A good number of years ago I asked Steve Saunders if he ever regretted travelling the world when he was at the top of his form, riding for Honda and Fantic and coming so close to winning the World Championship.
His reply was somewhat surprising; he said “I’ve seen too much Black Top” and he went on to explain that he had spent too many hours travelling the Tarmac of Europe and regretted not stopping occasionally and taking time out to look at places and to simply see a few sights, whether they be views, towns, cities or just to take a breather in his mad rush from one place to another.
I understood exactly what he meant for whilst I have never travelled Europe very much, I regret to this day not seeing more when I did go abroad. The only ISDE I ever rode was at Mende in France in 1988, and of course in those days I was working for TMX and not only was I riding the event on an air-cooled 200 Kawasaki, but I was also reporting the event with Eric Kitchen taking the photos.
As I recall, the weigh-in for the bikes was on Saturday, which left Sunday free for riders to do whatever they wished. A few chose to go and walk the special tests, but the bulk of the British riders who stayed at a tiny village called Barjac, just outside Mende, instead preferred to go to the Gorges du Tarn and mess about in canoes on the river.
“You coming Rappers” was the call fairly early on Sunday morning, and like a fool I said no, I needed to write up the stories I had gathered from the weigh-in for the paper, as I planned to fax them to the office early on Monday morning before I started the event. (Don’t forget this was long before modern communications, and it was the first time I had ever faxed anything, and the only fax machine in the Morecambe office was jealously guarded in the boss’s office).
And I regret to this day not going with the lads and having a jolly good time, for they returned at a sensible time that evening with tales of how they had spent a fantastic time in the Gorge, which had allowed them to relax before tackling the Six Days. That Sunday, in blazing sunshine, I spent in my room typing stuff to send to Morecambe the following morning.
In fact, even though the ISDE started in Mende, I never even got to look around the town, and even though I was away from home for about ten days, I got back full of a fantastic Six Days, but totally ignorant about the town, the country, the people, the atmosphere.
Realising what I missed, I’ve always wanted to go back, but until now, I’ve never had the opportunity. However, if you are reading this on Sunday evening, last night I stayed in Mende and I took the brief opportunity to have a look at the town, and through today, I’ve been riding down to the Tarn Gorge and seeing the Millau Bridge. It’s taken me 21 years to get back there, and though this is being written in advance, I trust I will have been able to fulfil, if only briefly, my ambitions.
I know perfectly well what Steve Saunders meant all those years ago, and for those that travel a lot, it’s a fair reminder to take a bit of time out to see what you are missing, whilst you can.
All this means is that whilst I’ve managed to squeeze a column out for this Sunday, there is no way that there will be one next week, on July 4. I really hate missing my regular weekly offering. I take pride in producing something every week, but sometimes there is simply no other option.
However, when I return from my road bike jaunt down through France to Corsica and back home, I shall regale you with anything remotely significant that has a connection to trials. And perhaps do that even if there is no connection!
It’s no secret that I’m secretary for Lancs County MCC and it was the club’s desire to have a new website. Not really knowing where to get one built, we contacted Atomant (Ian Beardsall) who contributes a huge amount of behind the scenes work to this very website, Trials Central.
Ian willingly agreed to build a site for Lancs County, not because he builds them professionally, and certainly not for any remuneration. In fact he asked that when the site was finished that Lancs County make a donation to the SSDT charity for this year, which is Cystic Fibrosis.
I’m pleased to report that today we sent a significant cheque to the SST secretary, Mairi Jenkins (Highland Lassie), and offer our thanks to Ian, and to Andy who owns Trials Central, for putting us all in touch.
The end result is Lancs County has a new website, and Cystic Fibrosis has a significant cheque and TC again helps out those who need it. Thanks to all.
Ed: apologies for the delay in posting this week's column. Mike, as usual submitted it in good time, but your muppet webmaster forgot to send it on to his laptop before heading for Andorra.