Taupo’s Rory Mead has been quick to find the pace, finishing on the podium on his American cross-country debut at the weekend.
Mead could well have won the event but for the fact that he required one extra fuel stop than his rivals because, unlike most of the others riders, he has yet to fit an oversized, after-market fuel tank to his borrowed Yamaha YZ450F.
With a break in his New Zealand Enduro Championships campaign, the Yamaha ace arrived in the United States late last month, ready to tackle selected rounds of the Grand National Cross-Country (GNCC) and also a couple of Off-road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series events but, because of extensive flooding at the venue where he was to make his debut , a change of plans was called for.
Instead of tackling round five of the GNCC series in Tennessee, Mead packed up his bike and headed off to enter a two-hour cross-country race, the Mountain Challenge, at Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
“It was in the hills with a rocky base and the laps were about 16 minutes each,” said Mead.
“I was third to last off the line but I managed to pass everyone and had a one-minute lead after the first lap. The next lap went well and I pulled a 30-second gap over the rest of the field (which included notable GNCC regulars Chris Bach and Steward Baylor).
“I began to ride tight as the track got rougher. As we began to lap the slower riders, I found it hard to pass, as they would dodge all over the track.
“Unfortunately, on the fourth lap, I clipped the rear wheel of a lapper and went off and down a steep bank.
“Luckily he helped me get my bike back up the hill. On the last lap I had to pit again as I still had only a small (stock standard) fuel tank on the bike. Chris Bach snuck pass while I was pitting and I finished the race 22 seconds behind him.”
Third overall was GNCC XC2 class championship leader Baylor, nearly a minute further back.
Mead will race an OMA series race this weekend, where he will expect perhaps his toughest competition to come from fellow Kiwi and fellow Yamaha rider Paul Whibley, of Pahiatua.
1. Chris Bach
2. Rory Mead
3. Steward Baylor
4. Kenneth Gilbert
5. Grant Baylor
6. Glenn Drum
7. Matt Holden
8. Matthew Pressley
9. Cody Gragg
10. Vance Earl
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com