It was a real Kiwi invasion at an American cross-country event near Salem, Ohio, at the weekend, with three New Zealand riders finishing inside the top 10.
This local CRA event was the last chance for some racing before the Grand National Cross-country series re-ignites after its summer break — the 10th round of 13 set for Unadilla in upstate New York this weekend — and GNCC series leader Paul Whibley was determined to stay sharp.
The Kawasaki rider from Pahiatua couldn’t have been much sharper, actually, leading this CRA event from start to finish at the weekend.
“Jason Thomas and Josh Weisenfelds were in attendance and also the JG Offroad GEICO Monster Energy team was out in force with Jimmy Jarrett’s fast-healing wrist allowing him back into action early and XC2 rider Scotty Watkins racing his KX250f,” said Whibley.
“Also an extra couple of Kiwis were racing on some GEICO team equipment, Adam Reeves, the current NZ XC Champion and Karl Power who placed second overall in the NZ Enduro Nationals.”
“The short start straight led quickly to a dusty hillclimb. I was in the top three round turn one behind early leader Jason Thomas and Scotty Watkins. A quick pass on Scotty and I was searching for a way around Jason. The dusty and rocky track had some good elevation changes and was nice and rough after the quad race. A pass was made on Jason and I wanted to be gone by the time we hit traffic.
“The lap was short (6-7 minutes ) so we were soon into the dust from the slower riders but I had built a small lead and worked hard to maintain it. Jason was riding well and never fell to far back. I stopped for gas after an hour and he closed up within 10 sec. I put my head down and worked on stretching my lead.
“Pushing it out to a minute and 40 seconds by the finish and taking a good win. The steep hillclimb by the start line had deteriorated with most riders electing to take the safe alternative line. It did provide some spectacular viewing for the spectators when it all went wrong for those who did take a shot at it.
Jason came home in second and Jimmy put another GEICO bike on the podium in third.
Reeves and Power, having their first race in the US, finished 7th and 8th respectively.
Power gave us his perspective of the race:
“Off the start I was fourth into the first corner and didn’t really make much of it, as we came to the first split I went a different way which dropped me down the pack then I picked up a few places due to a few top guys falling off in the thick dust.
“I got back up to fifth behind a GNCC racer. But on our first lap we took the wrong split towards the end of the lap which added about a minute and a half. I didn’t realise this until the end of he race when Jimmy (Jarrett, Whibley’s team-mate) came out of nowhere and was right behind me.
“I was taking the long cut all race. It was hard to see because it was down a long straight and not clearly marked. The track was hot and dusty rocky loop. It was about seven minutes in length and cut up pretty rough. After about the halfway mark, the track got pretty good and a few line started which was cool. After the two hour mark I ended up 8th in class and tenth overall.
“Next is the GNCC at Unadilla and they won’t have any long and short cuts like last weekend which is good to know.
“Before the CRA event, we had spent the first three days of our trip just travelling and setting up the camper,” said Power.
“When we finally go into the Salem, Ohio, I spent my time training and riding getting used to the big KXF450. After setting up the bike on the Friday we shot down to Steel City AMA motocross which was held in the Pennsylvania.
“It was cool to see the top guys and watch how these guys attack the track. The crowd wasn’t that big and the best class to watch was the 250 class. Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey were going toe to toe and they were a step above the rest.”
1st: Paul Whibley (NZ)
2nd: Jason Thomas
3rd: Jimmy Jarrett
7th: Adam Reeves (NZ)
8th: Karl Power (NZ)
Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com