Parc Ferme is a hive of activity at the Taupo Motorsport Park, as riders from 31 nations around the globe have converged for the 81st running of the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) next week.
The past few days riders and their support crews have been busy unloading and assembling their enduro bikes from crates and containers ready for the Maxxis ISDE, which kicks off at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday November 14.
Most of the 620 competing riders have traveled half way around the world to ride in New Zealand and they are raring to go. Motocross great Joel Smets is just one of them.
Smets has been waiting 20 years to ride in New Zealand. "Okay, for the Six Days to be in New Zealand - I can't be in a better place," Smets said.
The five-time World Motocross Champion aggravated a knee injury during Sunday's Taupo International Motocross and was a doubtful starter early last week, but it is now confirmed Smets will make Tuesday's start line for the Belgian Trophy Team, departing as rider number 99.
In Europe, the ISDE is usually staged in August, which always clashed with his motocross Grand Prix campaigns. The Belgian competed in his first ISDE in 1993 when it was held in November that year, which he finished - an accomplishment in itself. His second ISDE was in Australia in 1998, where he won the 400cc Four-Stroke class.
This year’s event will be Smets' third ISDE, but enduro riding is very different to motocross.
"Especially for the ISDE, it's really important to judge when you need to be fast and when you don't have to,” Smets said. “That's really difficult. In motocross you have no choice, the gate drops, and it's just flat out until the checkered flag comes.
"Staying concentrated for all day and all week, I found that really hard - also because I love the scenery so much!"
Smets is very enthusiastic about his riding. "We all share the same passion of riding dirt bikes and riding off-road for six days in a row, and we don't have to think about anything else. That's like heaven on earth for people that are fascinated by riding off road."
The 2006 ISDE will be his last international race. "For 2007, I won't be racing anymore," Smets said.