So Where Were The Professionals?

A canoe, jet-ski, whitewater raft, snorkel or even aqualung would have been needed by the riders during last week’s SSDT if much of the planned routes had been used, so bad was the weather, conditions that some said have not been so bad since the two horrendous years of 1968 and 1964.

The Scottish has experienced bad weather many times over many years, frequently for several days, but few could remember such consistently wet conditions with only the fifth day proving to be acceptably dry and warm, and even then you had to be in the right place!

So congratulations must go to Mark Whitham and his Edinburgh & District MC team for not just providing another fantastic six day trial, but overcoming situations which could have led to an embarrassing disaster if remedial route alterations had not been put into effect.

The last thing Mark needed on Wednesday evening was a tiresome journalist visiting him in the SSDT Office, but for the few minutes I was there, I could see from his computer screen that not only did he have the whole route change under control, it was obvious that the change would provide some great trialing. And so it proved.

Instead of traipsing down to Chairlift, Ba House, Gorton and Rannoch Moor, it was a quick blast through the sections surrounding Kinlochleven, with a 10.30am start at two riders per minute. Shame on those that said the trial was better for it!

But it wasn’t just Thursday that was a problem. The rain continued and Friday had to be changed with three groups cancelled and a new quarry group added to replace one of those lost groups at the last minute, then after heavy rain through Friday night and with it stair-rodding it down on Saturday morning, the Nevis Forest group had to be cut. What a week after last year when we were all bathing in glorious sunshine.

So, Dougie has won again despite a last minute panic with a five on the final section on The Ben; no surprise there, but the real battle for much of the week was the one between Alexz Wigg and Ian Austermuhle. Wiggy, as I’m sure you know did the business, and in doing so finished only one mark behind Doug, but it was Ian who impressed me the most. He’s not a World Championship contender, nor indeed a British Championship contender, but in a place like Scotland, Ian is in his element and perhaps if he had not got his boot stuck in a crevice on Friday whilst taking a dab which turned into a five, perhaps he would now be celebrating second place rather than third. He’s been third before, but as he was in a disappointing (for him) 19th place last year, third is a real bonus. And a Beta one, two, three must have been manna from heaven for John Lampkin.

Of course, through the results it’s battles all the way between riders who regularly compare themselves with each other. There have been some surprises and as far as the Newcomers Award went which was of great interest to most folks, Jonathan Richardson’s victory was clear cut. I did think that perhaps Jonny Walker and Darren Brice would be chasing him, but in the end, the young Richardson was out on his own.

Everybody will have their own views of the trial and in an 900 odd word column there’s no way all views and opinions can be accommodated. However, what bugs me, indeed bugs many folks to whom I spoke during the week, is the lack of quality foreign riders. No disrespect to the likes of Dominique Guilliame and other good foreign riders, but in what many consider to be the World’s Number 1 trial, surely we have the right to expect the world’s best trials riders to attend.

Sorry if I’m considered to be writing like an old fashioned codger, but PROFESSIONAL trials riders should be in the biggest and best trial in the world. And that means riders who take the money and whom the factories sponsor, should be in Scotland and taking part. Sorry if they don’t like the weather, the frequently vicious observing, the long daily rides, no-stop riding requirements and sections that are different to those they prefer, but as I say, you, me, those who buy new bikes worldwide, have every right to expect to see them in trials of this stature. Dougie’s back, recognising that the Scottish is the place to be and both the trial and the sport is better for his attendance

I’m not just talking about the SSDT, there are numerous other multi-day events in various parts of the world, and whilst I recognise they can’t do them all, surely there is a number which deserve support from the best riders in the business. Now, don’t moan to me about the current financial situation preventing this, for years they’ve not played the game and there have been plenty of relatively affluent years when sending the factory riders to Scotland and other major internationals would have been more than affordable.

Don’t tell me that the factories don’t like reading these words. Top sportsmen from other disciplines such as golf and tennis have to travel and play the length and breadth of the world; their sponsors demand action every week of the year – and they have to give it. OK, so I know getting a bike to all events is a problem, but don’t tell me that is insurmountable. Can you imagine Tiger Woods declining to play The Open because he doesn’t like those nasty, windy seashore courses!

One last paragraph, two years ago I wrote that the Scottish was way too hard. Last year seemed to be a significant improvement and this year, despite the almost intolerable conditions, I didn’t speak to one rider who thought the trial was too tough. So again, superb, brilliant to everybody involved. You did the sport proud.