The threat of howling winds and driving rain came to nothing, but Manawatu’s Paul Whibley still had to weather a storm of sorts as he fended off some of the best off-road bike racers in the country to win the fifth and final round of the North Island Enduro Series at the weekend.
The 38-year-old from Taikorea, a two-time former Grand National cross-country Champion in the United States and the 2015 New Zealand cross-country champion, was a class above his rivals on Saturday.
The event was held at remote Waitawhiti Station near Pahiatua and, although terrible weather had been forecast, the day eventually dawned calm and fine, perfect conditions for enduro racing.
“The first test was not far into the first section,” Whibley explained.
“It started on farmland and then dived into the bush, followed by a quick sprint through more farmland to the finish. I put in a good time with the Yamaha YZ450FX working good in the bush.
The next test was a longer test through mostly farmland. The more open nature meant a lot of time was wasted searching for arrows. There was a couple fun bits down through a pine block and a cool tight piece near the end that spectators could watch.
“However, the times from this test were scrapped at the end of the day since many got lost.”
Boredom may have been Whibley’s only problem all day, with his fast pace meaning he had plenty of time to sit and wait each time before the start of the following sections.
“One lap done with a pretty easy trail pace and I had a long wait at the check.
“The next lap was a repeat of test one and two. This time it was much easier to follow and less time was wasted looking for the track. Still, at the end of the lap, I had a long wait for the check to open.
“On the third lap, only test one was timed. The trail pace was tighter but still I had a good 20 minutes waiting. The last lap was a shortened loop with a supposed tight trail time but still we made it to the check with time to spare. Overall, I had a good, fun day on the bike, and taking the win was good too.”
Whibley led home Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson, with Masterton’s Allan Gannon third best on the day.
The next event on the calendar for Whibley is the second round of six in the series he created last season, the NZXC series, a cross-country series that “cherry-picks” some of the best races from around the country and stitches them together to form its own multi-round competition.
Woodhill Forest, north-west of Auckland, is the venue this Sunday for another double-header, the race representing both round two of the NZXC series and also the second of four rounds of the Woodhill Two-man cross-country series. However, only solo riders will be eligible for NZXC points.
“Depending on how I’m scheduled, I’d like to do all the rest of the Woodhill Two-man races, although I’d ride them solo, and also do the rest of The Dirt Guide cross-country series races as well,” said Whibley.
“My fitness is not too bad at the moment, although I do need more bike time.”
Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Sidi, Smith, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Darbi Accessories, GHQ, Rosscos Start Up Services, Works Connection, Pro Taper, Race Pace Services, Unabiker, Leatt Brace, Tire Balls, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, KettleClamp, Alliance Offroad, Ride Eng MotoSeat, FMF, Kenda, Yamalube, CV4, GYTR, IMS, MSR, Rekluse, Ride Eng, Workshop Graphics.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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