Young Yamaha Star Has Matata In His Cross-Hairs

This weekend's fifth round of seven in the popular NZXC cross-country series at Matata, in the Bay of Plenty, could decide where the main trophy ends up this season. It was a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 sweep at the previous round of the series at Taikorea, near Palmerston North, in August – Paul Whibley leading Titirangi's Callan May, Cambridge's Ashton Grey and then Masterton's Adam Easton across the finish line.

 And not only was it a Yamaha clean sweep, but it was also the extension of a personal sweep, with Whibley also the outright winner at rounds one, two and three of the NZXC Series. However, Whibley has indicated that he probably won't race this weekend and, because Easton's result at Taikorea was his only worthwhile effort thus far, it means that May and Grey are well positioned to take maximum advantage at Matata on Saturday. Second in the series standings, May would like nothing better than to dominate at Matata on Saturday, although title rival Grey will be going all out to do a little dominating of his own. "I'm really excited for this weekend," said the 17-year-old Grey. "My fitness has improved since the previous round and my speed is good too. "I love racing at Matata and always do well there, so fingers are crossed for this weekend too." Kiwi former international Whibley created the NZXC Series two years ago, "cherry picking" from some of the best races from similar series and then stitching them together to form a separate but parallel competition.

It has proven to be extremely popular and this weekend's round is perhaps twice as significant because it shares the billing with the first round of three in the parallel-but-separate GNCC series. With six of the seven rounds to be counted in the NZXC series, as competitors are to discard their one worst score, and just three rounds remaining, Whibley is clearly on top of the standings, but anything is still possible. Cambridge's Callum Paterson (Yamaha) enjoys a solid 45-point advantage at the top of the series' junior standings.

The venue for Saturday's racing will be signposted from the Matata straights at Mimiha Road, about 5 kilometres north of Matata. Round six of the NZXC Series will be held in the Riverhead Forest on November 19, and it finally wraps up at Pahiatua on December 3.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan