Battling teams from 34 countries on a rain-drenched infield at Assen’s ‘Cathedral of Speed’ TT circuit, the Kiwi trio – Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh (MX2, pictured here, on bike No.50, during the start of one of his races), Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (MXGP) and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Open class) – had qualified 17th on the Saturday and this gave them direct entry to the 20-nation/three-race main event the following day, a massive achievement in itself.
However, a mechanical issue struck Walsh in race one and then he suffered a crash while running 12th in race two – that resulted in him dislocating his shoulder – and these two incidents ruined what had otherwise been a promising campaign.
Chase was toughness personified as he and the rest of the team kept it quiet that he had seriously injured himself during a training crash on the Wednesday before the event, a spill that left him suffering ugly, deep bruising all down his right thigh.
He amazed everyone that he was able to battle on despite this.
Enduring intense pain, his 34th and 38th (actually a DNF) results from his two races didn’t reflect his ability or his attitude and he deserved to be congratulated.
Meanwhile, the youngest team member, just-turned 19-year-old Purvis took his 250cc bike into battle against riders on 450cc bikes in the Open class and he proved to be something of a revelation, his 27th and 33rd results extremely honourable under the circumstances.
When the engines had been shut off and the soup-like mixture of sand and water had stopped vibrating at the Dutch circuit at Assen, the Kiwi squad of 2019 (Chase, Walsh and Purvis) learned they had finished 19th overall, just one position below where Team New Zealand had finished at Michigan, in the United States, the previous year, when Cody Cooper, Hamish Harwood and Rhys Carter had managed to finish 17th (elevated from 18th after Team Italy was disqualified for fuel violations).
The MXoN did not proceed the following year, in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and New Zealand did not send a team to the MXoN in Italy last year because of safety concerns and continuing travel difficulties associated with the pandemic.
But now the New Zealanders are up and running again and back at that same fateful RedBud track in Michigan for the 2022 edition this weekend, with riders Josiah Natzke (Tauranga, MXGP class), Brodie Connolly (Tauranga, MX2 class) and Rhys Carter (Waipukurau, Open class) determined to lift NZ’s status back into the top 10 or, if all things go well, perhaps even onto the podium.
There’s actually nothing fanciful about craving such a result – Team New Zealand, in its various configurations, has been on the podium at the MXoN on three memorable occasions over the years and, if everything aligns this coming weekend, it is entirely possible to achieve that again.
But it’s a big ask … the riders lining up again the Kiwis are very good indeed and of course that is clearly a massive understatement.
With current and former national and world champions galore, riders such as American Eli Tomac, French pair Dylan Ferrandis and Marvin Musquin or Italy’s Antonio Cairoli, for example, this MXoN starting list certainly glitters with stars, just as we should expect it would.
And that’s not to mention factory riders whose careers are on the rise, and here we’re thinking American Chase Sexton (who just turned 23 this week), 18-year-old Belgian Liam Everts (son of 10-time motocross world champion Stefan Everts and grandson of four-time world champion Harry Everts) and 20-year-old Italian Mattia Guadagnini (world junior 125cc championship runner-up in 2018 and winner in 2019 plus a member of the MXoN-winning Italian team last season).
There will be a quite a few ‘nearly-men’ too facing the Kiwis this weekend, riders who, for want of a little luck or opportunity, could so easily already have been world champions, men such as Switzerland’s Jeremy Seewer, (twice MXGP world championship runner-up, in 2019 and 2020), Belgium’s Jago Geerts (three times consecutively the MX2 world championship runner-up, in 2020, 2021 and 2022), or Dutchman Glenn Coldenhoff (3rd in MXGP world championships in 2019 and 5th in 2022, plus a member of the MXoN-winning Dutch team in 2019), to name a few.
But anything can happen in motocross.
The scoring for the MXoN is unique – the team with the fewest points is the winner. The way it works is that each race winner is awarded one point; second place gets two points; third place gets three points, etc.
There are three races and each rider races twice, with the teams’ one worst score of these three races discarded and the lowest combined score wins.
Consistency is key at this fabled event and the perfect 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 score-card (nine points in total, minus the worst score, equals seven points) has been achieved just once, by Team USA, at Maggiora in Italy, in 1986. The winning Americans that year were David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara and Rick Johnson).
© Words and main photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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