Olympics trip still an uphill climb
Fundraiser a boost for Kiwi campaign
Bay of Plenty's Cody Cooper was again the leading individual at the annual Battle of The Clubs (BOTC) fundraiser motocross in Taupo.
And that may seem either appropriate or even ironic, seeing it is likely the Honda rider will be one of those to benefit from this Taupo Motorcycle Club's popular cash-builder initiative.
The BOTC, held in atrocious conditions at the Digger McEwen Motocross Park facility just over a week ago, was staged to help send a New Zealand team to contest the 2016 Motocross of Nations (MXoN) -- often referred to as the Olympic Games of motocross. This year's 70th annual event will be at Maggiora, near Milan, on September 24-25.
Cooper is expected to be part of the three-man Kiwi squad to Italy.
Cooper raced for the Tauranga Motorcycle Club when it won the BOTC fundraiser event last season and he was wearing Cambridge Motorcycle Club colours when that club won the BOTC event outright for the first time this year.
This made the sixth different club to win the event outright over the event's seven-year history -- and twice Cooper has been key.
After convincingly winning the MX1 class qualifying race at Taupo and then finishing 1-2 in the two points races that followed, he was the best-performed individual at this year's BOTC.
"This event has a different vibe to most motocross meetings because it's not about the winning but all about raising funds to get the New Zealand squad to Italy in September," he said.
Cooper's Cambridge Motorcycle Club team mates at the BOTC finished 10-18 (Jacob Steel, MX2), 8-8 (Michael Cotter, veterans), 6-12 (Jayden Wells-Dally, junior 250cc), 6-9 (Reef Wheki, junior 125cc) and 9-13 (Brodie Connolly, junior 85cc).
The runner-up six-rider squad was the Taupo Blue Team, with the Nelson Motorcycle Club contingent third.
Each team was able to discard its two worst scores -- one from the junior ranks and one from the seniors -- so only 10 of the teams' 12 scores were counted.
Other outstanding individuals at the BOTC included Taupo Blue Team riders Hadleigh Knight (2-5, MX2 class) and Brad Groombridge (2-3, MX1 class), Nelson Motorcycle Club riders Bailey Banks (4-2, junior 250cc class), Grason Veitch (7-5, junior 250cc class) and Clayton Roeseke (4-10, junior 125cc class), as well as Manawatu Orion's Tony Cvitanovich (5-1, junior 250cc class), South Waikato's Ollie Ayre (9-3, junior 250cc class), Tauranga pair Rhys Carter (3-1, MX1) and Jye Deacon (3-8, junior 125cc); Rotorua's Cameron Vaughan (6-8, MX2), Taranaki's Riley Campbell (2-6, junior 250cc), Rodney's Claude Griffith (5-7, MX1), Kapi Mana's Adam Moss (3-13, junior 250cc) and Taumarunui pair Xavier Dalziel (2-7, junior 125) and Roydon White (6-9, MX1).
Manawatu Orion's Hayden Smith impressed in winning the combined junior 125/85cc class, Whangarei's Ethan Martens celebrated winning the combined MX2/Vets class race and Taupo's Jake Tomblin won the combined junior 250cc/85cc class race, although all three finished well behind the respective winners.
Meanwhile, Cooper is one of seven riders available for selection for the New Zealand MXoN team. Others are Tauranga's Ben Townley, Mt Maunganui's Rhys Carter, Queenstown's Scotty Columb, Takaka's Hamish Harwood, Hamilton's Josiah Natzke and Ngatea's Ben Broad. The final trio will be named within the next couple of weeks.
Even with the BOTC raising about $9000 towards the cause and other sponsors such as West Harbour company Workshop Graphics chipping in, the mission for Team New Zealand will again be difficult.
The US team, which has not won the MXoN since 2011, is the most-fancied this year. The US has won the MXoN a record 22 times in the event's 69-year history.
With 16 wins, Britain is the second most successful country at the MXoN and Belgium is third with 15 outright victories.
New Zealand has finished third outright at the MXoN three times -- England in 1998 and 2006, Belgium in 2001.