The final showdown for 2020 Dirt Guide Honours
It's the final throw of the dice for trophy hopefuls this coming weekend as the 2020 Dirt Guide Cross-country Series roars to a conclusion south of Tokoroa.
The three-round 2020 series kicked off in June, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had been eased in New Zealand, and the huge turn-out of riders that day signalled that members of New Zealand's big motorcycling "family" were certainly eager to get out of lock-down and back on their bikes.
Round two of the series followed in July and then COVID-19 reared its ugly head again and the third and final round, originally set for August, had to be postponed until this weekend.
But it’s all systems go now for racing again on Saturday, with forest land at Ohakuri, near Atiamuri, again the venue for this rescheduled third and final round of the series and, if previous rounds are anything to go by, it'll likely be another nail-biter.
The venue at Ohakuri, just off State Highway 1, about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo, provides something special for riders from both ends of the talent or competitiveness spectrum and a traditional trail ride set for the following day (Sunday) will give riders who crave more time in the saddle a second crack at the forest trails.
There have been two different outright winners at the two rounds thus far – Manawatu's Paul Whibley the winner of round one and Waikato's Dylan Yearbury the top man at round two – but any one of perhaps half a dozen riders are capable of snatching away the main trophy on Saturday.
Helensville's Tom Buxton, Whanganui's Seth Reardon, Taupo's Wil Yeoman, Rotorua trio Bradley Lauder, Callum Dudson and Ethan Harris, Wellington's Jake Whitaker, Oparau's James Scott, Thames rider Natasha Cairns and Tokoroa's Jake Wightman, to name just a few, could be expected to threaten for the win on Saturday.
"Only a few people ever win races like this, so it's not really about the winning, but about participation and enjoyment," says Dirt Guide Series promoter Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa.
Clarke said there had been “quite a bit of logging in the area, so we’ve had to go in and re-establish a lot of the tracks”, which means there will be plenty of fresh trails to ride.
In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.
In the intermediate grade, Hamilton's Rowan Watt and Taupo's Scott Taylor share the lead overall after two rounds and so the battle for glory in that zone of the competition will also go down to the wire on Saturday.
With a 1-4 score-card after the first two rounds, Whangamata's Ethan Jameson leads the junior grade for the series overall, just three points ahead of Rotorua's Daniel Bates, although New Plymouth's Josh Houghton could also be expected to feature near the front of the junior ranks on Saturday.
The forest venue is signposted from Atiamuri on SH1, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start just after midday.
The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series has grown steadily since its beginnings in 2008 and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability.
Saturday's event is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or beginner riders to learn from the masters and perhaps put into effect during the trail ride on Sunday.
The Dirt Guide Series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley goggles, Ogio, TCX boots, Yoshimura, Forest Trail Events and SatCo Logging Equipment.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com