Winning return after a lengthy injury layoff
It’s not usual for an athlete to pull himself off the sofa, enter a three-hour race as a solo competitor and then climb straight back on to the top step of a podium.
But that’s what Liam Draper has done.
The 20-year-old Howick plumber has spent the past eight months recovering from an injury sustained at the annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix, held at Woodville back in January.
He got the all-clear to race in the recent third round of four in the Woodhill Two-man Crosscountry Series in northwest Auckland.
With no previous results to his credit in the series, Draper had to be satisfied with slotting in on the eighth row of the 74-bike starting grid.
Soon after the start, he was quickly powering through traffic.
By the third lap of eight, he had taken his new 2018-model four-stroke Husqvarna FC250 dirt bike to the front of the field.
‘‘I had a fair few riders to get past,’’ Draper says.
‘‘By the end of lap two I was up to second and took the lead on lap three.
‘‘I then just worked on building a big gap.
‘‘I was feeling quite tired near the end, but that was to be expected because it has been a few months since I last raced,’’ Draper says.
‘‘I crashed at Woodville in January and snapped a tricep muscle in my left arm.
‘‘I have been in a sling for a long time and had to have surgery too, but was still able to train and keep a core fitness.
‘‘I don’t know what races I’ll be doing next, but checking the calendar.’’
Before his injury, Draper had been planning to race in the United States and those plans have been pushed on 12 months.
‘‘I’ll be heading to South Carolina to race the Grand National Cross-country Series there in 2018 and I’m excited about that.
‘‘I just have to stay out of injury trouble,’’ he says, with a laugh.
Runner-up to Draper in round three and 11 minutes behind was Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ250FX).
The two-rider pairing of Hokianga’s Troy Gielen and Damon Nield (KTM 250SX) finished third, arriving at the finish line just 16 seconds after Grey.
The fourth and final round of the Woodhill Two-man Series was raced last Sunday. I’ll be
Howick’s Liam Draper, on his Husqvarna FC250, is back racing after being sidelined.