It is not usual for an athlete to be able to pull himself off the sofa, enter a three-hour race as a solo competitor and then climb straight back on to the top step of the podium.
But that’s what Auckland’s Liam Draper did at the weekend.
The 20-year-old Howick plumber spent the past seven or eight months recovering from an injury sustained at the big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville in late January, but he got the “all clear” to race at the weekend and so showed up at the third round of four in the popular Woodhill Two-man Cross-country Series west of Auckland.
With no previous results to his credit in this series, Draper had to be satisfied with slotting in on the eighth row of the 74-bike starting grid.
But, soon after the start, he was quickly powering through traffic and, by the third lap of eight, he had taken his new 2018-model four-stroke Husqvarna FC250 dirt bike to the front.
“I had a fair few riders to get past,” said Draper. “By the end of lap two I was up to second and took the lead on lap three. Then I just worked on building a big gap.
“I was feeling quite tired near the end, but that was to be expected because it has been a few months since I last raced.
“I crashed at Woodville in January and snapped a tricep muscle in my left arm. I have been in a sling for a long time and had to have surgery too, but I was still able to train and keep a core fitness.
“I don’t know what races I’ll be doing next, but I’ll be checking the calendar.”
Before his injury, Draper had been planning to race in the United States and now those plans have simply been pushed on 12 months.
“I will be heading to South Carolina to race the Grand National Cross-country Series there in 2018 and I’m pretty excited about that. I just have to stay out of injury trouble,” he laughed.
Runner-up to Draper on Sunday, and 11 minutes behind, was another “ironman” rider, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ250FX), while the two-rider pairing of Hokianga men Troy Gielen and Damon Nield (KTM 250SX) finished third, arriving at the finish line just 16 seconds after Grey.
The fourth and final round of the Woodhill Two-man Series is set for October 1.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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