The 23-year-old builder from Rotorua had taken his cherished Honda CRF450RX bike to finish runner-up to Kiwi international Ryan Hayward at the first of three rounds in this popular series back in June.
Then he stepped things up a notch to win the day at round two at the same venue at Ohakuri, about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo, in July.
Dudson’s winning performance at round two also propelled him into the Forestland Series lead – with Hayward a non-starter as he had instead travelled off-shore to prepare for racing at the Red Bull Romaniacs event in Romania that weekend – but Dudson was taking nothing for granted as he lined up at Ohakuri again for the third and final round on Sunday.
Dudson knew he’d have to be at his best because Aucklander Hayward was back in the country and also gunning for the win on Sunday, along with several others who had arrived home after their respective Romaniacs campaigns, not to mention that Taupo’s former national enduro and cross-country champion Brad Groombridge was also in attendance.
However, once again, Dudson “screwed up” the start in the premier race at midday on Sunday, finding himself stuck in traffic and battling to find breathing room as the swarm of bikes entered the forest at Ohakuri for the first time.
“My start was pretty average,” Dudson conceded, but he quickly made amends and had worked his way up to fifth by the end of lap one.
By this stage, Taupo international Wil Yeoman had established a healthy lead, with fellow Taupo rider Groombridge close behind.
Dudson powered through and into third position shortly afterwards and that wound up being the final top-three finishers, Groombridge winning from Yeoman, with Dudson third at the end of two brutal hours (eventually four laps) of racing.
But third place was enough for Dudson to seal up the series victory, with Hayward finishing the day fourth overall and New Plymouth’s Sam Parker rounding out the top five.
“The laps were longer than normal, it was dry and even a little dusty in places and became rough too, but I managed to keep a steady rhythm and flow going,” said Dudson afterwards.
“I was pleased to pass Hayward early on, because he was one rider in particular that I really needed to watch out for in terms of the series win.”
In addition to Groombridge, Yeoman, Dudson, Hayward and Parker, equally talented riders such as Eketahuna’s Luke Brown, Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, Rotorua’s Daniel Bates, Whitianga’s James Kerr, Tauranga’s Reece Burgess, Auckland’s Riley Cargill and New Plymouth pair Blake Lusk and Josh Houghton, to name just a few, also showed incredible pace at Ohakuri on Sunday.
Multi-time national trials champion Whitaker finished seventh on Sunday, but that was still enough for him to capture the overall runner-up spot behind Dudson for the series, while teenager rider Parker ended the series third overall.
Meanwhile, Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown, won the morning’s 90-minute junior race, crossing the finish line ahead of Havelock North’s Luke McBeth, Ngaruawahia’s Bailey Babington, Rotorua’s James Bates and Rotorua’s Hadlee Fowler.
Brown had also won the two previous rounds of the series and so comfortably won the Junior grade overall this year.
Best of the mini grade riders on Sunday was Te Awamutu’s Jai Gibson, with Hastings’ youngster Cooper Hill and Havelock North’s Lote Shanley completing the podium, while best of the novice women was Rotorua’s Jackie Leggett, with Mangakino’s Grace Harcourt and Auckland’s Amber Uhrle rounding out the podium.
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 includes separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability.
Dudson is supported by THS Moto, Blue Wing Honda, Flying W race suspension, Fly racing apparel, Gaerne boots, Leatt, Pirelli tyres, IRC tubes and Polisport plastics.
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, USWE Maxi Grip, Maxima Oils, Blur and Husqvarna motorcycles.
2023 Forestland Cross-country Series calendar:
Round 1, Ohakuri, between Taupo and Tokoroa, Sunday, June 18;
Round 2, Ohakuri, Sunday, July 16;
Round 3, Ohakuri, Sunday, September 3.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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