FOUR RACES AND FOUR WINNERS TO START SERIES
The 2024 New Zealand Cross-country Championships kicked off with thrill-a-minute racing at back-to-back rounds one and two near Nelson at the weekend.
There were two three-hour senior races and two 90-minute junior races on the hilly farmland course at St Arnaud and, remarkably, there were four different winners.
This augurs well for the four-round Yamaha-sponsored series, with intense race action assured at the two back-to-back rounds that will now follow in the North Island over the Easter Weekend.
Round three is set for Saturday, March 30, in Central Hawke’s Bay, with the fourth and final round scheduled for Monday, April 1 (Easter Monday), at Tinui, near Masterton.
Defending senior champion Wil Yeoman carried on where he left off last season by winning at St Arnaud on Friday, leading Rotorua’s Callum Dudson and Eketahuna’s Luke Brown across the finish line.
Dudson had his revenge by winning round two at the same venue two days later, with Yeoman and Auckland’s Ryan Hayward following him past the chequered flag.
This leaves Dudson and Yeoman tied at the top of the senior rankings, with Hayward third overall, Brown fourth and Wairoa’s Luke Taylor rounding out the senior top five.
Auckland’s Charlotte Russ was best of the senior women on both days, finishing 29th overall on Friday and 32nd overall on Sunday.
In the junior racing grade, it was first blood to Owaka’s Blake Affleck at round one on Friday, with Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown runner-up and Masterton’s Max Williams claiming third.
Two days later and it was Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes taking the chequered flag in the junior grade race, with Affleck forced to settle for second and Brown claiming third.
The junior grade standings after rounds one and two sees Affleck alone on top, Brown second, just five points behind, and Parkes in third, with Williams and Havelock North’s Luke McBeth rounding out the top five.
Best of the junior 85cc class riders was Cromwell’s Lochie Cornish, 12th overall on Friday and 13th overall on Sunday.
The leading junior grade woman was Rotorua’s Grace Fowler, 17th overall on Friday and 17th overall again on Sunday.
2024 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:
Round one, Friday, February 9, St Arnaud, near Nelson;
Round two, Sunday, February 11, St Arnaud, near Nelson;
Round three, Saturday, March 30, Central Hawke’s Bay;
Round four, Monday, April 1 (Easter Monday), Bush Riders Club, at Tinui, near Masterton.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com