A two-man battle is developing for national enduro championship honours this year, with just a handful of points to separate defending champion Brad Groombridge from his nearest challenger, Angus Macdonald.
With two of six rounds now completed, Taupo’s Groombridge knows he’s got a fight on his hands to retain the crown.
The 26-year-old Groombridge finished runner-up to 19-year-old Christchurch rider Macdonald at the opening round south of Nelson just over a week ago.
However, Groombridge finished third overall at round two at Whangamata on Saturday – significantly still one place behind Macdonald – and so Macdonald continues to lead the series outright.
Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade won Saturday’s event outright, just seven seconds ahead of Macdonald and 12 seconds ahead of Groombridge, but, as a non-finisher at Nelson, Greenslade has a lot of catching up to do and is down in seventh place overall after the two rounds.
Fourth overall on Saturday was Macdonald’s brother, Hamish Macdonald, while Helensville’s Tom Buxton and Titirangi’s Callan May rounded out the top half dozen.
As it all stacks up, Angus Macdonald has a five-point lead over Groombridge in the championship standings, with Buxton in third position overall.
There’s no reason yet for Groombridge to panic – there is still two-thirds of the series still to come – and he’s feeling confident as he looks ahead to the next few events.
“I felt that was a pretty good result at Whangamata, but it still wasn’t a win and of course that’s what I’m aiming for,” Groombridge said.
“The track at Whangamata was quite tight and, uncertain of the terrain, I didn’t want to force the issue and so I rode quite tentatively.
“It looks like being a scrap for the title just between me and Angus at the moment and I’m in a good position. There are still four rounds to go and anything can happen.
“As long as I keep at least finishing near the front I can stay in contention. It’s possible anyway to win the championship without winning a single round,” he smiled.
“It was my first visit to the Nelson course and also my first time at Whangamata, so both times I didn’t know what to expect.
The competition now heads south for round three in the Moonshine Valley, north of Wellington, on March 18.
Round four will be held near Christchurch on May 6 and then Waitawhiti Station, east of Eketahuna, hosts round five on June 3. Finally, the enduro nationals wrap up near Tokoroa just two days later, on June 5.
“I have raced at Moonshine before and I like it there,” said Groombridge.
Meanwhile, the leading riders in the intermediate grade on Saturday were Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins and Auckland pair Cameron Manley and Jeff Van Hout.