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Smith Stretches His Legs In The Forest

 

MAY 12, 2015: He couldn't quite knock the national champion off his perch, but Adrian Smith was still more than satisfied with his weekend's work.

Auckland's Chris Birch was again the dominant force as the seven-round New Zealand Enduro Championships series wound up with a double-header weekend in the Central North Island on Saturday and Sunday, the off-road motorcycle racing on rugged farmland near Waimiha on day one and then in dense forest, just south of Tokoroa, the following day.

But Birch was chased to the finish on both occasions by Mokau sheep and beef farmer Smith, the Yamaha ace only able to make a rare couple of appearances on the enduro scene this season.

Birch beat former national enduro champion and current national cross-country champion Smith (Yamaha YZ250FX) across the finish line by 47 seconds on Saturday and then he repeated the feat the following day, this time edging out Smith by nearly two minutes (1 minute 59 seconds).

Clashes of dates with the parallel but separate cross-country nationals meant Smith was unable to put up more of a fight this season, but that was a thought furthest from his mind at the weekend as he used the enduro events to sharpen himself for the upcoming cross-country nationals finale this coming Sunday.

"Birch is a hard man to beat at the best of times and I simply couldn't stop crashing at the weekend. I was lacking a bit of energy on day two as well, because I had not really managed my recovery properly overnight.

"But it was just good to go to Waimiha and Tokoroa to get some extra bike time. It was good training for next weekend ... I need all the help I can get to get ahead of Paul," he said, referring to the two-horse battle between himself and fellow Yamaha ace Paul Whibley in the final run towards clinching cross-country honours.

Smith and Whibley have been virtually inseparable on the cross-country courses this season and the title fight goes down to the wire near Pahiatua this coming Sunday.

"A lot of people said I should not have been racing the enduro events ... maybe instead taking no risks of injury and saving myself to the cross-country series battle. But I actually rode fairly conservatively at the weekend."

Another multi-time former cross-country champion, in the shape of Palmerston North's Adam Reeves (Yamaha YZ250), was also racing the weekend's enduro events, although, making the decision exactly opposite to Smith, he'd opted this season to concentrate on the enduro scene and make cross-country racing his second choice series.

Despite enduring some bad luck, Reeves finished the seven-round enduro nationals ranked fifth overall, one place better than Kaikohe's Mitchell Nield, who took his tiny Yamaha YZ125 into battle against the 250cc, 350cc and 450cc bike riders to finish the series a creditable sixth outright.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com