Brothers in battle for NZ Enduro Championship
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This season's New Zealand Enduro Championships could be defined by sibling rivalry. Two brothers are locked at the top of the series standings, although a handful of other riders are knocking at the door.
Four of six rounds of the enduro nationals have been completed and the series reaches crunch time this Queen's Birthday weekend as the final two rounds are staged in quick succession.
Championship leader Angus Macdonald knows the pressure will be on him to protect his position at the top of the championship standings, though the Christchurch man has not yet shown signs of cracking. He has led the competition throughout, starting with the first round near Nelson in February.
It is his championship to lose as fierce rivals such as his younger brother, Hamish, defending national champion Brad Groombridge, Tom Buxton, Simon Lansdaal, Dylan Yearbury and Callan May have each had their campaigns blunted by one kind of disaster or another.
Groombridge crashed spectacularly at high speed, forcing him to withdraw from the day at round three of the series near Porirua in March, which dropped him from second to fifth in the overall standings.
He recovered to finish runner-up at round four near Greta Valley, north of Christchurch, just over three weeks ago, but he remains fifth in the title chase.
Buxton had his worst result of the series when he finished the day seventh overall at Porirua's third round, though he still remains third overall in the series.
Lansdaal had problems at the series opener near Nelson, finishing the day a lacklustre 14th in the experts class.
"I had a shocker at Nelson," he said. "I got fencing wire tangled around my brakes. It took me nine or 10 minutes to unwind it all and that's time I could never get back."
May suffered engine failure in the final section of the day at Porirua and it dropped him from fourth to 10th in the overall championship standings. He has since climbed back up to eighth overall, but this is still well below where he could expect to be.
Hamish Macdonald had to settle for an unaccustomed 17th overall at round one of the series, but topped the podium at Porirua, finishing the day just 34 seconds ahead of former national enduro and cross-country champion Adrian Smith, with Angus Macdonald and Dylan Yearbury and then Lansdaal rounding out the top five. Hamish continued this winning momentum to win round four at Greta Valley, lifting him to second in the standings, the greatest threat to brother Angus' title ambitions.
Any of these riders could feature this holiday weekend, though it will take severe bad luck for Angus not to secure his first national crown.
Meanwhile, it is a battle of the ages in the fight for intermediate grade honours. The leading intermediate grade round four are 16-year-old Blake Wilkins, 54-year-old Jeff Van Hout and 53-year-old John Buxton.
The venue for Saturday is on farmland at Waitawhiti Station, east of Eketahuna, and the series wraps up in forestry near Tokoroa on Monday.