The 2018 Dirt Guide Cross-country Series kicks off this weekend, again promising to be anything you want it to be … a serious competition for New Zealand’s elite dirt bike racers, a challenging afternoon’s ride in the bush or just a leisurely cruise along leafy forest pathways.
It will appeal to all-comers, but don’t be fooled by the varied skill-level aspect of the series, because it is precisely events such as this that have created, inspired and nurtured Kiwi cross-country racing talent over the years before setting some of our brightest young talent on a pathway to top-level international competition.
Several Dirt Guide race winners from the past, riders such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley and Howick’s Liam Draper, to name a few individuals, have all raced internationally in recent times and they can each trace their beginnings to dirt bike competitions such as this one.
This three-round series for 2018 kicks off at Ohakuri – about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo – this Sunday (May 27) and it is sure to attract riders from both ends of the aptitude and competitiveness spectrum.
Round two is set for the same course the following month, on June 24, and the third and final round of the series on July 22, also at the popular Ohakuri venue, doubles up as the opening round of six in the parallel-but-separate NZXC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island.
The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series has grown steadily since its beginnings in 2008 and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability.
Sunday’s event is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or novice riders to learn from masters such as 2016 Dirt Guide Series winner Greenslade, former Kiwi international Callan May, of Titirangi, or Manawatu’s Whibley.
Former United States and New Zealand cross-country champion Whibley was the outright winner of the Dirt Guide Series last year, while 2016 was the second time Greenslade had won the Dirt Guide Series, having clinched the senior title also in 2014.
“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Dirt Guide Series promoter Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa.
“With riders getting older every year, we are really keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along and ride. There are classes for riders as young as seven,” he said.
“Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not really about the winning, but about participation.”
The talent runs deep at the sharp end of the competition, with riders such as Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM) and Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM), to name just a few, among those worth watching and learning from over the course of the two-hour senior race.
The central North Island location of the Dirt Guide event virtually guarantees a good-sized entry list.
It is expected therefore that other leading cross-country riders such as Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar, Hamilton’s Phillip Goodwright, Waimauku’s Jake Wightman, Stratford’s Josh Hunger, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, Raglan’s Jason Dickey and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey will also be contenders to win one of the rounds or perhaps even the series this year.
In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.
Thames rider Natasha Cairns will be firm favourite to win the women’s grade, although Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer will also be a stand-out for the women.
The forest venue is signposted from Atiamuri on SH1, midway between Tokoroa and Taupo, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start just after midday.
The Dirt Guide Series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots, Yoshimura and Forest Trail Events and SatCo Logging Equipment.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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