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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.

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NATIONAL XC GIVEN A SHAKE-UP

Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM 350 XC-F), on his way to winning on Sunday, that result boosting him into the series lead. Photo by Andy McGechan

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

CROSS COUNTRY SERIES CONTINUES

Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM 350 XC-F), one of those locked in a tight battle for a podium finish this season. Photo by Andy McGechan

Throttles will be pinned to the stops at the third round of four in the 2018 New Zealand Cross-country Championships near Taupo this weekend.

With just 12 points to separate the top three senior riders and just seven points to separate the lead trio in the junior ranks after round two near Ormondville last month, it means there’s no margin for error and the slightest mistake could prove costly for those seeking a podium finish to the championship. 

Defending champion in the senior grade, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450), simply picked up where he left off last season when he won the opening two rounds of the 2018 series and he will again be hard to beat this Sunday, particularly with him racing so close to home.

But Hamilton’s Phil Goodwright (Husqvarna FX350) and Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar (KTM 350 XC-F) are both within catching distance, these two men locked together at second equal in the standings at this halfway stage to the competition.

Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig (KTM 300XC) and Stratford’s Josh Hunger (Husqvarna FX350) are fourth equal and also in a mood to move up.

However, if the relentless progress of Groombridge can’t be stalled this weekend, then it’s likely he’ll wrap up the 2018 with a round to spare on Sunday, earning him a third consecutive national cross-country crown.

In the junior grade, Eltham’s Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna TE150) has taken charge so far, finishing runner-up at the series opener near Huntly and then backing that up with a solid win at round two near Ormondville.

Raglan’s Coby Rooks (Honda CRF250) and Napier’s Bryn Codd (Yamaha YZ125) are within striking distance of Loveridge, second equal and just seven points behind.

Meanwhile, Cambridge’s Michael Henry (KTM 250 XC-F), Hamilton’s Caleb Richardson (KTM 250 SX-F), Dannevirke’s Ben Paterson (Yamaha YZ125) and Eltham’s Josh Loveridge (Husqvarna FE250) must also fancy their chances, these four riders in a tight battle for fourth overall and separated by just two points.

Racing on Sunday is on farmland at 6204 Western Bay Road, Waihaha, west of Lake Taupo.

The fourth and final round of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships is set for farmland near Mosgiel on May 12.

Only three of the four rounds are counted towards the championships, with riders to discard their one worst score, but there is a stipulation that riders attend the final round, and this means the battle for a coveted podium result could last right until the final lap at Mosgiel.

 Words and photo by Andy McGechan

HUSQVARNA HARD X CROSS-COUNTRY RACE HAS IT ALL

Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig, sure to be among the frontrunners at the Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, on Saturday. Photo by Andy McGechan

It could be New Zealand’s ultimate of extreme cross-country race, but don’t be frightened off by the event’s daunting title, because it will appeal to all levels of ability.

The Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, this Saturday is a four-hour cross-country race that will “feature all the great trails and hard bits of a Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro, but on a compact course, with hard sections deemed suitable for the grade that the rider enters”.

Organiser Sean Clarke said the event, from 11am until 3pm, would have mass appeal.

“This is the first time we have held a Hard X event,” said Clarke, who has previously run the difficult Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro Events in the same area of the country.

“This Hard X event is to show riders what the three-day hard enduro is like but in a compact way,” he explained. “It will be a lot easier to enter and ride. Riders don’t need a GPS device on their bikes, they don’t need head lights or tail lights and they don’t need to be concerned with the thought of six hours of gruelling riding, like what they might encounter at a hard enduro.

The course is approximately 25 kilometres in length, that riders will traverse several times during the four hours, and it will feature a “good mixture of single trail, firebreaks and a few hard bits thrown in for good measure”.

Riders classify themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grade competitors and the course they’ll face will hopefully reflect that level of proficiency.

“Entries are still open, although riders may still enter on the day if they are waiting to see what the weather is going to do, but it is looking like it will be fine, with maybe just a few showers.

“Everyone is probably thinking it’s going to be a psycho-hard event, but it’s not.”

Clarke said the Bronze class would be about the same level as a hard section at a trail ride, with the Silver and Gold class courses will be just a little bit harder than that.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig and New Plymouth’s Tony Parker are among the leading riders so far entered.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, who won the Husqvarna Hard Enduro last October, is currently sidelined with injury.

“If you have ever thought what the world-renowned Romaniacs enduro (in Romania) is like to compete at, well the Gold class at this event is about the same as the Bronze class over there. So we call for riders to come and give it a go,” said Clarke.

“It will also be an awesome event for spectators because there is plenty to see that is handy to the pit area, which is an old quarry.”

Saturday’s venue will be signposted on State Highway 1, 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa.

The Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race is supported by Husqvarna New Zealand, Satco NZ Ltd, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Forest Trail Events.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Groomy Slays it at the Scott Six-Hour

Brad Groombridge Destroys The Competition In Six-Hour Race

Two-time former and reigning national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge, who is also currently leading the 2018 national cross-country series, was again in scintillating form at the weekend as he won the annual Scott Six-Hour race at Matata.

What made it more remarkable was that the Suzuki ace rode Saturday’s event solo, while most of the competitors chose to form up as two-rider teams.

The 27-year-old Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z450) finished the gruelling marathon nearly a minute ahead of Rotorua two-rider team Callum Dudson and Ethan Harris, with another two-man pairing, Hamilton duo Phillip Goodwright and Phil Singleton, took the third podium spot.

The second best of the solo riders was Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig, who finished the race a creditable 13th overall.

Bay of Plenty’s former motocross world champion Ben Townley, who teamed with Taupo rider Nicolette Epps, had the lead at the start, but Groombridge was on the charge after exiting turn one in about fifth position and was soon closing in.

“It was the first time I’d raced the 2018-model RM-Z450 at a cross-country event, but I was loving it,” said Groombridge, who took over the lead on lap two of what would eventually become 13 trips around the challenging course.

“I opened up a bit of a gap and I knew a couple of teams were about a minute behind me, but they never got closer to me than that.”

“In the end I was able to cruise to the finish.”

Groombridge now switched his focus back to racing the same bike at the New Zealand Motocross Championships, the third round of four in Hawke’s Bay this Sunday.

He is currently running seventh overall in the MX1 standings at the motocross nationals and, riding a RM-Z250 in the MX2 class, he is currently in the runner-up spot, behind defending national MX2 champion Hamish Harwood, from West Auckland, and head of Australian former GP racer Jay Wilson.

The versatile combination of Groombridge and his RM-Z450 will then change tack again a week later to tackle round two of the cross-country nationals at Ormondville (on March 18), a busy schedule that would surely sap the energy of anyone but this superman rider.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan