These were the words of Bay of Plenty’s Brad Groombridge after he won the Tarawera 100 cross-country race near Whakatane, a brutal 100 mile (140km) off-road race — the distance that gives the marathon its name.
The Taupo rider is certainly a “golden boy” for the familiar yellow bike brand, his impressive runaway win at this year’s 39th annual race just the latest in a string of major victories he has celebrated this season.
Taupo’s Groombridge took his Suzuki RM-Z450 to win the national cross-country championships earlier this year, before also winning the New Zealand enduro championships outright, both his victories on his virtual debut in those two respective competitions — he had only “dabbled in a few races” in previous years — and those remarkable results he added to the one he achieved in finishing a respectable fifth in the MX1 class at the motocross nationals in March. The 25-year-old locksmith’s win at the Tarawera 100 just over a week ago should therefore probably not have surprised anyone.
Groombridge had finished third outright at the Tarawera 100 race in 2013, and was overall runner-up in 2014 and last year as well, making him easily one of the more fancied contenders to win this time around.
But he was up against a four-time previous Tarawera 100 winner, Mt Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450), as well as a solid line-up of other top-class dirt bike racers with varying degrees of motocross, enduro and cross-country backgrounds, and each one of them tough and extremely capable of winning the arduous battle.
Cooper won the Tarawera 100 for the first time in 2007, then backed that up by winning it three more times, in consecutive years between 2010 and 2012, but he met his match in Groombridge this time around.
“It was tough finishing a close runner-up in 2014 and again last year [both times behind fellow Kiwi Ben Townley, a non-starter this year], so it’s great to get that monkey off my back by winning this one,” said Groombridge.
When the shotgun blast signalled the race start, Groombridge initially found himself behind 10 or 12 fast starters and with plenty of work ahead of him.
“I made up a lot of ground early on and actually got into the lead after about 5km, just before we headed into the bush for the first time,” explained Groombridge.
“Then I crashed and Scotty Columb [Queenstown], Liam Draper [Howick] and Cody Cooper went past me. They then took a wrong turn, while I managed to spot the error quickly, spin around and get back on track.
“With that, I was up to about third, with Liam and Hadleigh Knight [Reporoa] ahead of me.
“I think Liam then had bike problems and so then it became a two-way battle after that between me and Cody for the win.
“I refuelled and gained a few seconds on him with my quick-fill system and then put the hammer down and opened up a bit of a gap, which I held until the finish.”
Groombridge eventually crossed the finish line more than three minutes ahead of Cooper, with Titirangi’s Callan May [Yamaha YZ250FX] finishing third overall, just 20 seconds further behind, and Columb and Knight rounding out the top five.
Of the 122 race starters, only 110 were finishers, with only 43 riders completing four laps in the three hours.
Groombridge has made winning dirt bike races something of a habit in 2016 and reckons he hasn’t finished yet, with the rest of this month and five months to follow before his racing year wraps up. “I’m hoping to again win the annual Acerbis Four-hour Race at Taupo and also claim a couple of class wins again at the New Zealand TT Championships before the end of the year.”
Class winners at the 2016 Tarawera 100 were:
Groombridge (over-300cc four-stroke); May (under-300cc four-stroke); Knight (over-200cc two-stroke); Gisborne’s Duncan Summerfield (under-200cc two-stroke); Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (under-19); Thames’ Natasha Cairns (women’s class); Hamilton’s Chris Singleton (veterans, 35-39) New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert (super veterans, 40-49); Taupiri’s Mark Fuller (mega veterans, over 50); Andrew Charleston and Scott Birch (two man and one bike class); Cam Dillon and Kieran Leigh (two man and two bike class).