There are a couple of new gunslingers in town and they mean business.
Raglan motorcyclist Jason Dickey has been tearing up the countryside in recent major cross-country events and his impressive win on steep farmland at Flemington, near Norsewood, on Sunday has set him up now for a potential national title win, with Dickey's victory at this first of four rounds in the 2019 New Zealand Cross-country Championships perhaps a forecast of what's to come.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Despite being a little slow to get off the start line on Sunday, the 24-year-old dairy farmer soon had his 2018-model KTM 350XC-F bike humming.
Dickey quickly moved through the traffic to put himself in a three-way battle for the lead, banging handlebars with fellow KTM rider Sam Brown, from Glen Murray, and Husqvarna rider Reece Lister, from Wairoa.
It was a gruelling battle, the three-hour race taking its toll on several key of the more than 50 riders entered, including Lister, who was forced to withdraw when the pain from an earlier ankle injury became too great.
This left the way clear for Dickey and Brown to engage in a one-on-one battle for the win, Dickey eventually prevailing and crossing the finish line nearly a minute ahead of Brown.
Taupo’s defending national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge had problems too, a long way back in the field after he'd crashed on the opening lap, although he did manage to work his way back up to finish third overall.
This result has shown that Dickey and Brown are both ready to step forward and challenge Groombridge for his title.
"I caught up to the leaders after my bad start but then I went off the track and dropped back a few places again," Dickey said.
"When the leaders pitted I snatched the lead and managed to hold it from there.
"I didn't have any real problems, just a couple of lappers holding me up at times. Visibility in the dust wasn't too much of a problem for me."
Moving dirt is something that Brown is particularly skilled at, the 28-year-old Brown working as a digger driver during the week, and he was doing that with his KTM 450XC-F at a terrific pace on Sunday.
"I had a pretty good start and was leading the race inside the first lap. But halfway around that first lap I suffered 'arm pump' and just had to let Jason (Dickey) and Reece (Lister) go by me. I had a bit of a surge after that and got back into a battle with those guys again.
"I was in front until I pitted. I nearly ran out of gas. I didn't think I was going to last the lap. I had a large enough tank that I only needed one fuel stop (for the three-hour race), but it was pretty risky.
"I caught back up to Jason but then he looked back at me and pulled away again."
The 90-minute junior race, held earlier in the day, was won by Raglan’s Cody Rooks, followed by Napier’s Bryn Codd and Eltham’s defending junior champion Adam Loveridge.
It is now six weeks until round two of the series, set for Mosgiel on March 24.
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