2022 International Six Days Enduro in France

 CAPTION: The New Zealand senior and junior team riders in France this week (from left) are Oratia’s Callan May, Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, Whanganui’s Seth Reardon, Oparau’s James Scott, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman. Photo courtesy FIM

With this year’s International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) now nudging past the halfway point, it’s important to catch up with the Team New Zealand riders and marvel at their progress at Le Puy-en-Velay, in southern France.

New Zealand last contested this “Olympic Games of dirt bike racing” in 2006, but they are more than making up for this 16-year absence in 2022 and are currently in the top half of the talent-laden, 700-plus field of international elite assembled at the venue south-west of Lyon.

New Zealand’s four-rider Trophy Team – Oratia’s Callan May, Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, Helensville’s Tom Buxton and Whanganui’s Seth Reardon – has a strong grip on 11th overall position out of the 22 nations represented in this premier classification.

But, at the top of the Trophy Team rankings, the British have extended their advantage, now two minutes clear of the teams representing Italy and Spain.

The New Zealand foursome are nearly 38 minutes behind the leading British riders, but, significantly, are only a couple of minutes behind the 10th-ranked team representing Germany.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s three-rider junior (under-23) squad – comprising Oparau’s James Scott, Wairoa’s Tommy Watts and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman – holds onto seventh position in the Junior World Trophy (JWT) classification.

In the JWT class, the Italians raced to their third victory in as many days to further cement their lead in the overall classification, ahead of Finland, with Australia, Britain and Spain rounding out the top five.

The Czech Republic is ranked sixth in JWT, just ahead of the Team New Zealand trio, with The Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium completing the top 10.

In the individual classification, the win streak of Spaniard Josep Garcia (KTM) ended on day three, with Italy’s Andrea Verona (GasGas) racing to a well-earned victory, but Garcia still holds the No.1 individual ranking for the event overall, with Verona second, but now just 35 seconds behind.

These two men respectively lead their E1 and E2 bike categories.

Sweden’s Mikael Persson (Husqvarna), currently sixth overall, leads the E3 bike class.

Scott (Honda) is the best-performed of the Kiwi contingent and he has improved to now be 45th individual overall after day three, two places ahead of fellow Kiwi Buxton (KTM).

Individually, all the Kiwi riders are well in the hunt for medals at the ISDE, with Yearbury currently 57th overall, Watts 64th, Reardon 79th and Yeoman 82nd.

Further back, other New Zealand riders are also performing well.

Helensville’s Josh Jack, Rangiora’s Ben Dando and Waitoki’s Ben Cottrill are also tackling the ISDE, but as individuals in the lesser “club rider” classification.

Of the 368 riders entered in this club rider class, Jack is ranked 13th after day three, Dando is running 64th and Cottrill is currently in 152nd position overall.

Yearbury, Reardon, Watts and Scott have been champions on the New Zealand scene in recent years, Yearbury twice winning the national enduro crown in back-to-back seasons, in 2021 and 2022, with Reardon winning it in 2019. Watts was the 2021 national cross-country champion and Scott wrapped up the 2022 cross-country title earlier this season.

Even with such credentials, the Kiwis know they are really up against it in racing the world’s elite such as Garcia, Verona and Persson.

Three days of racing remain, covering up to 200 kilometres of tricky terrain each day, with a motocross to wrap it all up on Sunday (Monday morning NZ time) and anything can still happen, with rider fitness, bike reliability and a huge element of luck sure to be determining factors in the final outcome.

The New Zealand ISDE team is supported by Motorcycling New Zealand, Ward Demolition, New Plymouth Underwater, Macaulay Metals, SignBiz, MJH Engineering and MotoMuck.

Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com