Heavy hitters of motorcross line up for challenging circuit
The stars of motocross line up this Sunday to find out who will be the King of the Mountain for 2016.
With major national titles on the line in the coming weeks, the annual King of the Mountain (KoM) motocross in Taranaki again becomes a litmus test to see who has the acid to win at the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville a week later and the national championships in Timaru only seven days after that.
The main contenders to win the senior races at the Barrett Rd Motorcycle Park, New Plymouth, on Sunday are again expected to come from the country’s elite MX1 (450cc) class riders.
Courtney Duncan in action on her Yamaha. Picture/ Andy McGechan.
Racing on this challenging circuit is always fierce and this weekend will be no exception, with heavy hitters among the entrants.
Taupo’s Brad Groombridge is a two-time KoM winner, winning in the mud in 2012 and again in 2014, but Queenstown’s Scott Columb was the main man last season, taking the key trophy ahead of Waitakere’s Ethan Martens and Mt Maunganui’s Rhys Carter.
Kiwi international and reigning national No1 in the MX1 class, Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper, looms as likely favourite this time around, although he will have his work cut out facing fellow Kiwis Kayne Lamont and Courtney Duncan.
Former national MX2 champion Lamont will be on the smaller 250cc bike, but he has a fondness for the Barrett Rd circuit and could hound Cooper.
The appearance of 19-year-old Duncan in Taranaki should be worth the entry fee alone as she hits top form in her preparation to race overseas in 2016.
Duncan has dominated the women’s branch of the sport over the past decade, and beaten most of the young men too, in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, and she is about to race the world championships, starting in Qatar on February 28.
But she is not guaranteed a full season and needs to impress at Qatar to ensure continued backing, perhaps even from full factory level.
Duncan has the backing anyway of New Zealand’s two-time former world No2, Josh Coppins, the head of the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team. She has been training regularly with him as she builds towards her world championship campaign.
For most of last year she was in recovery mode, after tearing the ACL ligament in her left knee in a freak basketball accident.
She is now back to full fitness and Coppins is quietly confident she will impress in Qatar.
“Courtney is only officially confirmed for Qatar at this stage,” he said. “It’s quite an expensive undertaking to do a full campaign and she’s not got a factory ride. She needs to show what she’s made of at Qatar and we can go on from there.”
For the nation’s motocross elite, the early weeks of summer can mean only one thing — hard work. This is when national title contenders should see their weeks of training and testing bear fruit.
Questions are therefore now being asked. Who has prepared best? Who is strongest? Who is fastest? Who will rate among the favourites in 2016?
Perhaps those questions and others will be answered when the gates drop at the KoM on Sunday.