When the New Zealand Cross-country Champion and the United States Cross-country Champion both show up at the same event, it’s sure to be fireworks.
But when national champion Adam Reeves, of Palmerston North, and American Grand National Cross-country Champion Paul Whibley, of Pahiatua, team up, it’s a foregone conclusion.
The two men were certainly formidable at the Raglan Rocx Four-Hour Cross-country race on Saturday.
And the words fireworks, foregone conclusion and formidable … all could be used to describe the Reeves/Whibley combination, the two riders sharing a Yamaha YZ450F to win this big annual race in the Waikato.
“Me teaming up with New Zealand cross-country champion and fellow Yamaha rider Adam Reeves was a no brainer,” said Whibley.
“On paper, we were the team to beat and everyone was expecting us to be up front. I was given the job of starting so off we headed out to the start line a couple of kilometres away from the pits.
“The YZ450F fired up quickly and I rounded turn one in second place and then moved into the lead after just a few more corners.
“I was kept honest through most of the first lap as I led the way through some fresh tracks and some extremely slippery clay sections under the scrub.
“We elected to gas after the first lap. I had pulled about a 30-second lead over the chasing pack and handed the controls over to Adam.”
As Reeves pulled out of the pits, however, they found themselves relegated to second place because one of the riders chasing them, Tauranga’s Reece Burgess, didn’t come in for fuel and simply blew by the pits.
That state of affairs was soon rectified with Reeves reclaiming the lead soon afterwards.
“We had done some fresh calculations on fuel consumption and lap times and worked out that we should be able to do two laps before our next gas stop,” said Whibley.
“When I was sent out for my second stint on the bike, our lead was growing and we were well in command of the race.”
When Reeves took over the bike again for the final spell, the lead was stretched even further.
“It was touch and go whether I would get one or two laps in before the flag came out. I pushed hard and came around with two minutes to spare and was able to head out for another lap, winning the race by a comfortable margin.
“Team races are good fun and riding with someone of Adam’s calibre was always going to result in a successful event for us.”
The event was a good test for Reeves as he look forward to his national title defence, beginning near Waipukurau in April.
“For now I have been riding the 2009-model YZ450F, while Paul is riding the 2010 version. That meant jumping straight onto his bike and going fast was difficult to say the least,” Reeves explained.
“My arms pumped up straight away and I began to ride like an amateur. It took the best part of the first lap to come to grips with the bike and start riding properly.
“I felt a lot better on the bike over the next couple of laps and was able to keep increasing our lead before handing the bike back to Paul to finish it off.
“In the end, we took the overall win with a lead of somewhere around seven minutes over second place and had a lot of fun in the process.
“It was good for me to get some valuable time in the 2010 bike which I’ll be moving to in the very near future.”
Huntly’s Michael Vining (Suzuki) finished runner-up and won the “ironman” title for riding the event solo, while Te Awamutu husband and wife pairing of Mark Penny and Ilana Wilks (Suzuki) finished 10th overall to win the mixed team’s crown.
Whibley now readies himself to contest the popular river race event at the big annual Woodville Motocross this weekend, before flying back to the east coast of the United States to begin his GNCC title defence for 2010.
1. Paul Whibley/Adam Reeves (Yamaha);
2. Michael Vining (Suzuki, riding solo);
3. Luke Ramsey/Jason Moorfield (Kawasaki);
4. Chris Singleton (Kawasaki, solo);
5. John Sharland/Scott Birch (KTM);
6. Jim Orton/Boyd Carlson (Suzuki).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com