It Will Be Down To The Wire In The Wairarapa
DECEMBER 7, 2023: It’s the final throw of the dice for national cross-country championships hopefuls in the Wairarapa region on Sunday.
The opening round of three in the Whyteline Beta Motorcycles-sponsored series was held at Rotoma, in the Bay of Plenty in the second weekend in November, and three-time former national champion Brad Groombridge, of Taupo, dominated proceedings.
Round two was staged at a rain-drenched Maddix Park, in the hills overlooking Tauranga, two weeks ago and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman 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 18-year-old Yeoman sprung to the top of the standings.
So, just two weeks after winning the opening round, Groombridge’s advantageous position at the top of the rankings had evaporated with now just the final round at Tinui, near Masterton, this Sunday to wrap it all up.
Groombridge suffered terrible misfortune at round two, his bike overheating in the mud and leaving him with a classification of only 29th overall.
While this was disastrous for him in terms of claiming another title in 2023, Groombridge remains upbeat and said: “I’m still sixth overall and will fight on.
“As we’ve seen, anything can happen in this sport and, while it will now take a miracle for me this weekend, and possibly a disaster for the riders ahead of me in the standings, I still have a mathematical chance and I have to believe there is still a chance.”
Meanwhile, consistency may be the 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.
If this ends up being a two-horse race on Sunday, Yeoman and Dudson are possibly the two to watch out for.
In terms of overall series standings in the junior grade, Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes and Ekatahuna’s Sheldon Brown share the lead, with Aucklander Millen Cargill sitting third and only seven points behind the leading pair.
The 90-minute junior race will be held just before the three-hour senior battle, no doubt an ideal appetiser for the many fans expected to flock to the Tinui venue on Sunday.
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.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com