The third round of five is set for Maruia, near Nelson, on Saturday, an event that could be pivotal for title hopefuls.
Helensville’s Tom Buxton placed himself on top of the AA Grade (formerly known as Expert Grade) standings after a couple of stellar rides at rounds one and two, at Whangamata and Tokoroa respectively, last month, but he has already ruled himself out of title contention.
Those initial forays were possibly the 20-year-old’s only two appearances in the enduro nationals this season as he now heads off for a “fun ride” in Romania and then a serious competitive outing in Austria, at the Erzberg “Iron Giant” enduro, from May 31-June 3.
Buxton won the day at Whangamata by just three seconds from Taupo’s 2016 national enduro champion Brad Groombridge and he then followed that up by winning the day at Tokoroa by 21 seconds, on this occasion finishing ahead of Coatesville rider Sam Greenslade.
So, with Buxton heading overseas, it leaves Groombridge and Greenslade, second and third respectively after two rounds, as the men most likely to scrap for the top honours.
Also impressive at the opening two rounds was Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, who finished third at round one and then fourth at round two, and Paeroa’s Chris Power, who twice finished fifth overall, and they should also be expected to threaten for the outright title win this season.
Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, sixth and sixth in the two rounds thus far, and Stratford’s Josh Hunger (8-8) are also perhaps on target for a podium finish this season.
Thames woman Natasha Cairns is the leading rider in the A Grade (formerly known as the Intermediate Grade). She finished runner-up in the A Grade at Whangamata and then third in the grade at Tokoroa.
Her nearest rival is Putaruru’s Phil Skinner, who has a 1-5 score-card for the A Grade after two rounds and he is just one point behind Cairns.
Round four of the series is scheduled for the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on June 9, with the fifth and final round the following day near Martinborough.
Leading overall standings after two of five rounds:
AA Grade: 1. Tom Buxton (Helensville) 50 points (maximum); 2. Brad Groombridge (Taupo) 42; 3. Sam Greenslade (Coatesville) 40; 4. Dylan Yearbury (Cambridge) 38; 5. Chris Power (Paeroa) 32; 6. Jake Whitaker (Wainuiomata) 30; 7. Josh Hunger (Stratford) 26; 8. Mackenzie Wiig (Napier) 23; 9. Phil Singleton (Hamilton) 22; 10. Mitchell Nield (Kaikohe) 22.
A Grade: 1. Natasha Cairns (Thames) 42 points; 2. Phil Skinner (Putaruru) 41; 3. George Callaghan (Masterton) 33; 4. Sam Callaghan (Masterton) 25; 5. Nick Wightman (Tokoroa) 22.
2018 NZ Enduro Championships calendar:
Round 1 – April 21, Whangamata
Round 2 – April 22, Tokoroa
Round 3 – May 26, Maruia, Nelson
Round 4 – June 9, Santoft (Bulls)
Round 5 – June 10, Martinborough
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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