Two rounds complete and two different Yamaha riders were the winners, so it could be a battle between mates to decide this year’s New Zealand Cross-country Championships.
Palmerston North’s defending national champion Adam Reeves won the first of four rounds near Pahiatua last month and fellow Yamaha rider Adrian Smith, of Mokau, won the day at round two near Huntly on Sunday.
With riders to discard their worst result of the series – so that only three rounds are counted – it is destined to be a very tight battle indeed before the championships wraps up near Christchurch on May 12.
The 26-year-old Smith – crowned Waitomo Sportsperson of the Year in December – was unstoppable on Sunday, taking his Yamaha YZ250F to the front midway through the opening lap and never looking back.
“I was among the top four at the start but then crashed trying to make a pass on (Huntly rider) Daniel Hoskins.
“That cost me about four positions while I picked myself up again. I was soon up to the leaders and took over at the front about halfway through the opening lap. I was about 40 seconds in front at the end of the 18-kilometre lap.
“I came in for a refuel and then went hard-out for the next lap to stretch my advantage out.”
Smith managed a fourth-place finish at the series’ opener, that day being his first ride back from injury, but he’s 100% again now and looking forward to the second half of the series.
Whakatane rider Lance O’Dea is also among the title favourites, his 2-3 results thus far putting him in a prime position to win overall.
Round one winner Reeves finished an unaccustomed seventh at round two on Sunday, although he is still in a position to defend his title if he can string together two more decent results.
“I had a huge crash and knocked the wind out of myself,” explained Reeves. “I put in some fast lap times to claw back into the top 10 and I was pleased with my pace.”
The next round is set for Marlborough on April 22, with the final near Christchurch on May 12.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com