Photo: North Shore’s Sam Greenslade (Kawasaki)
There is simply no excuse for not riding your bike this weekend.
The popular Dirt Guide Cross-Country Championships kicks off on Sunday in what promises to be an even bigger and better series than before.
Now into its eighth year and continuing to grow, the secret for the series’ success is that it caters for young and old alike and, while it does offer something to tempt the less-experienced novice and junior riders, it is also a challenge for the more serious and highly-competitive senior racers.
The series has this year been boosted from three to four rounds and it’s all set to kick off in forestry at Tar Hill, just south of Tokoroa, this Sunday (June 14), featuring two separate three-kilometre and 10-kilometre junior races to blast off in different parts of the forest at the same time at about 9.30am, with a more testing 20-kilometre course for the two-hour senior race set to launch at about 12.30pm.
Points are counted from just three of the four rounds, with contestants to discard their one worst result.
Adding extra spice to the expanded Dirt Guide Series this year is that Sunday’s event will also count as the opening round of the fledgling NZXC series, the brainchild of former Kiwi international and just-crowned national cross-country champion Paul Whibley.
Pahiatua’s Whibley is “cherry-picking” from several separate competitions to form his own five-round NZXC series and so riders on Sunday will have double the incentive to ride well and earn solid points.
The Dirt Guide series organiser is Tokoroa enduro icon Sean Clarke.
“I really enjoy putting this series on, especially for the junior riders,” said Clarke.
“It gives them a look at what cross-country and enduro racing is like in the forestry. I myself never got to ride in the bush until I was 15 years old, but now we have the minis riders starting at seven years old, so it gives them a great start in this type of racing.
“We run two courses for the minis and juniors, which are just smaller versions of what the seniors tackle.
“This series also brings the cross-country and enduro riders together for a real clash of the codes, with the course I set a bit slower than the normal cross-country races but faster than an enduro course, so it makes for great racing.”
Last year’s Dirt Guide Series senior winner was Auckland’s Sam Greenslade, and he should again be expected to feature near the front this weekend.
Greenslade didn’t dominate and win every race last season, but consistency earned him the main prize, his 2-4-3 results over the three rounds giving him the outright win over fellow North Shore man Chris Power (12-2-2), with Mokau’s former national enduro and cross-country champion Adrian Smith posting a 1-3-22 score-card to finish third overall.
The winner at round two last year was Taupo youngster Greg De Lautour, while Titirangi international Callan May won the final round of last year’s series.
The Dirt Guide series is a popular stand-alone series, separate from the nationals, and a perfect preparation for Kiwis wishing to head on to greater things.
May is a good example of a rider who has done just that.
He is overseas again this season, regularly finishing among the leaders in the prestigious Grand National Cross-country Championship series in the United States, so he obviously won’t be among the starters at Tar Hill on Sunday.
Others to watch for on Sunday include Helensville’s Tom Buxton, who won the intermediate grade last season, finishing the series ahead of Te Puke’s Daniel Marsh.
Waimauku’s Jake Wightman was the top junior in both 2013 and 2014, while Te Awamutu’s Rachel Archer won the 85cc class last year and should also be expected to shine this time around.
Round two of the series is set for Ohakuri, also just south of Tokoroa, on August 9, with round three to follow at a new venue near Atiamuri on September 6. The fourth and final round is set for a return to Tar Hill on October 4.
The series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots and Yoshimura.
Dirt Guide Cross-country Championships 2015:
Round one: June 14, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa
Round two: August 9, Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa
Round three: September 6, Atiamuri (new venue)
Round four: October 4, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa
Media: Andy McGechan