Nationals wide open before they’ve even begun

Ellerslie's Jeff Van Hout (KTM), among the many riders expected to shine again this season. Photo by Andy McGechan,

Brotherly love was put on hold last June when the 2017 New Zealand Enduro Championships went down to the wire in a battle between sibling rivals from Canterbury, Angus and Hamish Macdonald.

The 2018 edition of the nationals is set to kick off this Saturday and Sunday with a double-header weekend at Whangamata and Tokoroa, but there will be no repeat of this "family feud" this time around, with both Christchurch riders opting out of the series this year.

Angus Macdonald says he won't be defending his title because he does not have the finances to compete this year and the 20-year-old is also "too busy" working in the business he has just started, video production and sign-writing.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Hamish Macdonald will be racing this season, only not in New Zealand.

He packs his bags shortly to head to Europe where he will contest several rounds of the Enduro World Championships – in Spain, Portugal and Finland – with other races planned for him in Austria and Romania.

The first two of five rounds for this year's enduro nationals is set for Whangamata this Saturday, with round two following the next day, near Tokoroa.

With the Macdonald boys out of the picture, it perhaps leaves last year's eventual runner-up rider, Taupo's 2016 national enduro champion Brad Groombridge, as the favourite to win the overall crown again in 2018.

Groombridge won the battle-within-a-battle for under-300cc four-stroke class honours last year, while Kaikohe's Mitchell Nield won the under-200cc two-stroke class trophy, with the veterans' trophy going to New Plymouth's Dougy Herbert, and these men could possibly be expected to feature again this season.

Expect Helensville's Tommy Buxton, Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury, Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker, Whanganui's Seth Reardon, Masterton's Jacob Hyslop, Coatesville's Sam Greenslade, Napier's Mackenzie Wiig, Stratford's Josh Hunger or Te Awamutu's Kevin Archer to step up and be counted for wins this year, with each of these riders featuring strongly in recent weeks at various "build-up" events around the country.

Whitianga teenager Blake Wilkins won the intermediate grade last season and could again be expected to shine this year, along with Te Awamutu's Rachael Archer, Ellerslie's Jeff Van Hout and fellow Aucklander Cameron Manley.

2018 NZ Enduro Championships calendar:

Round 1 – April 21, Whangamata

Round 2 – April 22, Tokoroa

Round 3 – May 26, Maruia, Nelson

Round 4 – June 9, Santoft (Bulls)

Round 5 – June 10, Martinborough