NZ cross-country elite keen to push ahead
New Zealand's elite cross-country racers are back in business again this coming weekend, each of them keen to push on or improve upon their results from the series opener two weeks ago.
The four-round 2021 Yamaha-sponsored New Zealand Cross-country Championships kicked off near Marton, in the Rangitikei region, two weeks ago and it certainly sorted the men from the boys and the women from the girls.
Round two in the Central Hawke's Bay region this Sunday is not likely to be any easier to negotiate.
Run by the Central Hawke's Bay Motorcycle Club and set for farmland at 1500 Weber Road, Dannevirke, the course will again provide all the tricky features the riders have come to love or respect, with fast sections, slower bush sections and the odd hill climb.
Napier-base former Wairoa rider Tommy Watts, Palmerston North's 2015 national champion Paul Whibley and another Napier-based former Wairoa rider in Reece Lister (pictured above) were the leading individuals in the three-hour senior race at Marton, while Taupo's Wil Yeoman, Eketahuna's Luke Brown and Dannevirke's Charlie Free were the top trio in the 90-minute junior race that started the day at Marton. Masterton's Max Williams was best of the 85cc bike riders at Marton.
It's likely that these riders will again be among the frontrunners at Dannevirke on Sunday, although strong challenges may come from Raglan's Brandon Given, Whanganui's Seth Reardon, Glen Murray's Sam Brown, Taupo's Hadleigh Knight and Drury's Richard Sutton, to name a few.
Te Kauwhata's Jacob Brown, Rotorua's Callum Dudson and Hamilton's Phil Goodwright could also be battling near the front at Dannevirke.
Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles, with riders to discard their worst result. This also allows competitors the option of having to make only one trip across Cook Strait.
"The course at Dannevirke is not dissimilar to what the riders encountered at Marton," said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.
"We have had a few showers of rain at Dannevirke during the past few days, so dust should not be too much of a problem," he said.
"But the track is expected to be hard and rough, with uphills, downhills, areas of native bush, a pine tree section, open farmland and a bog that could be fairly daunting.
"The senior course is about 20 kilometres in length and the junior course is about half that."
The 90-minute junior race kicks off at about 9am on Sunday, with the three-hour senior race to follow at about 11.30am.
The New Zealand Cross-country Championships series is supported by Yamaha NZ, O'Neal apparel, The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.
2021 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, February 28 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Sunday, March 14 – Central Hawke's Bay MCC, Dannevirke
Round Three – Saturday, April 17 – Gore & Districts MCC, Gore
Round Four – Saturday, April 18 – Mosgiel District MCC, Mosgiel