It was actually anything but that.
Yes, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge won all four rounds of the senior competition, crossing the finish line first after three gruelling hours of dirt bike racing at each of the four challenging venues, two in the South Island and two in the North Island, but the racing was extremely close throughout.
With points from only three of the four rounds to be counted, as riders were to discard their one worst score, it meant Suzuki rider Groombridge, with three outright wins before Saturday’s final round near Nelson, had already wrapped up the senior crown even before the shotgun blast had signalled the start to the weekend’s final senior race.
But sill there was plenty to fight for with overall runner-up position to be determined, not to mention the various bike class results to be settled.
Howick’s Liam Draper (Husqvarna) finished runner-up on Saturday to clinch the No.2 position overall and also to claim the under-300cc four-stroke class honours, while Titirangi’s Callan May (Yamaha) claimed third place at Nelson and took the No.3 spot overall as well as clinching the over-200cc two-stroke class title. Hawke’s Bay’s Reece Lister won the under-200cc two-stroke class. Groombridge had already snatched the over-300cc four-stroke class title.
Mokau’s Adrian Smith (Yamaha), May and Pahiatua’s Charles Alabaster (Honda) respectively ended the series rounding out the top five positions overall in the senior grade.
Best of the women was Te Awamutu’s Jan-Maree Pool (KTM), who produced another strong ride to wrap up the women’s title overall.
While Groombridge dominated with his unbeaten run, Draper posted a 5-2-2-2 score-card for the series, while May had skipped round one, making that his “discard” result, and he had 3-3-3 results to count on.
The action was much tighter in the junior grade, where there was virtually nothing to separate series leader Logan Shaw (Honda), from Raglan, and Nelson’s Jackson Walker (Yamaha).
The rider who finished highest of these two teenagers in the 90-minute junior race would probably take the title overall.
In the end it was Shaw (pictured above) who prevailed on the day, with Walker crossing the line second and forced to settle for second overall for the championship too, while Tapawera’s Keegan Anglesey (Yamaha), Taumarunui’s Harris Gemmell (Yamaha) and Cheviot’s Sam McPherson (Yamaha) rounded out the top five at Nelson.
Anglesey, Eketahuna’s Chris Dickson (Yamaha) and McPherson respectively ended the series rounding out the top five positions overall.
Shaw finished 1-2-2-1 over the four rounds, while Walker managed a 2-1-14-2 score-card for the series.
“I had a bit of a crash at the start and so I had some catching up to do,” said the 15-year-old Shaw afterwards.
“I was back in about seventh, but, after three laps I had caught up to Jackson, who was leading the race. I managed to pass him, but there wasn’t much between us at the end.
“I just kept my focus and my mind on the job.”
Taupiri’s Zak Fuller (Kawasaki) was the best of the junior 85cc class riders at Nelson, winning that class title, while Cambridge rider Zara Gray (KTM) won the junior women’s class title for 2016.
“It was a great track, well marked and the event organisers at Nelson did a fantastic job,” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.
“I think it was quite a challenging track, especially for some of the juniors, but there were no complaints. In fact, they all seemed to enjoy it.
The area was quite rocky, but they had had rain earlier in the week and so there were no dust problems and visibility was good.”
Leading final overall standings in the 2016 New Zealand Cross-country Championships:
Senior: Groombridge 75 points (maximum); Draper 66; May 60; Smith 56 and Alabaster 52.
Junior: Shaw 70 points; Walker 69; Anglesey 63; Dickson 56 and McPherson 54.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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