EVENTS HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE — OLD AND YOUNG, NOVICES AND CHAMPIONS
Off-road motorcycle riders are being spoiled for choice these days. Unlike many countries, there are so many opportunities in New Zealand to take to the hills or the bush.
Starting in just a few weeks — near Tokoroa on June 19 — is the 2016 Dirt Guide Cross-country Series, which will cater for all tastes and abilities. That makes the choice easy — go and ride, improve your skills by learning from some of the sport’s elite, or perhaps even try to match them in a race situation.
In almost any corner of the country you’ll see vans, utes and cars with trailers, carting dirt bikes away for another weekend of off-road fun, typically an enjoyable challenge.
And the words enjoyable and challenge can be used in the same breath when discussing the four-round Dirt Guide Cross-country Series, an ideal training ground for riders who wish to push on and succeed internationally.
Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke (above and below), the man behind the Dirt Guide Series. He says the emphasis is on participation and not just winning.
Now into its ninth year and continuing to grow, the secret to the series’ success is that it caters for young and old and, though it does offer something to tempt the less-experienced novice and junior riders, it is also a challenge for the more serious and highly competitive of senior racers.
It will feature 3km and 10km junior races, blasting off in different parts of the forest at about 9.30am, with a more testing 20km course for the two-hour senior race set to launch at about 12.30pm.
Points are counted from just three of the four rounds; contestants discard their worst result.
Adding extra spice to the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series is that the opening event will also count as the first round of the fledgling NZXC series, the brainchild of former Kiwi international and 2015 national cross-country champion Paul Whibley, who was also the man who won last season’s Dirt Guide Cross-country Series.
Sponsored by Kiwi Rider magazine, the series kicks off on Sunday, June 19, at Tar Hill, about 15km south of Tokoroa.
“This series is set in the pine forests south of Tokoroa and it has now built a reputation as being a really fun competition,” said organiser Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa. “There is a class or category for everyone. The tracks for all the events this year have been prepared,” he said.
“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding. With riders getting older every year, we are keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along. There are classes for mini bike riders as young as seven,” he said.
“Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not about the winners but about participation.”
Previous series contenders such as just-crowned 2016 national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge, of Taupo, Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, the Dirt Guide series winner in 2014, and Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight are expected to enter again and national enduro women’s class championship frontrunner Natasha Cairns, from Thames, is also expected to make the journey.
Racing will be on similar terrain to that used for part of the big International Six Days Enduro in the South Waikato region in November 2006.
Clarke was the race director of the ISDE in 2006 and is no stranger to winning at this ultimate level of the sport. He won ISDE gold medals in 1992 and 1998 and that takes some doing.
To win a silver medal at the ISDE, a rider must be within 50 per cent of the winner’s time in their bike class and to win a bronze, all a rider has to do is finish — something that is often easier said than done.
This year’s ISDE is set for Circuito de Navarra, in Spain, between October 11-16 and several competitors in the Dirt Guide Series could be expected to compete in that or in the Australian Four-Day Enduro, in Victoria from November 15-19.
A handful of riders taking part in the Dirt Guide series will be off to compete in the Romaniacs Extreme Enduro in Romania between July 12-16.