CAPTION: The 2024 cross-country racing season follows hot on the heels of the 2023 edition, so there should be no excuses for not being warmed up. Photo by Andy McGechan,

FEBRUARY 5, 2024: The 2024 New Zealand Cross-country Championships kick off this coming weekend and you could be forgiven for thinking that time really does fly, because it seems the 2023 edition has only just concluded.

Last season’s championships were organised at late notice and later in the year than would normally have been the case, due to unforeseen circumstances, and so the opening round last year was held in November, with it wrapping up near Masterton just a month later, in December 2023.

Therefore, the bike engines may still be warm and the riders almost certainly still in top shape to start all over again, with the Yamaha-sponsored 2024 series set to launch at St Arnaud, near Nelson, on Friday, February 9.

Round two of this latest series will run just two days later, at the same venue, with a twist on the layout, on February 11.

Two rounds in the North Island then follow on March 30 and April 1.

Taupo’s Wil Yeoman won the senior title last year and will obviously be the favourite to repeat the feat again in 2024, although he might also again expect stern challenges from equally-talented riders such as Cambridge’s Jared Hannon, Rotorua’s Callum Dudson, Eketahuna’s Luke Brown and Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj.

Also worth watching for may be Huntly’s Brandon Hoskins, Waipukurau’s Stephen Sergeant, Whangamata’s Shane Frith and leading female rider Charlotte Russ, from Auckland.

In the Junior grade, perhaps expect fireworks from riders such as Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes, Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown, Aucklander Millen Cargill, Masterton’s Max Williams, Rotorua’s James Bates, Raglan’s Ryley Shaw and Rotorua’s Grace Fowler, to name just a few.

Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Paul Whibley said he was looking forward to the fresh season.

“We have a slightly different format with this 2024 season,” he said.

“By having two races separated by only a day, it helps to reduce travel costs for the competitors, who have to make only one trip south and one trip north to contest the full series. A day between races will give riders time to recover and prepare their bikes.”

“We know it’s expensive to travel across on the inter-island ferry, so, with reducing the number of crossings, we really hope more riders will complete the full series.

“The Marlborough Motorcycle Club has done a great job to set things up for this weekend. They have had faced plenty of challenges that’s for sure, but they are up to the task of running a national level event.

“The track at St Arnaud features a bit of everything, with river flats, blocks of bush and rolling foothills, with lots of rocks, but also plenty of nice soil. It will definitely be a nationals level track.”

2024 New Zealand Cross-country Championships calendar:

Round one, Friday, February 9, St Arnaud, near Nelson;

Round two, Sunday, February 11, St Arnaud, near Nelson;

Round three, Saturday, March 30, Central Hawke’s Bay;

Round four, Monday, April 1 (Easter Monday), Bush Riders Club, at Tinui, near Masterton.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,