Every sporting event has its hard luck story, but that was scant consolation for Wairarapa man Reuben Vermeer at the weekend.
The 29-year-old pest control officer from Masterton was heading for a career-high result on Saturday, charging through the field ahead of hundreds of the country’s top off-road motorcycle experts at the annual Acerbis Four-Hour Endurance race, on forest land near Taupo.
The Yamaha man was closing in on the No.1 spot in the ironman category, one of the rare breed of heroes who opt to ride solo for the duration of the gruelling gut-buster, within sight of the class leader, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Huka Honda CRF450), with six of the seven arduous laps completed.
Vermeer (Yamaha YZ450F) had been just a few seconds behind Kiwi international Groombridge and looking to make a last-bid effort over the final 35-minute lap when everything came tragically unstuck for him.
“An accessory bolt sheared off that was holding my after-market handlebars in place,” he explained. “It gave me quite a fright. I could feel and hear that something wasn’t right but, when the handlebars suddenly came loose, I had real problems.
“Fortunately there was plenty of plastic Acerbis track marking tape. I scavenged some of that to bind the handlebars in place. It was pretty cool to have the race sponsor’s product right there at trackside. It was enough to get me back home, although I had slipped down the field quite a bit.”
Vermeer eventually had to settle for 40th overall in the 200-plus field, although that was still good enough to be credited with fourth overall in the ironman class.
“I had been doing pretty well too because Brad had a bigger fuel tank fitted to his bike and so he could bypass the pits and only have to stop every second lap to refuel. I had to come in to the pits each time and that cost me quite a bit of time.
“It was certainly disappointing. It would have been my best ever result.”
Vermeer had finished fourth overall at the Dead Toad Enduro race in Auckland two months ago – that event won by fellow Yamaha rider Adam Reeves, of Palmerston North – and he is showing he is fast rising up the national cross-country ranks.
“I guess, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he laughed.
Eventual runner-up in the ironman category was Hamilton’s Sam Brown (Honda CRF450), with Onewhero’s Jim Orton (KTM 450 EXC) taking third step on the podium.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com