He may not have led at the start of the first race, but he was in front at the end and that's what counts.
Once he got wound up, Honda Racing Team rider Cody Cooper was simply untouchable at the weekend's annual Waikato Motocross Championships, on the outskirts of Te Kuiti.
After fighting through traffic to win the first race, he snatched the lead quickly in each of the remaining three races and then looked comfortable as he led a Honda 1-2-3 to the top of the MX1 class podium.
Cooper comfortably won all four races in this premier class, crossing the line 3.5 seconds ahead of Honda team-mate Micah McGoldrick in race one; 10.5 seconds ahead of Taupo's Cohen Chase (KTM SXF450) in race two; 17.1 seconds ahead of McGoldrick in race three and then 5.6 seconds ahead of Honda team-mate John Phillips in the final outing of the day.
"I don't like being behind other riders and getting dirty at the start of races. It makes the clean-up at the end of the day to be such a chore," laughed Cooper. "But it was good for my intensity training to be behind the bunch and have to work past the other riders.
"It was a peg draw for the starting positions and I got the No.21 pick for the gate, which wasn't so good because the track was quite muddy at the start of the day. I didn't get a good start in the first race, but I was okay after that.
"I am still carrying a little bit of an injury, so I wasn't pushing hard the whole time.
"I was trying to keep my feet up and on the foot-pegs, but that's not always possible here because the ruts get to be so deep."
It probably came as no surprise that 34-year-old national MX1 champion Cooper would dominate the MX1 class, but what did come as a pleasant surprise was the performance of young team-mate McGoldrick.
Tauranga-based former Rangiora racer McGoldrick usually races in the MX2 (250cc) class, but, as he awaited the arrival of his new Honda CRF250F, he was offered the chance to take one of the team's 450cc bikes and instead enter the MX1 class.
He was impressive – the 22-year-old twice finishing runner-up to "the master", Mount Maunganui's Cooper, and crossing the finish line in sixth and third positions in the remaining races, good enough for him to claim the No.2 spot for the day.
Third overall in the class was Rotorua's Phillips (Honda Racing Team CRF450), who edged out Chase to claim the third step on the podium.
"I was a little bit surprised at how well I rode on the 450, but not really, if you know what I mean," said McGoldrick. "I've been putting in a lot of work lately, so I knew it was possible.
"I crashed at the start of the second race and had to regroup a bit. That little hiccup cost me a few points."
The next major event for these riders is the annual Auckland Motocross Championships at Tuakau in two weeks' time (November 18-19).
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com