Round two of the 2022 Forestland Cross-country Series on Saturday will be an ideal shake-up before New Zealand’s elite riders head off-shore to race at this year’s International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in France in about three weeks’ time.
Saturday’s racing is set for forestry land at Ohakuri, near Atiamuri, about halfway between Taupo and Tokoroa, and the terrain there is sure to be a stern test for both man and machine.
The Forestland Cross-country Series is not a new competition, but rather a tried-and-true and extremely popular competition that has merely undergone a re-branding this year – it was formerly called the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series – so riders will feel entirely at home on the forestry course at Ohakuri.
Many of the big names have committed to being there, although riders of all abilities should be able to both cope with and enjoy the challenge.
Many of the riders who will be heading to France to contest the 2022 edition of the ISDE have indicated they will be racing at Ohakuri this weekend and, not unexpectedly, it was some of these same Europe-bound riders who shone out at round one of the Forestland series just south of Tokoroa last month.
“We wish the riders all the best for their upcoming campaign overseas,” said Motorcycling New Zealand general manager Mike Kerrisk.
“A lot of planning and hard work has gone into making it happen and team manager Justin Stevenson has been tireless in preparing for this. I’m delighted to see it all come together, particularly since we have not had a Kiwi representation at the ISDE in so many years.”
A large turn-out is therefore expected at Ohakuri on Saturday and Forestland Cross-country Series organiser Sean Clarke, himself a former medal-winning rider at ISDE events in the past, said he expects the forest course will “really keep the riders on their toes”.
“It will be hard and fast in places, totally different to our muddy opening round last month,” said Clarke.
“This track had been prepared last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with us, so the soil will be quite compact.”
Recently-crowned 2022 national cross-country champion James Scott, from Oparau, along with the winner at round one of the Forestland series, Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, and Whanganui’s former national enduro champion Seth Reardon should be favoured to battle for the leading positions on Saturday. They are scheduled to leave for France in about two weeks’ time and will want to be producing their best form at the weekend.
Oratia’s Callan May, Waitoki’s Ben Cottrill, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Helensville’s Josh Jack are also making the ISDE trip and they too could well be racing at Ohakuri on Saturday.
Other Kiwi internationals such as reigning national enduro champion Dylan Yearbury, from Cambridge, and national championship front-runner Tommy Buxton (Helensville) left several weeks ago to finalise their ISDE preparations in Europe. Howick’s Liam Draper is currently racing in the United States and is expected to join the team in France.
However, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley, Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight, Rotorua duo Callum Dudson and Ethan Harris, Wellington’s Jake Whitaker, Otorohanga’s Luke Brown, New Plymouth’s Sam Parker and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, to name just a few, could be expected to keep Scott, Yeoman and Reardon honest at Ohakuri on Saturday.
Riders such as Whangamata’s Ethan Jameson, Rotorua’s Daniel Bates, New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton, Cambridge’s Jared Hannon and Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes could be expected to feature near the front of the junior ranks.
The third and final round of the Forestland Cross-country Series is set for August 27, but by then the ISDE stars will be away in Europe and up to their elbows in fierce international action – the ISDE runs from August 29 to September 3.
The Forestland series caters for cross-country riders aged from as young as seven, through teenagers, adult men and women and to the upper age brackets too, with veteran riders in their 60s, or even older, all keen to join in.
The popularity of this domestic competition, which features a 90-minute junior race followed soon afterwards by a two-hour senior race, includes separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability.
The social trail ride event that had been set to be run at the same venue the following day will now not go ahead due to there being a car rally in the same forest this Sunday, but Clarke said the trail ride would be run later this month.
The Forestland Cross-country Series is supported by Forbes and Davies, Kiwi Rider magazine, Forest Trail Events, Satco Logging Equipment, O’Neal apparel, Ogio, Arai helmets, Metzeler tyres, Muc-Off, Maxi Grip, Maxima Oils and Husqvarna motorcycles, while the New Zealand ISDE team is supported by Motorcycling New Zealand, Ward Demolition, New Plymouth Underwater, Macaulay Metals, SignBiz, MJH Engineering and MotoMuck.
Forestland Cross-country Series calendar:
Round 1, Tar Hill, July 16-17 (race Saturday and then trail ride the following day);
Round 2, Ohakuri, August 13-14;
Round 3, Ohakuri, August 27-28 (race Saturday and then trail ride the following day).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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