I’ve been to two large trials over the past two weekends, the Lakes Two Day last Saturday and Sunday and the final British Championship round the Sunday before, and two trials couldn’t have been more different.
I’ve enjoyed both immensely, but then I’m an enthusiast and just about any bike sport will keep me amused. However, as I’ve just said, they were totally different and I’ll try to analyse why.
First of all the British Championship round. It was a three lap event of 12 sections over a pocket handkerchief course. Nothing wrong with that and as we know, that’s the way British Championship rounds are these days. The level of section severity was phenominal, just so hard and inevitably only a very small number of riders could compete over the course. Now I choose my words very carefully, I said compete. Plenty could ride the course and take 36 fives, but few could compete, and it seems as if in 2009 the number of riders on the BC course is likely to be no more than seven. Yes, that’s right, just seven.
And of those that took part, you have to say that even then only a very few were able to be competent on the sections. Some excellent riders were made to look like beginners, and no offence to them, but that’s the way it was.
Now let’s move on to last weekend’s Lakes. As you probably know, two courses, a national route and a clubman route with a healthy number from the 170 odd entry riding the more difficult course, the rest on the clubman course.
I’m fortunate in that having been around trials all my life and from my journalistic contributions, most of the riders know me, and I’m able to mix with them on a friendly basis rather than on a business basis, and in my opinion, the atmosphere at the Lakes was so much better than at the BC round a week earlier.
It could have been because there was less at stake, equally it could have been because the guys were getting lots of good riding for their money, and it may have been because the sections were all well within their capabilities. There was nothing there that the stars couldn’t tackle, and at the end of the day, there was still a clear cut result. Alright, the scores were low, but so what?
And purely from a personal point of view, whilst I enjoyed both, at the easier trial, (the Lakes), you get to see so much more quality riding. Not only do you see superb efforts from the Jarvis/Dabill/ Morris/Baker/Wiggs of the scene, you also get to see some pretty impressive efforts from the great riders, but still lesser lights like Ian Austermuhle, George Morton, Sam Ludgate and others.
Because the Lakes is a well established trial with a standard of section that’s well understood, the national entry remains good with 47 riders having entered the national course. The winning score may well have been low (5) but that doesn’t detract from the trial in any way, in fact to my mind it enhanced it because it allowed lots of riders to ride sections well within their capabilities.
This may well not go down well with the hierachy, but let me suggest that the time is fast approaching when the British Championship in its current form is consigned to history. I would very much like to see the BC return to its roots, that is a long lap of a variety of sections, at a level of severity that allows lots of good experts to take part and enoy their day with a sensible number of cleans.
If that means the winner comes out with a very low score, and even if it means that at times there is a unresolved tie, then so be it.
Unfortunately, there is a strong argument against turning the clock back 15 years or so, and that’s because the problems of the mid 'nineties would surface again. The problems being congested roads with support vehicles and spectators. Even so, I think that there is still a strong case for another look at the whole scene, because for sure, no British Championship can survive long term on seven riders.
Finally, sorry this column landed late, but my e-mail system failed over the weekend and only came back late on Monday.