With two rounds now completed and two different race winners emerging, the 2023 edition of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships will go down to the wire at the final round in the Wairarapa on December 10.
Round two of three in the Whyteline Beta Motorcycles-sponsored series was staged at a rain-drenched Maddix Park, in the hills overlooking Tauranga, on Saturday and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (pictured here) made the most of his excellent start to move ahead of the chasing pack in the two-hour senior race.
He eventually won the gruelling race by just over four minutes from Rotorua’s Callum Dudson, with Eketahuna’s Luke Brown claiming the third podium spot in the senior grade.
With a 3-1 score-line after two rounds, the 17-year-old Yeoman has sprung to the top of the standings.
The rider who had convincingly won the series opener at Rotoma two weeks ago, Taupo’s three-time former national champion Brad Groombridge, suffered misfortune at round two on Saturday, his bike overheating in the mud and leaving him with a classification of only 29th overall.
But it may well be that consistency becomes a not-so-secret weapon for Dudson, the Rotorua rider having finished fourth and second thus far and now finding himself overall runner-up for the series and just five points adrift of Yeoman, with only the final race near Masterton on December 10 remaining to wrap up the competition.
Yeoman was naturally thrilled with his success on Saturday.
“I was in second position as we headed into the bush for the first time after the start,” he explained.
“The lead chopped and changed for the first two or three laps as either I or Callum (Dudson) made little mistakes. The course was pretty technical and full of deep ruts and bogs. It was very wet and slippery.
“Once I arrived in the pits after three laps (of the six), I managed to open up a small gap over Callum and then just concentrated on looking after my bike, taking no risks and avoiding it overheating in the mud.”
Best of the race-within-a-race for veteran 35-44 years’ riders was Otorohanga’s Trevor De Malmanche (32nd overall), while best of the veteran 45-54 years’ riders was Te Awamutu’s Mark Mandeno (19th overall) and Stratford’s Megan Collins was best of the females, finishing 35th overall.
In the 90-minute junior grade race held earlier in the day, Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes dominated, finishing roughly three minutes ahead of runner-up rider Sheldon Brown, of Eketahuna, with Aucklander Millen Cargill completing the junior podium.
Best of the small bike (85cc two-stroke and 150cc four-stroke) riders was Raglan’s Ryley Shaw, who finished the junior race 14th overall, and best of the junior women was Rotorua’s Grace Fowler, who finished 25th overall.
In terms of overall series standings in the junior grade, Parkes and Brown share the lead, with Cargill sitting third and only seven points behind the leading pair.
2023 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:
Round one, Saturday, November 11, at Rotoma, near Matata;
Round two, Saturday, November 25, at Maddix Park, Tauranga;
Round three, Sunday, December 10, at Tinui, near Masterton.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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