Like a modern version of the Jousting contests of old, the Tokoroa Endurocross was on, and I was itching to join the battle.
Set in the Amisfield Sports ground with a bustling carnival all around, dozens of riders from all sorts of backgrounds were already getting briefed by the time I arrived. Set atop his pedestal of hay and wood, Sean Clarke was running through the key features of the impressive track that lay dormant behind him. It was everything you could ask for in an event like this, challenging enough to trip up the most technical riders yet achievable for any man or women with a decent level of experience, courage and determination.
All three classes were split into two halves, making for six sets of full start gates for each race. A lap was 80% survival with only short spaces to either catch your breath or try and make up for lost time. The tree section was incredibly well thought out with no one line standing out and the quickest or easiest, while the balance beams and rocks were ruthless. Everything a rider could ask for in a challenging yet relatively low risk race.
And my results were surprisingly good. On par with the best lap times of all except the legendary Chris Birch, I managed to win the first handful of my races thanks to a good start and a little patience. My bike also helped, my full race machine fresh from the Supercross nationals, a CRF250R with its excellent clutch and a large rear sprocket. My main aim for the event was to avoid hurting the bike and be able to leave the event with head held high. So far so good.
Round Winner, Final Failure?
With all three of the races that counted for the Extreme Enduro series completed and a set of results that might have put me atop the points table, it was time for the main event. By this time the track was just starting to dry from the light rain that had been drifting down and making the track even more challenging. I survived that round but got too keen on the first turn of the semi final, catching my front brake lever on the inside marker peg and going down. Which is when my inexperience showed. From there I didn’t take the time to get into a rhythm and made every mistake possible, finishing out of the top six and losing my chance at the final event.
It was then, while watching the others battle it out in the final that I realized just how much I was enjoying the racing. It killed me to watch Jake Whittaker take his win, only made a little less painful in the knowledge that he is a nice guy and gave the crowd plenty of entertainment with his no footer and subsequent off-track excursion just before the finish. This was one cool event. I am officially hooked.