Bruce gets set to mix it with the big boys

Having conquered the age-group levels Ethan Bruce is ready for the 2013 motorcycle cross-country season, but he will not be defending his national title in the junior championships.

The 16-year-old, originally from Maruia, will give up his New Zealand junior No 1 ranking to mix it with the big boys in senior competition as the national championship starts this weekend.

On Sunday, the first round of four will be held in Te Anau, a small town with some of the most difficult terrain in the country.

Bruce has shrugged off the potential pitfalls of starting a new class in trying conditions, by setting some goals that will extend his capabilities, without adding too much pressure.

"It is going to be a lot more intense in the seniors, I know that," said Bruce.

"I'm not going there expecting to win, but I want to have a decent attempt at top five, and maybe get a podium in my class."

Riding a YZ 250 Yamaha, Bruce will be competing in the 201cc and up two-stroke class. Last season, in junior competition, Bruce managed a podium finish in three of four events. He took the top spot in the first round held in Pahiatua and second place in Huntly before a stack in Blenheim saw him finish 12th.

Bruce was then edged in the last round by Waimea College's Dylan Waghorn after 12 laps of the 10-kilometre Cheviot circuit, but second place was enough for Bruce to secure a national title.

This season Bruce's hand was forced in the change to senior competition, yet it fits with his plans for increasing sponsorship and opportunities in motorsport having now taken a job at Nelson motorcycle shop Filco Farm & Sport.

"The first two rounds I am a junior, but then [after turning 17] for the next two I am a senior, so I'm going senior and won't be defending the title.

"In a way it is going to be good riding with a lot more people. A junior title is good, but you are not going to get much support from a junior title in cross-country. If you win a senior title, people are more willing to take on someone as a senior."

Te Awamutu's Mark Penny, Tauranga's Reece Burgess, Pukekohe's Matthew Vining, brothers Lance and John O'Dea, and New Plymouth's Renny Johnston are among favourites for the senior title while Nelsonian Sam Millson is likely to feature in the race hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club at Mararoa Station.

Following the first round, the championship heads to Taranaki on March 16 for round two, Christchurch for round three on April 21 and concludes in Hawke's Bay on May 18.