Axeman chops up rivals

By Andy McGechan


Watch out America, Pahiatua's Paul Whibley means business again this year.

That was possibly the message from the 34-year-old as he conjured up another magical motorcycling performance last weekend.

The former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed "The Axeman" won two major titles in the United States last season and the build-up for his 2013 campaign has been nothing short of spectacular.

Back at home over the Christmas-New Year period, his latest "training" foray was to tackle the opening round of the Taranaki Cross-Country Championships at Glen Nui Station, inland from Eltham, on Saturday.

Although his start to the race was rough, his finish was very smooth indeed, the Yamaha ace eventually winning the three-hour gut-buster by nearly a minute from multi-time national motocross and supercross champion Daryl Hurley, of Hawera.

Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) crashed in just the second corner of the race, the slippery grass catching him out and sending him sliding along the turf, and this meant he was virtually last away as the entire field of riders disappeared into the distance, kicking up a dust storm across the steep and rocky farmland.

Surprisingly, at the end of the opening 25-minute lap, Whibley came back into sight first. Adrian Smith (Yamaha YZ250) was second, Hurley third and Stratford's Karl Roberts (Yamaha) fourth

By the end of lap two, Whibley had dramatically stretched his lead. Hurley then found a way past Smith, who crashed soon afterwards but picked himself up to hold on to third place.

Roberts finished fourth, making it three Yamaha riders in the top four. Whibley won the over-300cc classification and Smith's third overall was enough to give him the under-300cc class win.

"I rode pretty hard at the start but backed it off to cruise a bit at the end, although I had Daryl fairly close and that kept me focused," said Whibley afterwards. "It was good to have that pressure from him. That's what I need for my USA build-up."


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