DECEMBER 16, 2019: Husqvarna rider Dylan Yearbury proved unstoppable at the weekend's marathon dirt bike race near Atiamuri.
It was the first time that the 25-year-old Cambridge diesel mechanic had attempted to race the annual Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race on Saturday, but it didn't take him long to settle into a groove and he eventually went on to comfortably win the gruelling battle.
It was meant to be a four-hour race, but with Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250) taking on average only 53 minutes to complete each lap, it meant he entered the timing zone at the end of his fourth lap with time still time left on the clock and so he was sent out to complete a fifth energy-sapping lap.
In the end, he was one of four riders to complete five laps in the allotted time and remarkably he crossed the finish line more than nine minutes ahead of runner-up rider Tom Buxton (KTM), of Helensville, with another Husqvarna rider, Napier's Mackenzie Wigg, finishing 13 minutes later, to claim third overall.
"The race was not as tough as some I've done," said Yearbury, "but it was very tiring. Riders never really got a break and I'm feeling pretty tired now (even two days later).
"I loved the bike. It's actually a motocross bike and so I'm thinking about racing it at the Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas."
The Husqvarna Hard X event had originally been scheduled to run in March, but the fire risk art that time was too great and so it was postponed until the weekend and perfect weather conditions greeted the more than 150 riders entered.
Event organiser Sean Clarke said the course featured "mostly Bronze level trails, but with a few Gold and Silver deviations", which meant there was something to challenge all levels of rider ability.
Riders registered themselves as either gold, silver or bronze grade competitors, facing terrain and obstacles to match their skill levels.
Otaki's Matt Lauder, Aucklanders Ben Hastie and James Kerr and Pio Pio riders Danny Blakeman and Shane Singleton were the stand-outs in the Silver Grade, with Taupo's Wil Yeoman, Te Awamutu's Rachael Archer and Thames rider Natasha Cairns the leading riders in the Bronze Grade.
Gold Grade winner Yearbury has impeccable credentials for this kind of competition.
He was exceptional at the Nut Buster Hard Enduro, part of the two-day final round of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, near Christchurch last month, and he also won the three-day Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa last year, so his debut in the Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race at the weekend was never going to trouble him unduly.
Yearbury was using this event as part of his build-up towards returning to race major cross-country events in the United States next year.
"I had my first taste of racing the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the US this year and my best result was finishing fifth in a GNCC race in the XC2 (250cc) class. I also finished second at a national enduro event there."
If Yearbury can hammer some of New Zealand's best extreme enduro and cross-country racers the way he did at the weekend, there is perhaps no doubting that he'll be a contender in the US near year.
Yearbury is supported by Husqvarna NZ, Fox NZ, Mitas tyres, NV Motorcycles in Morrinsville, Northern Accessories and XRC (Xtreme Race Components).
The Husqvarna Hard X race was sponsored by Husqvarna New Zealand, Forest and Trail Events, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Satco NZ Ltd.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com