Even though the 28-year-old Taupo man admitted to being “a long way short of full race fitness”, Groombridge and his Suzuki RM-Z450 were once again too powerful for all the competitors lined up on Saturday.
The Suzuki man made it a record sixth time that he has won this race outright, on five of those occasions riding it solo against numerous two-rider combinations.
He was a solo “ironman” entry again on Saturday, and it was a thrilling finish to the race that actually extended to four-and-a-half hours for the leading riders when they arrived at the timing zone just before the race clock had ticked over the four-hour mark and so were forced to complete an additional lap.
Groombridge finished the gruelling endurance race just 13 seconds ahead of the runner-up two-rider combo of Paul Whibley (Manawatu, Yamaha YZ450FX) and Callan May (Titirangi, Yamaha YZ450FX), with Oparau’s James Scott (KTM 250) and Ararimu’s Richard Sutton (Yamaha YZ125) teaming up to claim the third podium spot, crossing the finish line nine minutes further back.
In addition to dominating this event over recent years, Groombridge (Kea Trailers Suzuki Racing Team) is the current national cross-country champion, the 2018 national enduro champion and the 2018 national MX2 motocross No.2 as well, so it should probably have come as no surprise to anyone that he and his versatile RM-Z450 would again be a potent force on Saturday.
“There wasn’t much in it at the end,” Groombridge remarked.
“It was trough and my body certainly feels it. I just did enough to get the job done.
“I was inside the top 10 at the start and had worked my way up to third position by the end of the first lap. Then I passed Callan (May) and Reece Lister (from Kotemaori, riding a KTM 250 SX) when they came in to refuel. I had a big tank on board and so didn’t need to refuel too much.
“The dust was pretty bad, the track cut up quite rough and I had a few blisters forming on my hands. Paul (Whibley) caught up to me, but the dust clouds I was putting up worked in my favour and I managed to build a little bit of a lead again. I played it smart, took no risks and maintained the gap until the end.
“My fitness is not quite 100 percent at this early stage of the season, but I guess I was still fitter than a lot of the other riders. There were massive holes in the ground and tree roots starting to show through near the end, so it was quite tricky in places.”
The 90-minute Motomuck Junior 90 race was again the “curtain-raiser” to Saturday’s main race and that was won by Napier’s Bryn Codd (Yamaha YZ125), with Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha YZ125) and Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman (KTM 150 XC-W) completing the podium.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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