They come from far and wide to race at New Zealand’s iconic annual Woodville motocross.
This year’s 50th anniversary running of the great race has attracted yet another international rising star, an 18-year-old Belgian rider on the fast-track to success.
Antwerp native Jeff Cloots will race for the first time at the Woodville motocross, at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge, on January 30, flying the distinctive colours of Upper Hutt’s Maidstone Yamaha.
Maidstone Yamaha’s owner, Mike “Big Mac” McLeod, first met Cloots on a racing trip to China, the Belgian teenager impressing as he raced his way to third overall at the big international event.
“Big Mac has done so much for me … I can’t thank him enough.”
“It’s important for me to have a good race at Woodville, to repay him,” said Cloots.
McLeod said Cloots, who will likely threaten for the MX2 (250cc) class title at Woodville, is the “real deal”.
“He’s up very early each morning to go training – running, riding and gym work – a few Kiwis could learn from his dedication and work ethic,” said McLeod.
“He’s very fast and trains hard every day. Straight off the plane he went running. He’ll be raring to go at Woodville.”
Cloots is no stranger to tough international competition, having raced recently against the very best in the world.
“I have raced against your Josh Coppins and other top international racers too, like (MX1 world champion) Antonio Cairoli and (former Belgian and world champion) Steve Ramon.
“My best finish in the Belgian national championships was 10th in the MX1 class. When I return to Belgium I will race in the MX2 class, which is why I’m racing the 250cc bike in New Zealand.”
He will, of course, come up against some very talented Kiwi MX2 riders at Woodville, top men such as Christchurch’s Craig Smith (Honda), Taupo’s Nick Saunders (Kawasaki), Tauranga’s Peter Broxholme (Honda), Wanganui’s Tom Managh (Suzuki), Mangakino’s Kayne Lamont (Suzuki), Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha), Rotorua’s Jonathan Martelli (Kawasaki), Taupo’s Cam Dillon (Honda) and Wellington’s Jayden Jessup (Yamaha), to name a few.
“If I race well at Woodville, perhaps then I will be able to come back and also race your national championships too (which kick off near Timaru on February 20),” said Cloots.
“I’ve been in New Zealand two weeks now and loving it very much. The people here are so friendly. It’s a dream trip for me a great experience and adventure.
“The big difference compared to Belgium is there are hills, hills and more hills here. It’s an amazing country, very beautiful.”
In addition to Maidstone Yamaha, Cloots has support in New Zealand from Darbi Accessories, Spectro Oils and Progrip goggles.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com