CROSS COUNTRY RACERS WILL TWIST THROTTLES TO THE MAX
Bike throttles will be twisted to the stops in the Central Hawke's Bay region this weekend as the four-round 2019 New Zealand Cross Country Championships blast off.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
The nation's dirt bike elite will converge on farmland at 782 Ahiweka Road, Flemington, about 22 kilometres east of Norsewood, for round one of the series on Sunday (February 10) with all riders knowing a good result is essential if their respective bids for glory are to bear any fruit.
Points from three of the four rounds only are counted towards New Zealand titles in the various categories, with riders to discard their one worst score, but that still doesn't leave a lot of room for error.
Outright senior winner last season was Taupo's Brad Groombridge and he will be expected to rate among the favourites again this time around, especially considering his sharp performances at the parallel-but-separate New Zealand Motocross Championships, that series having just completed its opening round in Taranaki last weekend.
Groombridge was in solid in his cross-country campaign last season, registering a 1-1-9-2 score-card over the series, and this was easily enough for him to edge out Taupo's Nathan Tesselaar – who had a 4-3-1-3 score-card for 2018 – for the outright series win, the third consecutive year that Groombridge had taken the title.
Groombridge will of course be chasing title No.4 this year, although he knows to expect tough challenges from rivals such as Coatesville's Sam Greenslade, Eketahuna's Charlie Richardson, Titirangi's Callan May, Hamilton's Phil Goodwright, Bombay's Richard Sutton, Stratford's Josh Hunger, Raglan's Brandon Given and Napier's Mackenzie Wiig.
The talent pool is deep in the senior grade, with riders such as Raglan's Jason Dickey, Te Awamutu's Daniel White, Stratford's Karl Roberts, Wairoa's Reece Lister, Palmerston North's James Galpin, Whanganui's Seth Reardon and Cambridge pair Seton Head and Ashton Grey also likely to feature near the front.
In the junior grade, Eltham's Adam Loveridge will be aiming to hold onto the title he won last year, although Napier's Bryn Codd, the series leader early on in the 2018 series, will be looking to snatch back the ascendency.
Riders such as Cambridge's Callum Paterson, Hamilton's Caleb Richardson, Raglan's Coby Rooks, Dannevirke's Ben Paterson and Cambridge's Michael Henry might have an influence on proceedings too.
"The venue on Sunday is a great track and should be pretty testing," said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.
"It's a property we have used in the past and about 25 kilometres in length. It features a bit of everything.
"It will be physically demanding, with steep rock ridges that will take some concentration from the riders.
"A few of the rider who were juniors last season may have decided to move up to the senior ranks and we just won't know which individuals have done that until the day of the race.
"A few of the other juniors from last year will have remained in the junior ranks ad they are entitled to do that until aged 17, when the jump to senior grade in compulsory."
The series is supported by The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.
NZ Cross Country Championships calendar 2019
Round One: Sunday, February 10 - Central Hawke's Bay MCC
Round Two: Sunday, March 24 - Mosgiel District MCC
Round Three: Sunday, April 14 - Marlborough MCC
Round Four: Saturday May 25 - Taupo MCC