FORMER TRIAL CHAMPION SHINES IN ARDUOUS ENDURO CONDITIONS
He is a seven-time former New Zealand moto trials champion and a former Australian moto trials champion as well.
Now he’s turning those skills into great success in a completely different bike discipline.
Jake Whitaker made the switch to enduro racing a couple of seasons ago and it hasn’t taken long for his finesse with the throttle and his tightrope-like bike-balancing abilities to transfer into success on the gnarly enduro scene.
This modest athlete from Wainuiomata would probably shrug it all off by telling you it’s really just the same sport, just done at a significantly higher speed. But there’s much more to it than that.
The 24-year-old took his Husqvarna TE250 to tackle the inaugural Moonshine Run Hard Enduro near Porirua just over a week ago and, while even some of the sport’s toughest nuts were falling down all around him in the Akatarawa Forest, Whitaker ploughed on, making the difficult look easy, winning the race by an astounding 50min from fellow Kiwi international Paul Whibley (Freedom Moto BikesportNZ.com YZ250).
Jacob Hyslop (KTM 300 XC) finished third, 17min further behind.
Whitaker isn't afraid of getting a little dirty
Whitaker, Whibley and Hyslop were three of only six riders to complete three laps of the course, while several riders took more than three hours to complete one lap.
“The event definitely lived up to its name — hard enduro,’’ said Whitaker.
“The week leading up to this event was pretty wet, so the course through the forest was drenched and that made things tough to begin with.
“There were quite a few bits that I found challenging but what made it especially hard was the pace I was trying to maintain, so the intensity was high and there was no time to rest.
“The course featured everything ... there were steep tree-rooted up-hills and down-hills, two creek sections with big slippery rocks to get over and slick logs all over the place.
“It played to my advantage really, because my trials riding skills meant I was able to ride over a lot of the obstacles, rather than have to get off the bike and lift it across.
“ I didn’t really see any other riders until my second lap when I caught up to the lappers, so I didn’t see Paul Whibley behind me at all. To beat somebody the calibre of [two-time former American and current NZ cross-country champion] Whibley was a great feeling.”
The next major race for Whitaker is to tackle round three of the Dirt Guide cross-country series near Atiamuri this weekend where the season-long battle between himself and Whibley looks set to resume.
However, it seems 37-year-old Whibley has the measure of Whitaker in the Dirt Guide series.
Whibley has back-to-back wins in the Dirt Guide series so far and, with points from only three of the four rounds to be counted, he is now almost unbeatable.
Whibley made it look easy in winning round one of the Dirt Guide series near Tokoroa in June, beating Liam Draper (Howick, Husqvarna TC125) to the finish, with Whitaker finishing third overall.
Whibley led Whitaker at round two of that series in early August, with Sam Greenslade (Coatesville, Kawasaki KX250F) claiming third.