Dickey had been unbeaten for most of the 2019 New Zealand Cross-country Championships season, wrapping up the senior grade with a round to spare, and he showed up at Saturday’s fourth and final round between Taumarunui and Kuratau with all pressure off, nothing left to prove, the national title already in his possession.
But one question still remained … which rider would take the junior title and that battle went right down to the wire on Saturday, decided halfway through the final lap.
There were just five points between Raglan’s Coby Rooks and Eltham’s defending national junior champion Adam Loveridge at the start of the day and whomever won Saturday’s final 90-minute race would take the title for 2019.
Rooks took the holeshot, but Loveridge snatched the lead soon after the start of the junior race on Saturday. However, trouble with a bog section on lap two cost him the lead and Rooks took the advantage, stretching out to handy lead.
But Loveridge quickly recovered and the battle at the front between the pair see-sawed over the following laps, with Loveridge back in front as they began the seventh and final lap.
However, once again Loveridge came unstuck in the tricky bog and Rooks grabbed the lead, which he held until the end, eventually winning the race – and the national title – by just four seconds, one of the closest results in many years.
Taupo’s Wil Yeoman finished third in the junior race on Saturday and also claimed third overall for the series.
Tauranga’s Jack McLean and Morrinsville’s Liam Calley rounded out the top five juniors for the series.
Best-performed on the junior 85cc riders on Saturday was New Plymouth’s Sam Parker, who finished a sensational 14th overall in the junior race. Fellow Taranaki rider Josh Houghton wrapped up the junior 85cc class for the series.
In the three-hour senior race that followed, it was a battle for the day’s glory between early leader Dickey, former world motocross champion Ben Townley and fellow former Kiwi international Hadleigh Knight, from Atiamuri.
Both Townley and Knight were making their first appearances in the series.
Townley took the lead early on lap two and never looked back, eventually taking the win by nearly three minutes from Knight, with Whanganui’s Seth Reardon moving past Dickey to claim third overall.
This was enough for Reardon to capture the overall runner-up spot for the championship, behind Dickey, with Raglan’s Brandon Given claiming third overall for 2019.
With no riding under his belt since round three of the series, six weeks earlier, and the title already in the bag, a “less than 100 percent” Dickey was happy to settle for fourth in the senior race on Saturday, while Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar rounded out the top five on the day.
Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth agreed the racing at Saturday’s finale was a thriller.
“It was good in particular to see the close race by the juniors. It was a tough and demanding track for the juniors and for the seniors too. The riders would have to have put a lot of thought in to survive the distance.
“It was a great series and backed well by the riders. With the likes of Loveridge and Rooks, it will be good to see them now in the seniors. Loveridge has a good pedigree there with his dad racing also. Hopefully both these graduating juniors will carry on their good form.”
Various class winners this season were Dickey (over-300cc four-stroke class); Reardon (under-300cc four-stroke class); Pukekawa’s Jim Orton (over-200cc two-stroke class); Dunedin’s Richard Mason (under-200cc two stroke class); Auckland’s Charlotte Russ (women’s class); Waipukurau’s Stephen Sergeant (veterans’ 35 to 44 years); Stratford’s Karl Roberts (veterans’ over-45 years); Rooks (junior over-200cc four-stroke class); Loveridge (junior under-200cc two-stroke class); Houghton (junior 85cc class).
The series was supported by The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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