Taupo’s Brad Groombridge has wrapped up the 2017 edition of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships with a round to spare.
The 26-year-old has again been unbeatable on the national cross-country championship scene this season, comfortably winning the latest round near Ward, in Marlborough, on Sunday.
With three wins from three starts and only three of the four rounds to be counted, as riders discard their one worst result, it means Groombridge can now not be beaten for the 2017 crown, adding that to his first cross-country title he won last season.
The Suzuki rider managed only a mediocre start to the round three event in Marlborough on Sunday, but quickly moved up from fifth position to engage in a three-way battle for the lead with arch rival Sam Greenslade, of Coatesville, and Nelson’s Ethan Bruce.
“I had to refuel at the end of lap two, while Sam (Greenslade) didn’t need to, and this gave him a bit of a gap over me,” Groombridge explained.
Groombridge soon caught up, however, passing Greenslade for the lead when the Auckland man crashed on lap three and Groombridge did not look back from there as he steadily increased his advantage to the finish.
Groombridge entered the timing zone with a handful of seconds still left on the three-hour clock and so he was commanded to complete an extra lap. In the end, he was the only rider required to traverse a seventh 28-kilometre lap.
“I wasn’t sure if Sam had been close enough behind me to have to did a seventh lap too, so I continued to push hard. I only backed off near the end when I realised I was alone on the track.”
Greenslade (KTM) finished runner-up on Sunday, the third time consecutively that he’s had to follow Groombridge across the finish line this season, and he looks safe to finish the championships in the runner-up spot.
Third overall in the senior standings after three rounds is Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM), while Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM) and Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown (KTM) round out the top five.
“The Suzuki RM-Z450 worked like a charm and has not let me down all season,” said Groombridge. “It’s fantastic to win back-to-back cross-country titles, but my focus now switches to the enduro nationals.”
Groombridge is also the New Zealand enduro champion and, with three of six rounds now completed in that parallel series, he finds himself locked in a fierce battle with Christchurch brothers Angus and Hamish Macdonald, Mokau’s Adrian Smith and Helensville’s Tom Buxton.
The enduro nationals resume with round four near Christchurch this coming weekend.
Meanwhile, the 90-minute junior cross-country race was held earlier in the day on Sunday.
That was won by Te Awamutu’s Daniel White (Kawasaki), with Raglan’s Logan Shaw (Honda) and Cambridge’s Seton Head (KTM) completing the podium positions. Raglan’s Coby Rooks (Honda) and Eltham’s Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna) rounded out the top five.
With a 3-2-3 score-card from the three rounds, Head leads the title chase by eight points from Rooks (2-7-4), with White (1-dns-1) now up to third overall, although he is also in the strongest position now to take the title.
With riders discarding their worst result, White will obviously toss out his no-show result from round two, meaning a finish anywhere inside the top five at the final round should earn him the title for 2017.
While Shaw is down in fifth overall after three rounds, his 23-1-2 score-card could also be enough to claim the title. He’ll discard his 23rd place finish, after he crashed out while leading at round one, and set his sights on winning the final round to compile a title-clinching result.
The fourth and final round of the cross-country nationals is set for Cambridge on May 13.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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