Bruce steps up to challenge senior riders
Former No 1-ranked junior rider Ethan Bruce made an encouraging start in senior competition, finishing fifth overall in the opening round of the 2013 New Zealand crosscountry championships in Southland on Sunday.
The 2012 junior national champion from Nelson also finished second in his class behind reigning national cross-country champion Adrian Smith, after a brutal day of racing on steep and rocky farmland near Te Anau.
Still only 16, Bruce made the step up to the senior ranks with apparent ease. Riding in the 201cc and up two-stroke class, on a YZ 250 Yamaha, he completed six laps of the course over the three-hour race, sponsored by KTM.
"I was quite chuffed with the result, but there is room for improvement," said Bruce.
"It was definitely an experience riding a bigger bike in the big boys class, it is a lot more intense."
Bruce said racing was far more physically demanding at the senior level, and he would put in more "bike time" to increase his strength and endurance.
"It is a lot easier to try and tussle with the guys on the bigger bike . . . I'm glad to be in one piece.
"I felt myself getting quite worn down towards the end, but I just have to work on my endurance. I was about a minute behind getting seven laps in of the half-hour loop."
With strong rides from the young guns in the competition, defending champion Smith has been made to sit up and take notice.
The man from Mokau was well beaten by last season's national No 4 Jason Dickey moving up and taking the win instead and sending a clear message to 2012 senior champion Smith.
"At least I've got some points on the board but I reckon this title defence is going to be very tough indeed," conceded 27-year-old Yamaha rider Smith.
Teenager Dickey (Kawasaki) led Smith to the finish line by nearly five minutes, with Te Awamutu's Mark Penny (Suzuki) taking third spot overall.
These three riders were the only competitors to complete seven laps with all the other riders managing only six laps or fewer.
Motorcycling New Zealand crosscountry commissioner Chris Smyth, of Dannevirke, said "it was a very rocky course and nailed anyone who wasn't paying attention".
"The Southland Motorcycle Club did a great job with this event. It was very well organised," said Smyth.
The four-round championship continues with rounds in Taranaki on March 16, Christchurch on April 21 and, finally, Hawke's Bay on May 18.
- © Fairfax NZ News