It was a real David versus Goliath battle when Auckland’s Callan May came within a stone’s throw of toppling a giant on Saturday.
The Yamaha ace from Titirangi went into battle at the big annual Tarawera 100 cross-country race near Whakatane on Saturday with just an outside chance of winning it outright, pitting his Yamaha YZ250FX against the 450cc bikes of four-time former Tarawera 100 winner and 2016 national MX1 motocross champion Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450) and that of dual current national off-road champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450), along with a full field of other top-ranked national cross-country, enduro and motocross exponents, many of them also on 300cc and 450cc machines.
Taupo’s Groombridge, the 2016 national champion in both the enduro and cross-country codes, and Mount Maunganui’s Cooper eventually finished the race first and second respectively, but May crossed the line in third place overall, just 20 seconds behind Cooper and ahead of Queenstown’s Scotty Columb (Kawasaki KX450F).
“I didn’t realise how close I’d come to catching Cody (Cooper),” said the 24-year-old May afterwards.
“He was not in direct sight of me and I was just cruising near the end of the (three-hour) race. Crazy to think I could have claimed second overall on a 250 bike.
“I thought he was about two minutes ahead of me at the start of the fourth (and final) lap and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch him, so was just settling for third.
“If I could have seen him ahead of me I would have pushed harder. Of course, that’s not to say I would actually have been able to pass him though, because he’s a pretty smart rider, but I had plenty of energy left in the tank.
“I was only about 10th through the first turn after the start, but I was already up to about fifth or sixth after five kilometres.
“The top five were long gone by then and so I was riding on my own.
“I kept up a good pace and caught up to Hadleigh Knight (of Reporoa), but I had trouble passing him because my goggles were all filled in with muck and I’d run out of roll-offs.
“I’m pretty thrilled to finish third. This is only the second time I’ve done this race and the first time I was riding a 125cc bike, about three or four years ago.”
May’s result was easily enough to give him the under-300cc four-stroke class win. The next-best rider on an under-300cc four-stroke bike was Taupo’s Steven Yeoman, who finished 35th overall.
May is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Kiwi Rider magazine, BikesportNZ.com, Dunlop, Forma Boots, Moose Racing, EKS brand goggles, Graphic Creations, City Electrix, Construct Now, Muc-Off, Renthal and Carbsport.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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