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Submitted by Andy McGechan
Wednesday, 25th January 2017
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KTM'S NATZKE BACK TO HIS BEST ... ALMOST

CAPTION: Hamilton's Josiah Natzke (KTM 250F), back on track for European glory in 2017. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

DECEMBER 29, 2016: Waikato's Josiah Natzke is counting down the days until he can again take on the European elite of motocross.

And in the meantime, he'll settle for beating up the Kiwis on the domestic scene.

The now 18-year-old became New Zealand's youngest senior motocross champion when the KTM hero from Hamilton won the national 125cc title as a 16-year-old in 2014.

But a lot as happened in the years since that historic day two years ago.
He has raced overseas, finishing a frustratingly close overall runner-up in the European 125cc Championships (the EMX125) in 2015 and then stepping up to the 250cc version of that competition (the EMX250 championships) this season, where he managed a podium finish in Switzerland late in the season.

His latest outing, at the big annual Whakatane Summercross motocross event immediately after Boxing Day, was anything but a rest period for Natzke and he proved he was back on the pace, winning five faces from five starts in the talent-packed MX2 class.

"I had only not raced since the Motocross of Nations in Italy and had only started riding again at the beginning of December. I had to have my appendix removed and that gave me an enforced holiday from the sport," he explained.

Natzke and his Swedish girlfriend, Caroline, have been holidaying together since arriving in New Zealand and so his preparation for racing at Summercross was further disrupted, but nobody could tell from looking at Natzke's form on Tuesday.

"Of course I wanted to do well here, but we have been doing a lot of work to get the suspension sorted to how I like it and this was a good opportunity to test things," he explained.

"I'm still short of where I want to be physically. I have a new fitness trainer and we're working on getting me to peak at about the time the EMX250 championships kick off (in Italy on April 12).

"I will only be able to race the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville (on January 29) and then the Rotorua round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships (round two on February 19) before I head overseas again."

If Natzke's build-up was only just beginning on Tuesday, then he will certainly be a force at Woodville and Rotorua and, hopefully, in Europe too this season.

Senior class winners on day one of the 2016 Honda Summercross near Whakatane on Tuesday were Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper (MX1 class); Hamilton's Josiah Natzke (MX2); Cambridge's Trent Collins (Youth MX); Otago's Courtney Duncan (women's class); Rotorua's Cam Negus (veterans' over-35 years); Hamilton's Darryll King (veterans' over-45 years); Waimauku's Logan Dunn (MX3 support class).

Junior class winners on day two on Wednesday were Cambridge's Trent Collins (junior 12-17 years' 250cc class); Mangakino's Maximus Purvis (junior 15-17 years' 125cc class); Australia's Adam Smerdon (junior 12-14 years' 125cc class); Matamata's Brodie Connolly (junior 13-16 years' 85cc class); Australia's Noah Smerdon (junior 11-12 years' 85cc class); Wellsford's Wyatt Collins (junior 8-10 years' 85cc class); Waitoki's Cole Davies (junior 8-11 years' 65cc class).

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com



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