This season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships could be defined by sibling rivalry, with two equally-talented brothers locked in battle at the top of the series standings, although a handful of other riders are knocking at the door.
Four of six rounds of this season’s enduro nationals have been completed and the series reaches crunch time this Queen’s Birthday weekend as the final two rounds are staged in quick succession at two very different North Island venues.
Championship leader Angus Macdonald knows the pressure will be on for him to protect his position at the top of the championship standings, although the Christchurch man has not yet shown any signs of cracking.
He has been resolute and unruffled thus far, having led the competition throughout, starting with his winning the first round near Nelson in February.
Macdonald knows now that it is his championship to lose as fierce rivals such his own younger brother, Hamish Macdonald, Taupo’s defending national champion Brad Groombridge, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, Cambridge pair Simon Lansdaal and Dylan Yearbury and Auckland’s Callan May have each had their respective campaigns blunted by one kind of disaster or another over the past few months.
Groombridge crashed spectacularly at high speed, forcing him to withdraw from the day at round three of the series near Porirua in March and this also dropped him from second to fifth in the overall standings.
Groombridge recovered to finish runner-up at round four near Greta Valley, north of Christchurch, just over three weeks ago, but he remains fifth in the title chase.
Lansdaal (pictured above) had problems at the series opener near Nelson, finishing the day a lacklustre 14th in the experts’ class.
“I had a shocker at Nelson,” Lansdaal admitted. “I got fencing wire tangled around my brakes. It took me nine or ten minutes to unwind it all and that’s time I could never get back.”
Titirangi’s May suffered engine failure in the final section of the day at Porirua and it dropped him from fourth to 10th in the overall championship standings.
He has since climbed back up to eighth overall, but this is still well below where he could expect to be.
Macdonald’s younger brother, Hamish, had to settle for an unaccustomed 17th overall at round one of the series, but he topped the podium at Porirua, finishing the day just 34 seconds ahead of former national enduro and cross-country champion Adrian Smith, with Angus Macdonald and Cambridge pair Dylan Yearbury and then Lansdaal rounding out the top five.
Hamish Macdonald continued this winning momentum to also win the day at round four at Greta Valley, lifting him to second in the standings, so it is he who poses the greatest threat to Angus Macdonald’s title ambitions.
Any of these men could feature again this holiday weekend, although it will take severe bad luck – perhaps an injury, flat tyre or engine failure – for Angus not to secure his first national crown this weekend.
Meanwhile, it is a battle of the ages in the fight for intermediate grade honours.
The leading intermediate grade riders after round four are 16-year-old Whitianga rider Blake Wilkins, 54-year-old Ellerslie rider Jeff Van Hout and 53-year-old Helensville man John Buxton.
The venue for Saturday is on farmland at Waitawhiti Station, east of Eketahuna, with the series wrapping up in forestry near Tokoroa on Queen’s Birthday Monday.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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