ENDURO NATIONALS REACH HALFWAY STAGE ON SATURDAY

The 2018 New Zealand Enduro Championships will reach the halfway point in the South Island this weekend.

The third round of five is set for Maruia, near Nelson, on Saturday, an event that could be pivotal for title hopefuls.

Helensville’s Tom Buxton placed himself on top of the AA Grade (formerly known as Expert Grade) standings after a couple of stellar rides at rounds one and two, at Whangamata and Tokoroa respectively, last month, but he has already ruled himself out of title contention.

Those initial forays were possibly the 20-year-old’s only two appearances in the enduro nationals this season as he now heads off for a “fun ride” in Romania and then a serious competitive outing in Austria, at the Erzberg “Iron Giant” enduro, from May 31-June 3.

Buxton won the day at Whangamata by just three seconds from Taupo’s 2016 national enduro champion Brad Groombridge and he then followed that up by winning the day at Tokoroa by 21 seconds, on this occasion finishing ahead of Coatesville rider Sam Greenslade.

So, with Buxton heading overseas, it leaves Groombridge and Greenslade, second and third respectively after two rounds, as the men most likely to scrap for the top honours.

Also impressive at the opening two rounds was Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, who finished third at round one and then fourth at round two, and Paeroa’s Chris Power, who twice finished fifth overall, and they should also be expected to threaten for the outright title win this season.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, sixth and sixth in the two rounds thus far, and Stratford’s Josh Hunger (8-8) are also perhaps on target for a podium finish this season.

Thames woman Natasha Cairns is the leading rider in the A Grade (formerly known as the Intermediate Grade). She finished runner-up in the A Grade at Whangamata and then third in the grade at Tokoroa.

Her nearest rival is Putaruru’s Phil Skinner, who has a 1-5 score-card for the A Grade after two rounds and he is just one point behind Cairns.

Round four of the series is scheduled for the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on June 9, with the fifth and final round the following day near Martinborough.

 

2018 NZ Enduro Championships calendar:

Round 1 – April 21, Whangamata

Round 2 – April 22, Tokoroa

Round 3 – May 26, Maruia, Nelson

Round 4 – June 9, Santoft (Bulls)

Round 5 – June 10, Martinborough

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

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BILLY BOLT INTERVIEW – WESS ROUND 1 WINNER

Charging to victory at Extreme XL Lagares, Britain’s Billy Bolt became the first ever winner of a round of the World Enduro Super Series. Beautifully mastering the rugged Portuguese terrain, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider led home a field of world class Enduro talent to secure the top step of the podium and maximum points from round one.


Fresh off his podium celebrations, it was time to catch up with Bolt who, after round one of WESS, now leads the race to become this year’s ULTIMATE ENDURO CHAMPION.

Congratulations Billy you are a first-time winner of both the World Enduro Super Series and Extreme XL Lagares. How do you feel?

Billy Bolt: “I’m absolutely delighted to win. It’s my first major international Enduro victory. I’ve been close a couple of times before but never quite made it over the finish line, so I’m really happy to get the job done. To do it at the first ever round of the World Enduro Super Series is extra special.”

You faced a nervous wait at the end to see if Taddy Blazusiak could beat you on corrected time, were you worried he might pull off something special?

“It was a tense time waiting on Taddy to finish his race. Everyone was going crazy with excitement saying I’d won, but I knew Taddy was charging and on corrected time he could still win it. He’s such a class act that anything is possible with him. So I tried to remain calm, patient and wait to see if he finished inside that 14-minute window I’d started the race ahead of him on. It was only when the time elapsed I knew I’d done enough.”

You started Sunday’s two-lap main race third behind Jonny Walker and Cody Webb, was that an advantage or disadvantage for you?

“If anything, it was a disadvantage but I took it how it was. On lap one I made a mistake trying too hard to catch them and lost a few minutes, but luckily nothing major. On lap two I felt more comfortable and wanted to push on. I had a few good lines on the most technical obstacles and was able to make my way around the back markers. But to be fair to the later starting riders, a lot of them moved aside and let the Pro riders battle for the victory — some even helped out on the hardest sections, so I’ve huge respect for them for that. I saw Jonny a few times but I didn’t quite know the gap we had. Once I passed him I knew I was provisionally leading, however I also knew of the situation regarding the fast riders still coming behind, so I kept pushing on.”

As a first-time visitor to Extreme XL Lagares what were your thoughts on Sunday’s Main Race?

“Extreme XL Lagares has a fierce reputation and it’s certainly lived up to its name. After the opening lap, I thought the river crossings might improve once riders had passed through them but that wasn’t the case. It was so slippery out there and in some rivers, there was no grip at all. You had to constantly search for tiny patches of grass or dirt to gain some extra traction. It was hard work for sure and a very technical start to the championship.”

Round two of WESS will mark your third visit to the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble. Do you believe you can make it third time lucky and win?

“I’ve been to the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble twice and I’ve experienced the best and worst of it. In 2016 it was my first Hard Enduro race and I finished fifth, then last year I rode with a broken toe and wasn’t able to deliver my best. But it’s an amazing place for round two of WESS. It’s my favourite race of the season because of the history which surrounds the event — it’s a hugely important race for Enduro. All the greats of our sport have won there and I’d love nothing more than to put my name on the winner’s list, too. Claiming victory would ensure an incredible start to the WESS championship.”

Finally, with victory at round one how do you now feel about the rest of the championship?

“I couldn’t ask for anything better than winning round one. Although I’m one of the youngest riders in the championship I feel like I’ve prepared as best I can to fight with the top Enduro riders in the world. Knowing that rounds one and two will favour the Hard Enduro riders I was focused on starting well. But I believe this win will give me confidence for the rest of the year ahead, to keep pushing for the overall series and that title of ULTIMATE ENDURO CHAMPION.”

The World Enduro Super Series continues with round two at Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble on June 1-3.

World Enduro Super Series Standings (after round 1)
1. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 1000 points
2. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 850 pts
3. Manni Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 770 pts
4. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 690 pts
5. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 610 pts…

FOX RACING WELCOMES CHRISTIAN CRAIG

With the team at the Alias camp going a little quiet, not only have the complete Geico Honda team gone to Shift Racing effective immediately but Christian Craig, who will race the outdoors in place of the injured Cole Seeley, has teamed up with FOX Racing for the foreseeable future. CHOICE!


I think it’s every rider’s dream to wear Fox I’ve actually never put the gear on until a couple of weeks ago and it was kind of surreal. The comfort and style are unlike anything else on the market and I am honored to be able to wear it this summer for outdoors.” – Christian Craig, Geico Honda

 

 

 

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JOAN BARREDA ON MERZOUGA AND DAKAR 2019

Joan Barreda was forced to retire from the most 2018 Dakar Rally after being unable to support the knee pains resulting from a crash in the heavy downpours in Uyuni. Possibly most painful of all,  the Monster Energy Honda Team rider had clawed back ten minutes from the overall race leader. However, it was not the knee, but the left wrist (which had been fractured in the testing for the Route 40) which meant that he had been unable to recover and compete in the Dakar at full fitness. Two months after undergoing operations for these injuries, the Castellón rider was able to get back in the saddle and triumphed in the Merzouga Rally in Morocco’s arid deserts.

Congratulations Joan. You’ve made a great comeback, winning in Merzouga a few weeks ago. How is the left wrist that they operated on three months ago?
Thank you. I am happy to be back riding the way that I want to. Just a few weeks after the operation, the two bones that hadn’t consolidated after the quadruple wrist fracture at the Route 40, have finally done so. Although they still cause some inflammation, they now allow me to hold the handlebars tightly once again. In a few days I will be back on the bike again and hopefully the inflammation will disappear for good and I’ll be able to ride constantly.

Was the Merzouga Rally the best place to test your physical condition? And to put your navigational skills to the test?
Exactly, despite being happy with the final victory, the rally made me realize that I’m still at only 70% of full physical fitness. The difficult navigation of this rally played in my favour and allowed me to win. The good thing is that I now have a few months to get back to the top level before the summer.

How did you view the Honda CRF450 RALLY?
The bike worked perfectly. But if I have to be honest, it’s something that no longer surprises me. We have worked a lot in recent years to improve the reliability of the bike and now know that it doesn’t give any problems. I’m happy that the pieces of this puzzle have started to fit together.

Last year you competed very little because of the injuries. Do you feel like taking part in more races this year?
Exactly. Last year I had two injuries during racing time and that made me miss all the rallies I had scheduled to prepare for the Dakar. This year the main objective is not to get injured and complete the preparation programme that we have planned. After the Merzouga Rally we will race in the Baja España, the Atacama Rally in Chile, the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina and the Morocco Rally. However, these are still to be confirmed depending on how the season goes.

What is your training schedule after the Merzouga?
The objective for these three weeks after the rally is to completely recover the wrist 100%, than continue with the physical training (gym, running, bicycle, motocross bike, paddle surf…). Afterwards, I’ll be back on the rally bike, as I still need to put in some serious kilometres aboard it.

You set up home in Andorra. How is the preparation in the Pyrenean country going?
I like Andorra a lot and I am very happy. I have more and more people around me here, and after five years that makes me feel even better.

We are a few days from the announcement of the new 2019 Dakar. What do you expect the next Dakar to be like?
I would like it to be along the same lines as the last one, and above all I hope that it continues to play out on new terrain where it hasn’t been before.

SHIFT AND GEICO HONDA AGREE TO MULTI-YEAR DEAL

SHIFT MX has announced today a multi-year signing of Team GEICO Honda.

GEICO riders Jeremy Martin, R.J. Hampshire,  Chase Sexton and Cameron McAdoo will all now join the Shift Syndicate and compete in the 2018 AMA Motocross series and beyond.

“The whole team here at Shift MX could not be more excited to partner with GEICO Honda this year, said JT Fox, SHIFT MX Marketing Manager. The team has always been one of the most professional and sought after teams in the pits and we’re looking forward to being a part of their race program moving forward.” 

Dan Betley, GEICO Honda Team Manager commented: “We are very excited to partner with SHIFT MX this season, the brand has really taken racewear to the next level and our team has been anxiously waiting to try out the new gear. We’re looking forward to some cool projects and a lot of race wins in the new look this outdoor season.” 

The team will contest the first round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross this weekend at Hangtown on May 19th wearing the all new SHIFT 3LUE Label – Black gearset.