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Extreme off-road race pushed riders to their limits

SEPTEMBER 9, 2019: The New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championships kicked off near Whangamata on Saturday and certainly lived up to its name.

"It was hard," said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson in a short, simple and obvious understatement.

"Riders were told it would take them two hours to complete the first 40 kilometres of the course and it would take them another two hours to complete the last seven kilometres. It was too tough for a lot of the riders and we cut it off for some after three hours."

Kiwi international Chris Birch was best of the survivors of this first round of four, staged in a damp Taungatara Forest, although it is unlikely that this world-renowned rider from Thames will be the one who eventually celebrates when the Yamaha-sponsored series wraps up in November.

Birch won the day at Whangamata, finishing nearly six minutes ahead of Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker, but Birch was classified as a non-championship rider because he does not currently have a national licence.

So therefore it was Whitaker who officially claimed the top spot, finishing the day ahead of New Plymouth's Tony Parker and Helensville's Tom Buxton.

It was extremely challenging, but that what it was meant to be," said Stevenson.

"There was a good turn-out of riders, despite the weather that had been forecast. We were lucky, actually, because they day was mostly okay weather-wise. Even knowing it was going to be tough, the riders still came ... I guess they knew what they were in for.

"Round two should be a little easier. It will be challenging, but a different challenge," he said.

There were bronze, silver and gold level courses, designed to cater for all the various skill levels.

Veteran Huntly rider Warren Tapp finished top of the Silver Grade, ahead of Auckland's Tony Walch, while Thames woman Natasha Cairns led the way in the Bronze Grade, finishing the day ahead of Tauranga's Matt Reece.

Rounds will now follow at Moonshine, off Bulls Run Road, near Porirua on September 22, with a two-dayer planned for Hawke's Bay (at Taradale on day one and at Tutira on day two) on November 2-3.

Just as it did for last year’s inaugural series, the competition will again wrap up with another double-header weekend, at the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 15-16.

Only three of the four rounds of the Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders discarding their one worst score from the three North Island rounds.

The 2019 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine, Moto Events NZ and NZ Car Parts (Auckland).

The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.

Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.

Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke's Bay.

Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.

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