Discretion is the better part of valour according to New Zealand’s Paul Whibley, as the Yamaha ace decides it is wiser for him to ease back into the sport than to rush his return to one of the toughest competitions on the planet.
Pahiatua man Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) won two major national titles in the United States last season – the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) and the Off-road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) championship as well – but this season’s defence of those crowns has been fraught with difficulty as he struggled with a hand injury sustained when he smashed into a tree during training, just before round two of the GNCC competition, and a sports hernia.
The 34-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene, decided he would use the traditional mid-summer break – when temperatures on the American east coast make it too hot for racing to continue – to have remedial surgery done.
The Yamaha star reports that the surgery was a huge success and he is now well on the path back to achieving full fitness again, but has decided that a cautious and measured approach is needed as the 2013 season winds down and his hopes of defending either crown has slipped away.
“After a lengthy conversation with my Am Pro Yamaha team boss Randy Hawkins, a decision was made not to race Round 10 of the GNCC series this weekend at Unadilla, New York,” said Whibley.
“It was a tough call to make as I really wanted to be there, back on the starting line. We weighed up the pros and cons but, ultimately, I know this is the right call.
“The recovery from my sports hernia surgery has gone really well and I have been easing back into training for several weeks and building up my base fitness. I have been able to run again, something that I haven’t done since March or April and sit ups and abdominal work can be done pain-free.
“I have been on a bike a few times this week and it felt so good to be back doing something that I love and am programmed to do. The decision not to race was based on still having a little pain when dabbing and the lack of time on the bike.
“So we postponed my return, waiting until I’m 100%. We don’t want to risk re-injury and have to start the whole process over.
“I want to give a big thanks to Donnie Luce at Yamaha and Randy Hawkins at Am Pro for all their support and allowing us the time we need. And that to all the sponsors for their understanding and continued support.”
Whibley is supported by Monster Energy, Sargent Yamaha in Masterton, MotoSR suspension, BikesportNZ.com, Graphic MX Creation and Yamaha Motor New Zealand.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com