OFF TO SOUTHLAND

This season’s New Zealand Motorcycle Cross-country Championships kick off in Southland on Sunday with one of the most talent-packed fields in years.

Four rounds of intense action are on the calendar for the KTM-sponsored national series this year, with the first round blasting off near Te Anau on Sunday (February 17).

The competitors will be expected to tame some of the most rugged terrain in the Southern Hemisphere, on a course that’s never before been used for the nationals and this fact alone makes it a particularly exciting way to begin the season.

“It will challenge the riders and it’s supposed to,” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth. “If you like your tracks flat and smooth, you’d best go road-racing,” he laughed.

Round two in Taranaki on March 16 will also break in previously-untried ground, giving no rider any advantage over his rivals.

Palmerston North’s Adam Reeves will be keen to win back the title he held for three consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2011, although first he’ll have to find a way past the reigning national cross-country champion, Mokau’s Adrian Smith.

“I’m keen to make it two cross-country title wins in a row,” confessed the 27-year-old Smith. “I have been on my bike quite a lot lately, so I’m feeling pretty confident but I just have to make sure I don’t do anything silly and stay consistent.

“Both this weekend and round two will be on fresh terrain. It’s not something that bothers me at all. If you put something in front of me I’ll tackle it.”

Te Awamutu’s Mark Penny, Tauranga’s Reece Burgess, Pukekohe’s Matthew Vining, brothers Lance and John O’Dea, and New Plymouth’s Renny Johnston will threaten for the senior title, while Raglan’s Matthew Quirke (pictured above), Wellington’s Hugh Lintott, Hamilton’s Sam Brown, Nelson’s Sam Millson, Invercargill’s Greg Baynes, Onewhero’s Jim Orton, Blenheim’s Scott Orchard, Gore’s Jason Duff, Stratford’s Karl Roberts, Southland’s Cameron Wheeler, Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Christchurch trio Dean Baird, Scott Jennings and Steven Kelly could also feature among the leaders.

After this weekend’s racing, the series heads to Taranaki, followed by Christchurch on April 21 and, finally, it wraps up in Hawke’s Bay on May 18.

The venue for round one is signposted from Lagoon Creek Road, off the Te Anau-Mossburn Highway (SH 94).

KTM NZ CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS CALENDAR:

Round one: February 17, 2013, Southland;

Round two: March 16, 2013, Taranaki;

Round three: April 21, 2013, Christchurch;

Round four, May 18, 2013, Hawke’s Bay.

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

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