WINTERTON, kwaZulu-Natal - National Enduro title-holder Wade Young, 17, took the first step towards defending his status by winning the first race of the 2014 National Enduro Motorcycle season on February 22 at Four Rivers Adventures in kwaZulu-Natal.The Champagne Valley Enduro will be remembered for being a tough season-opener and for its high level of competition that predicts an extremely competitive season.DEFENDING THE TITLEAs defending title holder, Young, who is also the 200cc champion, opened the route in the scenic Champagne Valley near Winterton. There were 11 special stages that varied from a short grass-track to an intensive 400m stage that provided great spectator value while the two longer enduro stages – one in the plantation and another further into the mountains – tested riders’ fitness, endurance and ability.Young posted the fastest times for four stages to beat second-placed Altus de Wet (Husqvarna) by 78 points (seconds).De Wet won the E2 (Open Class) and was fastest after two stages even though he experienced problems with leaking fork seals and a leaking radiator pipe due to a crash. De Wet made a plan with the leaking fork seals (his underpants served as fork bandages) and he had to repair the radiator hose in the bush.Young’s team mate Travis Teasdale started the season the way he finished the previous one – on the podium. Teasdale was 29 points behind De Wet and won two special stages to finish second in E1 (200cc Class) after a trouble-free race. He was only 21 points ahead of team mate Scott Bouverie who took second in E2. 2013 National Off-Road winner Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) was fifth.Former multiple Enduro champion Louwrens Mahoney is back in action after he broke his ankle in 2013. He was sixth overall (fourth in E2) and won one stage while sharing another with Young. There was only one point between Mahoney and Brett Swanepoel who also rounded off the E1 podium.BIG NUMBERSThe Champagne Valley Enduro received almost 60 entries in E1 and E2 with 41 finishers. Senior and Master Classes received many entries and a few new riders stepped up to the podium after a challenging event. Defending Senior champion William Gillitt (Yamaha) was unstoppable and won despite leaking fork seals.Suspension guru Hilton Hayward (Yamaha) struggled initially. He hadn't raced for a few years yet finished second; Jody Engelbrecht (KTM) was third. Bruce May (Yamaha) was fourth after a few mistakes and Mike Morris (KTM) fifth.As in the 2013 season-opener, Alfie Cox (KTM) won the Master (over 46 years old) Class, beating defending champion Denzil Torlage (Yamaha). This result predicts an exciting season among the Masters. Dino Santoro ensured he put a third manufacturer on the podium with his Beta while Shaun Kirk was fourth and Richard Cunniffe (Yamaha) fifth.NEW CLASSYoungsters aged 14 to 16 competed in the new High School Class. Chayse Orsmond (KTM) made a little history by winning, Bradley Coulthard (KTM) was second and Eduan Bester (Yamaha) third.Three youngsters also finished on the Silver Class Challenge podium from the 17 of 26 riders of all ages who finished. Kokstad’s Dylan Barker (Yamaha), runner-up in the 125cc class of the 2013 Junior National championship, won. Sage McGregor (KTM) from East London was second, Ladybrand’s Reghardt van Nieuwenhuizen (KTM) third.Kirsten Landman (KTM) was the only female finisher in the National category, 12th in this class.Competitors have less than a month to prepare for an all-new challenge – a double-header on March 21/22 at Ashton in the Western Cape.The Ashton National Enduro will act as second and third rounds of the National Enduro, counting as separate events. It will be a first for enduro competitors to compete on two consecutive days. All the activities will be based just off the R60 in the Ashton / Bonnievale area of the Western Cape.