Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper and Rhys Carter are in their final stages of preparation for a massive international event that brings together the world's elite motocross racers to fly the flags of their homelands.
Cooper (Honda) and Carter (Yamaha) make up two thirds of the New Zealand team, with Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood (KTM), flying the Kiwi flag at the Motocross of Nations, widely referred to as "The Olympic Games of Motocross", in the United States this weekend.
The team is ready to take on the rest of the world at the biggest motocross event of the year, this season's 72nd annual edition of the MXoN, set for Red Bud, in Michigan, on Saturday and Sunday. This one-weekend event is where racers put aside the past season's rivalries and unite instead along different battle lines.
Cooper is one rider in particular who should feel right at home in the US this weekend, having been an integral part of nine MXoN campaigns in the past. He has also spent a lot of time this year racing the US nationals, with one round of that series even staged at the same Michigan track.
His wealth of experience could be the difference between the team earning a top 10 result this weekend or failing to qualify among the 20 countries that will progress to the final stages of the competition on Sunday.
Taupo businessman Bevan Weal and New Plymouth's former 500cc motocross world champion Shayne King will share the behind-the-scenes task of managing the Kiwi campaign - and they are aware facing the world's elite on such a massive stage is not an easy task.
"I think this is one of the best teams we have had in a few years now," King says.
"I mean no disrespect to the teams we have had over the past couple of years, but this year we are a lot better organised and a lot more planning has been done. Bevan and I have worked together very closely on a lot of things. We have also been working to help develop this for the future too."
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