Title contenders have started to cement their positions as the 2018 New Zealand Cross-country Championships reached the halfway mark in Central Hawke’s Bay at the weekend.
Bay of Plenty’s defending senior champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) and Taranaki’s junior grade hopeful Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna) each celebrated wins on the farmland course near Ormondville on Sunday, the second of four rounds in the series, further strengthening their respective places at the top of the senior and junior grades.
Taupo’s Groombridge took the lead early in the three-hour senior race on Sunday afternoon and never looked back from there, gradually stretching out his advantage to more than a minute over the day’s eventual runner-up, Raglan rider Jason Dickey (KTM).
Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM) finished third overall, barely a bike length behind Dickey.
The 27-year-old Groombridge, who first became national cross-country champion in 2016 and then successfully defended his title last season, has been relentless in his charge towards making it three consecutive national titles this year.
Groombridge also won the muddy season opener at Huntly last month and, with riders to count points only from three of the four rounds, discarding their worst score, the Suzuki man is already looking unbeatable.
Hamilton rider Phil Goodwright (Husqvarna), who was runner-up to Groombridge at round one, had to settle for fifth overall on Sunday, and the 36-year-old remains second in the championship standings, albeit now 12 points adrift of Groombridge.
“I got a decent start, took over the lead on the first lap and then just put my head down and opened up a gap,” Groombridge explained.
Meanwhile, in the 90-minute junior race, held earlier in the day, Loveridge was in commanding form.
He arrived at the timing zone just before the clock ticked over the 90-minute mark and so was sent on an additional lap, eventually the only rider required to race six laps of the course.
Raglan’s Coby Rooks (Honda) finished runner-up, with Napier’s Bryn Codd (Yamaha) claiming the third podium spot.
Loveridge now tops the junior leader-board, seven points clear of equal No.2 riders Rooks and Codd, with two rounds remaining.
Round three of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships is set for Taupo on April 8 and, finally, it all wraps up near Mosgiel on May 12.
Although riders out only three of the four rounds, there is a stipulation that riders attend the final round and this means the battle for national glory could last right until the final lap at Mosgiel.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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