Whitaker Ready To Go Bush After His "Hibernation"
There's perhaps nothing worse for a motorcycle champion than being kept locked up indoors.
You could easily imagine Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker getting wild, scratchy and hungry, for bike action at least, during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
But instead of developing into a bear with a sore head during his enforced "hibernation", this international athlete is putting on a brave face and making the most of his free time.
The KTM rider is spending plenty of time on his home gym, lifting weights and running, joined in his fitness regime by wife Jane, who is also an accomplished dirt bike racer, and their young son Maxton.
"I'm able to do a bit of stuff in the workshop," said the 28-year-old furniture polisher.
"I've been catching up too with all those home improvement jobs, but the nationwide lockdown has also freed up a lot of time for me to devote to fitness training.
"We're getting out for family walks, but the bike tracks are closed and so there is no mountain-bike training or motorbike practice time for me at the moment. We have a home gym and have been hammering that.
"I think my New Zealand Enduro Championship rivals will be in the same position as me though. But, as far as general fitness goes, I feel ready to go at any time."
The New Zealand Enduro Championships has been set to kick off near Whangamata in late March, but that event was cancelled because of the fire risk at that time. Then the following round of the nationals, set for Tokoroa on April 18, was abandoned because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown.
The event after that, round three of the nationals near Blenheim on April 27, has also now been cancelled and Whitaker anticipates the nationals may not now eventually get started until Martinborough on May 24, an event that had originally been scheduled as the fourth round of five in the 2020 series.
One more round remains on the calendar, for the time being at least, and that's the final round in the Santoft Forest, in the Rangitikei region, on May 30.
"Regardless of what happens with the enduro nationals, I'm planning ahead to contest the 2020 New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship and that usually kicks off after soon after the enduro series wraps up, probably in September."
Whitaker rode a KTM 300EXC two-stroke to win this extreme series last year, finishing just ahead of fellow KTM star Tommy Buxton, from Helensville, and so Whitaker surely ranks among the favourites to back that up with another outright win in 2020.
"We are all hoping the Coronavirus problems are over by then," said Whitaker.
"I have a new 2020-model KTM EXCF250 four-stroke still in its box and waiting for me to ride it."
Whitaker previously won the under-300cc four-stroke class at the enduro nationals in 2015 and won the open two-stroke class in 2018. This year he obviously returns to the under-300cc four-stroke class.
It is interesting to note that Whitaker is also a record eight-time New Zealand Trials champion – an entirely separate and very different off-road motorcycle sport – and also won the Australian Trials Championships three years consecutively, in 2010, 2011 and 2012.