Win­ning re­turn after a lengthy in­jury lay­off

Eastern Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - ANDY MCGECHAN

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

SUP­PLIED / BIKESPORTNZ.COM

How­ick’s Liam Draper, on his Husq­varna FC250, is back rac­ing after be­ing side­lined.

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