Auckland’s Tom Buxton made it look far easier than it should have been as he dominated the third and final round of the popular New Zealand Grand National Cross-country Championships in the King Country at the weekend. The 20-year-old from Helensville took his 2019-model KTM 350 EXC bike to win the two-hour race at Waimiha on Saturday by nearly four minutes from Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and Titirangi’s Callan May. Buxton had finished third overall at the series opener at Matata in October, but won round two in the Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland, last month, and then his impressive follow-up win at Waimiha on Saturday confirmed his dominance and ensured that the series’ main trophy would go his way.
“I didn’t get the best jump off the start line … I got pushed around a bit at the start,” said Buxton, who works as a bull farmer. “The first corner funneled the riders in tight and I got blocked out, but it caused a few problems for lots of other riders too. I quickly made a few passes and was past about six riders within a few hundred metres and I was up to sixth position after about 300 metres. I put the hammer down and, as everyone in front of me made mistakes and slowed or crashed, I managed to work through and take the lead about 10 minutes into the race. I settled into a good pace and took it a little bit easy because it was very slippery under the bike’s wheels. After the first lap I knew where the track was taking us and that was it really. It’s mission accomplished for the GNCC series and now I can look ahead to tackling the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships. I have no plans yet to contest the New Zealand cross-country Championships … I don’t much like farmland racing and prefer the challenge of racing in forestry… so the enduro nationals will be my main focus in the New Year.”
May finished runner-up in the GNCC Series overall, with Yearbury, Drury’s Richard Sutton and Rotorua’s Ethan Harris rounding out the top five riders in the senior grade for this series. Taupo’s Wil Yeoman won the junior grade in the GNCC Series, with Tirau’s Alex Butler and Morrinsville’s Liam Calley completing the series podium. Buxton had been racing overseas for most of this season and not able to race much at home, making this series victory a fantastic way to herald his arrival back on the domestic scene. He had led the New Zealand Enduro Championships after winning the opening two rounds of that six-round series in April, but then decided to follow his dream and head to the renowned annual Romaniacs hard enduro event in Romania, abandoning the domestic racing scene at home.
“I was working as a track manager at the Romaniacs event, so I wasn’t racing there, but it was a great way to gain insight about the event. I hope one day to race the Romaniacs, but it is pretty brutal and I’m really in no rush to do it. I’m young. I’ve got time on my side.”
The KTM star will no doubt be among the favourites to win when the 2019 enduro nationals kick off early next year.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan