Paul Whibley a triple treat in Cross-Country Series
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Three wins from three starts and using three different bikes: Manawatu's Paul Whibley made it a triple treat when he wrapped up the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series near Tokoroa on Sunday.
The former Kiwi international surprised everyone in May when he took a four-year-old Yamaha YZ125 motocross bike "out of the back of the shed, just to give it an airing" and convincingly won round one of the 2017 Dirt Guide Series at Ohakuri -- the popular forestry venue, which is about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo.
He then showed up for round two at Tar Hill, 12km south of Tokoroa, last month with his more-familiar Yamaha YZ450FX cross-country bike and won the two-hour senior race on that occasion too.
With two wins from two starts in the three-round series, Whibley was the obvious favourite to take the competition's main trophy when the final round was held on Sunday, revisiting the forestry at Ohakuri for the two-hour showdown.
Fellow Yamaha riders Callan May and Ashton Grey were not too far behind Whibley in the overall points analysis at the start of Sunday and the trend continued, with May finishing runner-up in Sunday's race, albeit eight minutes behind Whibley, and Grey fourth, four minutes behind Tom Buxton of Helensville.
These results gave the series' finishing order a shake-up in the minor placings.
May was elevated from third overall to second equal, ending the series level on points with Grey.
Buxton and Te Awamutu's Kevin Archer rounded out the top five for the series.
This time borrowing a third different bike, a 2016-model Yamaha YZ250FX, Whibley was immediately in front at the start on Sunday.
Quickly into his stride, Whibley began building his advantage and, after just two laps, he was two minutes clear of the chasing bunch of riders. "The bike worked out really well for me," said the 39-year-old two-time former United States champion.
"The track conditions were pretty tough, with lots of mud and deep ruts forming, but, because this bike was a bit lighter than my 450cc bike, it was quite easy to pop it out of the ruts and find traction on fresher parts of the track.
"I tried to concentrate on riding smoothly and not making mistakes because the track was pretty treacherous.
"I didn't know how far behind me the other riders were, but I kept pushing hard to give myself a buffer in case something went wrong.
"Winning all three rounds on three different bikes is pretty cool, too," he said.
Whitianga's Blake Wilkins finished 25th overall on Sunday, sixth best among the intermediate grade riders.
This was enough for him to win the intermediate grade trophy. Wilkins' intermediate grade results for the series were 1-1-6.
Meanwhile, the Dirt Guide Series has a wide appeal and again catered this season for the sport's junior and mini riders.
Beau Taylor finished runner-up to fellow Cambridge rider Callum Paterson in Sunday's 90-minute junior race, which was easily enough for Taylor to claim the junior trophy for 2017.
Taylor posted a 1-1-2 score-card for the series to head off Paterson -- who registered 3-2-1 results over the three rounds -- and Tokoroa's Nick Wightman (2-4-3).
Winner of the mini grade race on Sunday was New Plymouth's Sam Parker. With his 2-1-1 score-card for the series, Parker also won the series' mini grade trophy.
Whibley is making plans to head back to the United States where he is now being employed by his former racing team boss to act as trainer and mentor for some of the rising stars there.
He spent time coaching in South Carolina earlier this year and was asked to return.