Groombridge makes merry in the mud
Brad Groombridge was crowned motocross royalty on Sunday, although he was more "majesty of mud" than "King of the Mountain".
The 22-year-old Honda ace from Taupo finished the day unbeaten at the annual King of the Mountain Motocross at New Plymouth's Barrett Rd Motorcycle Park.
There was certainly nothing regal about his mud-caked appearance after winning the MX1 category and also claiming the King of the Mountain feature race. The racing was almost a lottery as persistent drizzle throughout the day turned the hillside track into a slippery and treacherous quagmire.
But he still had to deal with the terrible conditions and he certainly mastered them better than anyone else, winning the MX1 (open class) race ahead of Palmerston North's Tom Hughes (KTM) and Taranaki's Larry Blair (KTM) and winning the all-in King of the Mountain race ahead of MX2 (250cc) class winner Kieran Scheele (Honda), from Elsthorpe in central Hawke's Bay, Inglewood's Josh Holmes and New Plymouth pair Mitch Rowe and Nikolaus Joyce.
"It was really all about getting a good start, staying upright and keeping the goggles clean," Groombridge said.
"I couldn't push too hard in these conditions or you'd end up making mistakes," the former Motocross of Nations New Zealand team rider said.
"I did make one mistake, stalling the bike at the bottom of the big downhill. I could see Kieran [Scheele] coming and I only got the bike going again just as he arrived at the bottom too. I think I sprayed him with mud and that would have ruined his visibility for a bit.
"I went hard then to make sure I didn't let him past me. I didn't want him to fill my goggles in with mud."
Scheele, just back from his second season of racing in England, said it was his experience racing the British Motocross Championships and two GP events in Europe that gave him extra strength.
"My overseas experience certainly helped," the 21-year-old said. "By racing against the GP riders in England and other parts of Europe, I have learned so much. I would only be mid-pack in the races over there but, hopefully, I can be among the leaders here in New Zealand.
"Today was all about not falling off the bike. I was caked in mud from following Brad and was riding blind for a lot of the time."
Other class winners: Joyce (national 125); Rowe (veterans); Tayla Rampton (Opunake, women); Matt Kenyon (Tauranga, MX3); Hayden Kanters (Otorohanga, 14-16 years' 250cc); Cameron Duckmanton (Whangarei, 15-16 years' 125cc); Sean Kelly (Te Kuiti, 12-14 years' 125cc); Kelly (14-16 years' 85cc); Tony Cvitanovich (Feilding, 12-13 years' 85cc); James Scott (Oparau, 8-11 years' 85cc).