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Kiwi Motocross of Nations campaign 'still on track'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Andy McGechan,

The Kiwis are battered but not bruised after a drama-filled scorcher at the 18th and final round of the Motocross World Championships at Glen Helen, near San Bernadino in Southern California, on Sunday.

Neither of New Zealand's two entrants at the event lasted the day, but with temperatures soaring close to 40 degrees Celsius, that really came as no surprise.

Arriving from New Zealand's winter, Bay of Plenty riders Cody Cooper and Ben Townley, put up a brave fight but, ultimately it was the track and racing conditions, and not the opposition, that beat the Kiwis back.

Cooper finished Sunday's race day inside the medical truck after finishing 25th in the first of two MXGP races, while Townley finished 11th in that race but then withdrew after one lap of the second MXGP race, reluctantly walking back to the low-key Kiwi compound, in a quiet corner of the pits, to reflect on what might have been.

Cooper and Townley were merely using the US MXGP as a final warm-up before they head to France to tackle the Motocross of Nations next weekend and so their abortive result at Glen Helen drew an understandably philosophical response from both riders.

"I started to fade in the first race and just didn't feel right and I didn't start the next race but instead went off to get some medical advice," said Cooper, who had qualified 26th overall (out of 35 riders) the day before, when temperatures were at a marginally more bearable 38 degrees, the sort of heat he would possibly only have experienced in the hottest of Kiwi summers.

"I was a lap behind the leaders, but I decided to carry and finish that first race anyway. I was really stuffed, but I was starting to think about next weekend and what we have to try to do in France. I couldn't go out in the next race at all," said Cooper as he reclined in the Asterisk medical truck with a saline fluid drip in his right arm. He needed two litres of saline fluid to put his body back in full functioning mode and was back to his happy-go-lucky self with about 30 minutes.

"Actually, I feel better already," he said as he caught the sound of the second MXGP class race blasting around the steep, dry and unforgiving circuit. "... maybe I can go out and get the last few laps in," he laughed.

Townley was similarly matter-of-fact about his GP effort.

"I wasn't entirely happy at finishing 11th in race one, but I thought it wasn't too bad either, when you consider that I've only raced a couple of times this year. But then I over-jumped a jump in race two and it put me on the ground. I was a long way back and just didn't have any desire to carry on when I was that far behind.

"I was in a good battle with (eventual world No.2) Gautier Paulin in the first race, but it cost me a lot of energy and I faded," he explained.

New Zealand's Motocross of Nations team manager Howard Lilly brushed off suggestions that the MXoN campaign had taken a hit.

"I wouldn't even call it a hiccup," he said.

The temperatures here were not what anyone was expecting. The riders were brilliant at managing themselves and doing what was right with next weekend in France coming up. I was impressed with the speed they showed this weekend and our MXoN campaign is still tracking well."

Cooper, Townley and Lilly, along with a large Kiwi support crew, fly out to Ernee, in north-western France, later this week and they will meet up with the third rider in the Kiwi squad, British-based Mangakino rider Kayne Lamont, ahead of next Saturday's MXoN qualification races.

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