CAPTION: Leading Kiwi riders (from left) Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, Oparau’s James Scott and Wairoa’s Tommy Watts, here together on the podium during the New Zealand Cross-country Championships earlier this year. Photo by Andy McGechan,

Expect the cream of the crop to arrive in South Waikato this weekend for their final big dirt-biking blow-out before they head away to compete internationally.

Round two of the 2022 Forestland Cross-country Series on Saturday will be an ideal shake-up before New Zealand’s elite riders head off-shore to race at this year’s International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in France in about three weeks’ time.

Saturday’s racing is set for forestry land at Ohakuri, near Atiamuri, about halfway between Taupo and Tokoroa, and the terrain there is sure to be a stern test for both man and machine.

Many of the big names have committed to being there, although riders of all abilities should be able to both cope with and enjoy the challenge.

Many of the riders who will be heading to France to contest the 2022 edition of the ISDE have indicated they will be racing at Ohakuri this weekend and, not unexpectedly, it was some of these same Europe-bound riders who shone out at round one of the Forestland series just south of Tokoroa last month.

“We wish the riders all the best for their upcoming campaign overseas,” said Motorcycling New Zealand general manager Mike Kerrisk.

“A lot of planning and hard work has gone into making it happen and team manager Justin Stevenson has been tireless in preparing for this. I’m delighted to see it all come together, particularly since we have not had a Kiwi representation at the ISDE in so many years.”

A large turn-out is therefore expected at Ohakuri on Saturday and Forestland Cross-country Series organiser Sean Clarke, himself a former medal-winning rider at ISDE events in the past, said he expects the forest course will “really keep the riders on their toes”.

“It will be hard and fast in places, totally different to our muddy opening round last month,” said Clarke.

“This track had been prepared last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with us, so the soil will be quite compact.”

Recently-crowned 2022 national cross-country champion James Scott, from Oparau, along with the winner at round one of the Forestland series, Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, and Whanganui’s former national enduro champion Seth Reardon should be favoured to battle for the leading positions on Saturday. They are scheduled to leave for France in about two weeks’ time and will want to be producing their best form at the weekend.

Oratia’s Callan May, Waitoki’s Ben Cottrill, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Helensville’s Josh Jack are also making the ISDE trip and they too could well be racing at Ohakuri on Saturday.

Other Kiwi internationals such as reigning national enduro champion Dylan Yearbury, from Cambridge, and national championship front-runner Tommy Buxton (Helensville) left several weeks ago to finalise their ISDE preparations in Europe. Howick’s Liam Draper is currently racing in the United States and is expected to join the team in France.

However, Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight, Rotorua duo Callum Dudson and Ethan Harris, Wellington’s Jake Whitaker, Otorohanga’s Luke Brown, New Plymouth’s Sam Parker and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, to name just a few, could be expected to keep Scott, Yeoman and Reardon honest at Ohakuri on Saturday.

Riders such as Whangamata’s Ethan Jameson, Rotorua’s Daniel Bates, New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton, Cambridge’s Jared Hannon and Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes could be expected to feature near the front of the junior ranks.

The third and final round of the Forestland Cross-country Series is set for August 27, but by then the ISDE stars will be away in Europe and up to their elbows in fierce international action – the ISDE runs from August 29 to September 3.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,