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Whibley Puts This One In The Bank



MARCH 31, 2015: Even a sportsman the calibre of Pahiatua's Paul Whibley can admit that there is always something new that can be learned.

The 36-year-old Yamaha ace has enjoyed an international off-road motorcycling career that has been nothing short of sensational, winning dozens of international races and a handful of United States cross-country titles in the process.

But even he found himself struggling to cope with the demands of the inaugural Taranaki Hard Enduro event at the weekend.

"I'm a little light on experience when it comes to extreme events and, with the first Taranaki Hard Enduro, it was tough to know what to expect. If the track wasn't technical enough, the rain would certainly make the steep back country a challenge.

"Being the last Gold (class) rider to leave the start area meant I had plenty of riders to pass. I tried to push early and make some quick passes before it got too technical and tight. Still, by the time I got in the tough stuff it was nose to tail and not being able to carry momentum made it hard to overcome my lack of trials skills.

"Once up and over 'Boil-up Hill', I got into a good rhythm and started to flow through some tight bush single track. I was having a lot of fun and the YZ250 was working pretty good.

"Being a little unsure on how tough it was going to get I was pretty conservative. Unfortunately just over half way to the fuel stop I damaged my front brake and lost the fluid. As if the steep downhills weren't scary before, now they could be gauged by how many times I cartwheeled the bike into Ponga trees on the way down.

"I struggled on to the fuel stop, thinking my day was done. I rummaged around in the fuel trailer and found some fluid and tools and managed to fix the problem.

"I was stoked to be able to continue because to not finish after dragging my bike to that point would have been gutting. The second half had more technical bush trails and a few more farmland hillclimbs."

Whibley eventually finished the event third overall, behind fellow Kiwi internationals Jake Whitaker, of Wellington, and Greg De Lautour, of Taupo.

"Post-race I heard I had some good times but I lost a lot of time with the damaged brake. Still, just to make the finish at this event was satisfying enough."

It will now perhaps be just a matter of time before Whibley has a firm grip on how to tackle extreme enduro events and he already has his own extreme cross-country series in the pipeline, the inaugural NZXC Series, a five-round competition, set to kick off near Tokoroa in June.

Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Freedom Moto Yamaha, Monster Energy, Shoei, Sidi, Smith, MSR G2, Asterisk, Moto SR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Spectro, Acerbis, DID, JT sprockets, Leatt, Kenda, Yamaha NZ,, Unibiker and Tire balls.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan,