“The unfinished business just got finished.”
These were the words from the mouth of Taupo’s Brad Groombridge after he won the Tarawera 100 cross-country race at the weekend.
It seems that everything that the Bay of Plenty man touches this year is turning to gold.
The Suzuki rider is certainly a “golden boy” of the familiar yellow bike brand, his impressive runaway win at Saturday’s big annual Honda Tarawera 100 cross-country marathon just the latest in a string of major victories that he has celebrated this season.
Taupo’s Groombridge took his MC2 Suzuki Racing Team RM-Z450 to win the national cross-country championships earlier this year, before also winning the New Zealand enduro championships outright, both his victories on his virtual debut in those two respective competitions – he had only “dabbled in a few races” in previous years – and those remarkable results he added to the one he achieved in finishing a respectable fifth in the MX1 class at the motocross nationals in March.
His win at Saturday’s Honda-sponsored Tarawera 100 cross-country race should probably not therefore have surprised anyone.
Groombridge had finished third outright at the Tarawera 100 race in 2013, and was overall runner-up in 2014 and last year as well, making him easily one of the more fancied contenders to win this year’s 39th annual edition of the great race.
But he was up against a four-time previous Tarawera 100 winner, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450), as well as a solid line-up of other top-class dirt bike racers with varying degrees of motocross, enduro and cross-country backgrounds, and each one of them tough and extremely capable of winning the arduous battle.
Cooper won the Tarawera 100 for the first time in 2007, then backed that up by winning it three more times, in consecutive years between 2010 and 2012, but he met his match in Groombridge this time around.
“It was tough finishing a close runner-up in 2014 and again last year (both times behind fellow Kiwi international Ben Townley, who was a non-starter this year), so it’s great to get that monkey off my back by winning this one,” said Groombridge, a 25-year-old locksmith.
The venue for Saturday’s race was again on steep farmland at Te Teko, just west of Whakatane, and when the shotgun blast signalled the race start at about 10am, Groombridge initially found himself behind 10 or 12 fast starters and with plenty of work to do in the gruelling 140-kilometre race (the distance that gives the Tarawera 100, a 100-mile marathon, its name).
“My start was okay, but nothing too magnificent,” Groombridge explained.
“But I made up a lot of ground early on and actually got into the lead after about five kilometres, just before we headed into the bush for the first time.
“Then I crashed and Scotty Columb (from Queenstown, Kawasaki), Liam Draper (Howick, Husqvarna) and Cody Cooper went past me. Then they then took a wrong turn and I managed to spot the error quickly, spin around and get back on track. With that, I was up to about third, with Liam and Hadleigh Knight (Reporoa, Husqvarna) ahead of me.
“I think Liam then had bike problems and so then it became a two-way battle after that between me and Cody for the win.
“I refuelled and gained a few seconds on him with my quick-fill system and then put the hammer down and opened up a bit of a gap, which I held until the finish.”
Groombridge eventually crossed the finish line more than three minutes ahead of Cooper, with Titirangi’s Callan May (Yamaha) finishing third overall, just 20 seconds further behind, and Columb and Knight rounding out the top five.
Of the 122 race starters, only 110 were finishers, with only 43 riders completing four laps in the three hours.
Groombridge has made winning dirt bike races something of a habit in 2016 and he reckons he hasn’t finished yet, with the rest of this month and five months to follow before his racing year wraps up.
“It was important to me to win this race convincingly. Everyone was backing Cody to win it but I beat Cody and I did it well.
“I’m hoping to again win the annual Acerbis Four-hour Race at Taupo and also claim a couple of class wins again at the New Zealand TT Championships before the end of the year.”
Class winners at the Tarawera 100 on Saturday were Groombridge (over-300cc four-stroke); May (under-300cc four-stroke); Knight (over-200cc two-stroke); Gisborne’s Duncan Summerfield (under-200cc two-stroke); Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (under-19 years); Thames’ Natasha Cairns (women’s class); Hamilton’s Chris Singleton (veterans, 35-39 years) New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert (super veterans, 40-49 years); Taupiri’s Mark Fuller (mega veterans, over 50 years); Andrew Charleston and Scott Birch (two man and one bike class); Cam Dillon and Kieran Leigh (two man and two bike class).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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