CAPTION: Waikato’s Rachael Archer, living the dream and winning her first major title in the United States, the US Women’s Cross-country (WXC) Championships. Photo by Ken Hill.
It has been a few seasons now of slogging away against the best in the business, but now New Zealand’s Rachael Archer is herself the best in the business, top of the tree in the United States.
The 20-year-old from Ngaroma, near Te Awamutu, has long been a front-runner, even against the men, on the cross-country dirt bike racing scene in New Zealand and, for the past few years, she’s been turning heads in the United States as well.
This year she finally cracked it, clinching the Women’s Cross-country (WXC) class title in the US when the 2022 series wrapped up in Crawfordsville, Indiana, at the weekend.
Based in South Carolina, Archer made her debut in the US in 2019, racing the WXC class in the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC).
The GNCC competition is an internationally-renowned series, with races scheduled all along the east coast of the US, from New York to Florida, and Archer decided she would tread the same pathway that a few Kiwi men had blazed before her in recent years.
Most notable of these was Manawatu man Paul Whibley, who won the elite XC1 senior men’s grade in this competition (on a Kawasaki) in 2009 and again (on a Yamaha) in 2012.
But now it was Archer’s time to glow in the spotlight.
Archer won the first two races of 13 in the 2022 season, setting herself up for a glorious year, but, in the end, her campaign in 2022 was certainly no cakewalk.
She was runner-up to American rival Tayla Jones at round three, then suffered a set-back in finishing a lowly (by her high standards) 10th at round four.
Mostly on the podium though the middle part of the season, while her key adversary Jones suffered a non-finish at round 10, it meant Archer was well in the hunt for the women’s crown as the season drew to a close.
In fact, South Carolina’s Jones and Kiwi heroine Archer were tied on points at the start of the 13th and final round in Indiana and it was a winner-takes-all situation for the national championship title.
As the WXC class took off it from the starting blocks, it was Archer who grabbed the best start and the $100 holeshot award.
However, it wouldn’t take long for Jones to close in make the pass for the lead.
Jones continued to hold the lead, while Archer was hot on her heels as the race wore on.
Then, as the white flag flew to make the final lap, it was Archer coming through the finish line first with Jones finishing 12 seconds behind her.
Archer would continue to push to extend the gap over Jones and, when the chequered flag, flew it was Archer holding that number one position to earn the WXC National Championship.
Jones came through for second, while South Carolina’s Prestin Raines battled through the day to earn her first WXC podium with a third in the class.
“We finally did it!” exclaimed Archer afterwards.
“Four years of chasing a dream and years of dedication to get here and I’m pretty stoked to finally wear the No.1,” said Archer.
“There’s so many people that have helped me do this and you all mean the world to me.
“Thanks to my parents especially, for letting me move to the other side of the world when I was 17 to chase a dream. Everyone that has been a part of this journey, I thank you.”
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com