Paterson Off To A Solid Start In Nationals

It could not have gone much better for Waikato's Callum Paterson, with an almost start-to-finish win an ideal way for him to begin this year's New Zealand Cross-country Championships near Huntly on Saturday.

The 16-year-old from Cambridge took his Yamaha YZ125 into the lead soon after the shotgun blast had signalled the start to the junior race and he never looked back from there. If he had, he would have seen that he could not afford to ease up on the throttle though, with hard-charging Eltham rider Adam Loveridge (Husqvarna TE15) closing to within just a few bike lengths at the finish. But Paterson believed he had "everything under control".

Third overall in the one-hour junior race on Saturday was Napier's Bryn Codd, riding an identical Yamaha YZ125. "At this event last year, round one of the nationals in Dannevirke, I won my class and finished fifth overall, and I ended the season second overall in the under-200cc class, behind Adam Loveridge," said Paterson, a year 12 pupil at Cambridge High School. And what a difference a year can make, with Paterson now occupying the top step of the podium. "Staying in front of Adam (Loveridge) is my main target again this year," said Paterson. "He was pretty close behind me on the last lap today and I then had a couple of 'offs' and he caught right up. It was pretty close in the end. But I put the hammer down and managed to open up a little gap again. "The track was very slippery today, but I really enjoyed it. "I had a 12-litre tank fitted to the bike, but I didn't need to pit for fuel anyway because the organisers cut the race short today, otherwise I'd have had to come in a gas up on the last lap." Meanwhile, Taupo's Brad Groombridge won the muddy two-hour-plus senior race later in the day, followed across the finish line by Hamilton man Phillip Goodwright, with another Cambridge Yamaha rider, Ashton Grey, zipping past Taupo's Nathan Tesselaar late in the race to claim the third podium spot.

Round two of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships is set for farmland at Ormondville, in Central Hawke's Bay, on March 18, with round three near Taupo on April 8 and, finally, it all wraps up 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 national glory could go right down to the wire.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan