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The 2015 NZ Cross-country Championships

 

SMITH IN THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE

MAY 12, 2015: This weekend may provide the sternest test yet for Mokau's four-time national cross-country champion Adrian Smith.

 

The King Country sheep and beef farmer is the reigning No.1 and a record four-time winner of the New Zealand Cross-country Championships but it is a must-win race that he lines up for at the final round of this year's series near Pahiatua on Sunday.

 

Pahiatua's Paul Whibley is a multi-time cross-country champion in the United States and he returned home at the end of last season to settle back in New Zealand after a 12-year stint of international competition - immediately upsetting the balance of power, certainly as far as Smith was concerned.

 

The two Yamaha men have traded wins throughout the 2015 domestic series thus far, Whibley finishing 2-1-1 and Smith 1-2-2 in the three rounds, but only three of the series' four rounds are to be counted, with riders discarding their worst result, and this means it all comes down to Sunday's final showdown.

 

The mathematics is chillingly simple - if Whibley wins Sunday's final round he wraps up the series. However, if Smith wins and Whibley finishes runner-up, the two men will be level on points and the count-back rule applies.

 

That means that, after they each presumably discard a runner-up result from their series score-card, they will both have two wins and one runner-up result to their credit and so the rider who finishes highest at the final round wins the championship.

 

As it stands, one of these two men will be crowned champion on Sunday and no other rider is in a position to change that.

 

Smith knows what he must do.

 

"It is definitely going to be tough to beat Paul at Pahiatua ... that's his home turf too," said Smith. "But I've been in tough spots before and I think I can find a way to get the job done."

 

The battle for the championships' third podium position is also undecided and riders to watch for on Sunday in the battle for the No.3 spot include Nelson's Ethan Bruce (KTM), Hamilton's Andrew Charleston (Honda) and Rotorua's Scott Birch (Honda).

 

Also impressive this season have been Palmerston North's James Galpin (KTM), Raglan's Jason Dickey (Kawasaki), Morrinsville's Nathan Tesselaar (KTM) and Eketahuna's Daniel Christie (KTM), each of them also capable of upsetting.

 

Meanwhile, the battle for junior honours is already over - Kotemaori's Reece Lister (KTM) has won all three of the 90-minute juniors races so far this season and his ride on Sunday will be just that.

 

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