The 2018 New Zealand Cross-country Championships will now very definitely go right down to the wire at the fourth and final round after several top riders experienced mixed fortunes at round three near Taupo on Sunday.
With two wins from two starts before Sunday’s third round of four, Taupo’s defending champion Brad Groombridge appeared to have everything under control.
But then came a huge dose of bad fortune for Groombridge on Sunday, the Suzuki man running out of fuel while leading on the 13th and final lap.
Groombridge was credited with ninth overall, as one of only a handful of riders to exit the timing zone before the three-hour race duration had elapsed and so one of only nine riders to actually start a 13th lap.
But his 1-1-9 score-card after three rounds of the series has put him second on the points table, behind new series leader Nathan Tesselaar, the KTM rider from Taupo who inherited the lead and won the day on Sunday. Tesselaar’s score-card for the series so far is 4-3-1.
Runner-up on Sunday was Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (KTM), his first ride in the series, after only recently arriving back in the country following a year in the United Kingdom, and so he is not a realistic contender for the national title this season.
Third on Sunday was Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM).
Dickey and Hamilton’s Phil Goodwright (Husqvarna) should also be considered title contenders because, with only three of four rounds to be counted as riders discard their one worst result, it puts Dickey (0-2-3) and Goodwright (2-5-7) right in the hunt at Mosgiel.
Meanwhile, in the 90-minute junior grade race held earlier in the day, Hamilton’s Caleb Richardson (KTM) was the runaway winner, crossing the finish line 20 seconds ahead of Napier’s Bryn Codd (Yamaha), with Cambridge’s Michael Henry (KTM) claiming third, just eight seconds further back.
This finishing order caused a reshuffle also in the junior grade, with Codd taking over the top spot from Eltham’s Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna), who managed only seventh on Sunday.
However there is virtually nothing to separate Codd (3-3-2) from Loveridge (2-1-7), or even Raglan’s Coby Rooks (Honda, 4-2-6), Richardson (10-4-1), Henry (7-5-3) or Cambridge’s Callum Patterson (Yamaha, 1-20-4) once “discarded” results are taken into account.
The fourth and final round of the series is set for farmland near Mosgiel on May 12.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com