Whitaker's Romaniacs Build-up a Winner

Published: Mon 18 Jan 2016 11:24 AM
Whitaker's Romaniacs Build-up a Winner
Wellington's Jake Whitaker (Husqvarna TE250), top dog at the WaimiHard Enduro on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan,
JANUARY 18, 2016: When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that was the cue for Wellington's Jake Whitaker at the weekend.
The 24-year-old multi-time national moto trials champion made it look surprising easy when he won the WaimiHard Enduro on Sunday, taking his Husqvarna TE250 to lead Glen Eden's multi-time national enduro champion Chris Birch and young rising star in the sport, Christchurch's Hamish Macdonald, to the top of the podium.
Moto trials expert Whitaker, now also a familiar face on the national enduro scene, was using the weekend's extreme enduro at Waimiha to continue his build-up to compete at the four-day Romaniacs event – a hugely-popular international extreme enduro staged in the rugged Carpathian Mountains of Romania each July – and it was perhaps those moto trials skills that he needed most on Sunday.
"I qualified only fifth in the prologue stage on Saturday, but that was just to earn a starting position for Sunday, so I wasn't too worried about that," said Whitaker.
Fellow Husqvarna rider and fellow dual moto trials and enduro exponent Liam Draper, of Howick, was Saturday's prologue winner.
It was a massed start on Sunday with the riders sent on their way by a shotgun blast and that's when the course became really tough, with more than 90 riders traversing the difficult terrain and quickly cutting it up.
"There were some pretty big hill-climbs with lots of exposed tree roots to deal with," said Whitaker. "At one stage we had to get off our bikes and go through a cave. It was a tight squeeze and it's the first time I've had to do that in a race."
In the end, only the leading three riders managed to complete four laps, each circulation taking up to 90 minutes, and Whitaker eventually finished in five hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds, beating Birch by nearly 10 minutes, with Macdonald coming home as further 10 minutes behind him.
"This was good for my Romaniacs build-up," said Whitaker. It was great to be able to beat Birch – he's a former Romaniacs winner – and this was the first time I've beaten him at this level in New Zealand. I need to be as fit and strong as I can be for the trip to Romania because that's a four-day event and it takes its toll.
"It will be my first time over there but I've got some idea of what to expect after talking with people like Birch."
Meanwhile, Whitaker will come up against Birch again when the New Zealand Enduro Championships kick off near Christchurch on March 26.
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