stroke class; Kotemaori’s Reece Lister leads the under-300cc four-stroke class; Stratford’s Karl Roberts has already won the veterans’ 35-44 years’ class; New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert leads the veterans’ over-45 years’ class and Otorohanga’s Jan-Maree Pool has already wrapped up the women’s class title.

Saturday’s senior three-hour race is due to start at midday.

Meanwhile, there will also be plenty of interest in watching the 90-minute junior cross-country race, due to start at 10am on Saturday, with several riders in a strong position to claim the title outright.

Waikato’s Seton Head leads the points standings, but, with only three of the four rounds to be counted, it means Te Awamutu’s Daniel White, Raglan pair Logan Shaw and Coby Rooks, Eltham’s Adam Loveridge and Hamilton’s Caleb Richardson all stand a good chance of winning the crown  for 2017.

Cambridge rider Head currently leads the junior four-stroke class; Loveridge leads the junior 125cc class and Stratford’s Conor Attrill-Mundt leads the junior 85cc class.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

BATTLE BEGINS FOR DIRT GUIDE HONOURS

Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (KTM), hoping to defend his Dirt Guide Series title, starting at Ohakuri this weekend. 

It’s Dirt Guide Cross-country time again.

A serious competition for New Zealand’s elite dirt bike racers, a challenging afternoon’s ride in the bush or just a leisurely cruise along leafy forest pathways – the annual Dirt Guide Cross-country Series is whatever you want it to be.

The 2017 edition of this three-round series kicks off at Ohakuri – about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo – this Sunday (May 14) and it is sure to attract riders from both ends of the aptitude and competitiveness spectrum.

The event at Ohakuri doubles also as the opening round of the parallel-but-separate NZXC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island.

The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series continues to grow rapidly and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability.

Sunday’s event is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or novice riders to learn from masters such as last year’s Dirt Guide Series winner Sam Greenslade, of Coatesville, Kiwi international Callan May, of Titirangi, or Manawatu’s former United States and New Zealand cross-country champion Paul Whibley.

Last year was the second time Greenslade had won the Dirt Guide Series, having clinched the expert grade title also in 2014.

Howick’s Liam Draper had been Greenslade’s toughest opponent in the series last season, but injury will force him into the role of mere spectator on Sunday.

“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Dirt Guide Series promoter Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa.

“With riders getting older every year, we are really keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along and ride. There are classes for riders as young as seven,” he said.

“Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not about the winning, but about participation.”

The talent runs deep at the sharp end of the serious part of the competition, with Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (KTM), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (Husqvarna) and Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM), to name just a few, among those worth watching and learning from over the course of the two-hour senior race.

With the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships having been staged near Cambridge just 24 hours earlier – Taupo’s Brad Groombridge having wrapped up that title with a round to spare a fortnight earlier and under no pressure to win on Saturday – it could be that he will arrive in reasonably fresh condition to race the Dirt Guide Series on Sunday too.

With Cambridge just a short drive from Ohakuri, it is expected national of the nationals competitors will make the most of their weekend by racing on Sunday as well.

It is expected therefore that other leading cross-country riders such as Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight, Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar, Waimauku’s Jake Wightman, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, Te Kauwahata’s Jacob Brown, Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey will also be contenders to win the expert grade on Sunday.

Thames rider Natasha Cairns will be firm favourite to win the women’s grade, although Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer will also be a stand-out for the women.

In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.

The forest venue is signposted from Atiamuri on SH1, midway between Tokoroa and Taupo, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start at about 12.30pm.

Round two of the Dirt Guide Series is set for Tar Hill, about 20 kilometres south of Tokoroa, on June 25, with the third and final round due back at Ohakuri again, on July 9.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

GROOMBRIDGE MAKES IT TWO IN A ROW

Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450), national cross-country champion for a second consecutive year. 

Taupo’s Brad Groombridge has wrapped up the 2017 edition of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships with a round to spare.

The 26-year-old has again been unbeatable on the national cross-country championship scene this season, comfortably winning the latest round near Ward, in Marlborough, on Sunday.

With three wins from three starts and only three of the four rounds to be counted, as riders discard their one worst result, it means Groombridge can now not be beaten for the 2017 crown, adding that to his first cross-country title he won last season.

The Suzuki rider managed only a mediocre start to the round three event in Marlborough on Sunday, but quickly moved up from fifth position to engage in a three-way battle for the lead with arch rival Sam Greenslade, of Coatesville, and Nelson’s Ethan Bruce.

“I had to refuel at the end of lap two, while Sam (Greenslade) didn’t need to, and this gave him a bit of a gap over me,” Groombridge explained.

Groombridge soon caught up, however, passing Greenslade for the lead when the Auckland man crashed on lap three and Groombridge did not look back from there as he steadily increased his advantage to the finish.

Greenslade (KTM) finished runner-up on Sunday, the third time consecutively that he’s had to follow Groombridge across the finish line this season, and he looks safe to finish the championships in the runner-up spot.

Third overall in the senior standings after three rounds is Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM), while Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM) and Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown (KTM) round out the top five.

Meanwhile, the 90-minute junior cross-country race was held earlier in the day on Sunday.

That was won by Te Awamutu’s Daniel White (Kawasaki), with Raglan’s Logan Shaw (Honda) and Cambridge’s Seton Head (KTM) completing the podium positions. Raglan’s Coby Rooks (Honda) and Eltham’s Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna) rounded out the top five.

With a 3-2-3 score-card from the three rounds, Head leads the title chase by eight points from Rooks (2-7-4), with White (1-dns-1) now up to third overall, although he is also in the strongest position now to take the title.

With riders discarding their worst result, White will obviously toss out his no-show result from round two, meaning a finish anywhere inside the top five at the final round should earn him the title for 2017.

While Shaw is down in fifth overall after three rounds, his 23-1-2 score-card could also be enough to claim the title. He’ll discard his 23rd place finish, after he crashed out while leading at round one, and set his sights on winning the final round to compile a title-clinching result.

The fourth and final round of the cross-country nationals is set for Cambridge on May 13.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

Sam Sunderland wins Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge


Sam Sunderland, who in January became the first British rider to win the Dakar Rally, continued his 2017 campaign as he started it, with a convincing win in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge this week.

Sunderland finished with an overall time of 18:14.32.5 hours on his KTM 450 Rally for the five desert stages and the opening Super Special of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – part of the FIM Rallies Championship.

This gave him an overall winning margin of 6:13.7 minutes on second placed Husqvarna rider Pablo Quintanilla. KTM factory teammate Matthias Walkner of Austria finished overall third narrowly edging out Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves. The same riders also finished in that order in the fifth and final stage, the Abu Dhabi Aviation, which had a timed special of 234.01 km.

“I’m happy to take the win of course. It’s always good, and that’s the objective, Sunderland said. “The team was good all week, and I’m pleased to get the job done. It’s almost like a home race for me. I’ve been close to winning it many times before but to get it done this year feels very cool.”

The British-born rider is based in Dubai and this rally, where there were long rides in the soft dunes, and mostly under oppressive temperatures in the high 40 degrees Celsius showed that he is very comfortable in the environment.

Walkner, who finished second to Sunderland in the 2017 Dakar Rally showed amazing consistency throughout the five-day competition. He was third in four stages and finished fourth in the other, but said after the race that he had been a little nervous about making a mistake in the final stage.

For the HRC Honda team it was another disappointing finish for 2017, with both Kevin Benavides and Paulo Goncalves leading the rally at one point. However, both finished the rally injury free, which in this sport is a victory in of itself.

“After what happened in the prologue I knew I had little chance of winning, Golcalves said. Yesterday, I was ahead as the leader, but today the other riders passed me as had been expected and I finished fourth overall. We knew this could happen in a race made up entirely of dunes. I could have got a better result in a four-day rally like this… but that’s racing for you.”

The next race in the five round 2017 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship takes place in Qatar in two weeks’ time, before moving on to Chile, Argentina, and finally Morocco.