New Zealand’s Paul Whibley is counting down the days until the Grand National Cross-country Championships resume in the United States.
With a mid-summer break in force for the huge American series, the Yamaha ace from Pahiatua has had to content himself with racing lesser US events to keep himself in prime condition for the final push towards winning back the GNCC he last held in 2009.
Whibley is currently third overall in the GNCC series after seven rounds, and with his current form, the New Zealander seems well prepared to attack the GNCC series leaders over the remaining five rounds, that final phased set to kick off at Unadilla, near New York, on September 11.
So, with that in mind, Whibley packed up his Yamaha YZ450F to head south from his base in South Carolina to tackle the Southern Off-road Championship Series (SOCS) event near Rome in Georgia at the weekend.
“Very little rain had fallen in the area for several weeks, so it was expected to be dusty. A good start was going to be key to getting a good result,” said Whibley.
“Off the start line, the Yamaha delivered the holeshot for me, although a few of the two-stroke riders provided me with some elbow rubbing going into the first turn. I was able to sweep through the turn and maintain the lead going into the woods. The first hill was fairly steep with a lot of loose rocks hiding in the leaves.
“I was fairly comfortable out front as I knew the combo of dust and the grenade-like rocks would make passing very tough.
“The first lap I rode at a steady pace because I was not wanting to clip any of the unseen rocks and therefore get ejected into the weeds.
“As I began the second lap, and hit the hill for the second time there were still riders stuck (from their first lap). The soil had deteriorated fast and the hill was now a powdery bombsite. I got to the top okay, but the rest of the track was similar, with the lapped riders kicking up plumes of dust as they explode powdery berms.
“(My wife) Katherine manned the fuel dumpcan as well as handing over a clean pair of goggles at the pit stop.”
In the end, it was a comfortable win for Whibley.
“I continued to push when I could see and be patient when vision was a challenge. Seeing several riders miss turns in the haze and plough headlong into the woods was enough for me to play it smart and ride safe until the chequered flag came out.”
1. Paul Whibley
2. Seth Murray
3. Zac Brown
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com