Kiwis to the Fore in the USA 27 Jun 2012
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Kiwis to the Fore in the USA
by Andy McGechan |
June 27, 2012
Yamaha’s Paul Whibley continues to lead the way in the United States, although the Kiwi hero will have to keep a very close eye on the two men giving chase as the battle heats up behind him.
New Zealand riders hogged the podium at the eighth round of 13 in this season’s Grand National Cross Country Championships in the US at the weekend, Wellington’s Rory Mead and Pahiatua’s Whibley finishing first and third respectively at the famous Snowshoe GNCC event in West Virginia, the Kiwi pair sandwiching American Kailub Russell on the podium.
It was a significant result for both New Zealanders – it was Mead’s second GNCC win on his first full season in the United States, while for Whibley it was a minor setback in his bid to reclaim the title he last held in 2009.
Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) had enjoyed a five-point lead over Russell, his nearest rival for the 2012 title, as the riders headed to West Virginia at the weekend, but that advantage has now been shaved back to a single point.
“Kailub Russell is riding really, really well,” said Whibley.
“I’ve just got to improve my speed and focus on getting better with what I’m doing. We’ve had some close racing this year, and that’s really good for the fans and for us. It’s cool.”
For Mead, who raced a similar Yamaha YZ450F to reclaim the New Zealand Enduro Championships crown last season before embarking on his first full GNCC campaign this year, the Snowshoe win was a stunning result.
The weekend’s result has now rocketed Mead from fourth to third in the series standings, albeit still 41 points adrift of Russell.
Russell took the early lead in the race but Mead then snatched the lead and there was no heading him after that.
The battle for third place waged between AmPro Yamaha team-mates Whibley and Jordan Ashburn but, six laps later, it was American Nick Fahringer who had moved up to claim the fourth spot, while Ashburn slipped back to settle for sixth place at the finish.
“The Snowshoe is a really cool venue,” said Whibley. “Starting in the Snowshoe Village there with all the buildings around, and all the spectators, and then you have the ski lift where all the spectators can get down the mountain and see other parts of the track.
“The riders race underneath the ski lift, too, so you can get a good angle on the racing from up above. The track itself is tough, it’s really rocky, and it seems like water holes just spring up and make it muddy. It’s a big course, twice the distance of a regular GNCC, so it’s hard to memorise all the lines. That makes it different.”
Round nine of the series is set for Millfield, Ohio, on July 7 and 8 for the Wiseco John Penton GNCC.
Whibley also leads the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series in the United States. Unbeaten after five rounds thus far, the Yamaha ace is well on target to claim his fifth consecutive OMA crown.
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