Paterson Strengthens Grip On Junior Crown

Waikato teenager Callum Paterson is on a rapid rise to the top of his chosen sport. The Cambridge teenager has further strengthened his stranglehold on the junior grade title after a thrilling come-from-behind win at the fourth round of seven in this year's NZXC cross-country series in the Manawatu at the weekend.

 The 15-year-old, a year 11 pupil at Cambridge High School, had never before set foot on the sandy Taikorea Motorcycle Park facility, near Himatangi, until he arrived there early on Sunday morning and he probably wouldn't have recognised the venue even if he had been there before.

Heavy overnight rain had turned the pit area into a swamp and the 13-kilometre circuit into a treacherous and unpredictable obstacle course, one that even experienced local riders would have found demanding. However, it didn't take Paterson long to power his Yamaha YZ125 into position to challenge local hot-shot Finlay Wistrand (KTM 125 SX) for the lead and, by about halfway through the opening lap of the 90-minute race, Paterson was in front. "Finlay was pushing me pretty hard and I crashed in the motocross section of the track. It was nothing major, just a front-wheel wash-out, but I took ages to get the bike re-started and he (Wistrand) got away from me a bit," Paterson explained. "I came into the pits for fuel at the end of lap two and dad (Trent) told me that I didn't need to worry about beating Wistrand because he wasn't doing the whole series and so wasn't a threat to me. But that didn't stop me chasing hard anyway. "I caught Wistrand again and got past and then it was comfortable for me after that. I just rode safe and made sure I didn't do anything silly." Fellow Yamaha YZ125 rider Ben Paterson (no relation), from Dannevirke, a pupil at Napier Boys' High School, moved up to claim the runner-up spot, crossing the finish line 26 seconds behind Callum Paterson and just four seconds ahead of eventual third place-getter Wistrand. In fourth place, nearly a minute further back, was Havelock North's Sam Lee (Yamaha), with another Havelock North rider, Warner Chittock (Yamaha), rounding out the top five. Cambridge's Beau Taylor – Callum Paterson's main river for the NZXC Series trophy – was a no-show on Sunday and so this has allowed Paterson to build a massive 45-point gap at the top of the standings.

Three rounds remain in the series, with riders to discard their one worst result, meaning Paterson can't afford to relax just yet, although he certainly has a huge advantage. Cambridge's Mitch Thorburn (Honda) finished 13th overall on Sunday, but this gave him enough points to move into second equal position, level with Taylor, in the series standings. Meanwhile, Taikorea's Paul Whibley (Yamaha) convincingly won the two-hour senior race later in the day. He is unbeaten thus far in the series. Round five of the NZXC Series will be held at Matata on October 14, with round six in the Riverhead Forest on November 19, and it finally wraps up at Pahiatua on December 3.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan