Kicking Over Kinlochleven

TALK about being committed, and my wife sometimes seems to think I should be, I travelled up to Kinlochleven for the second time in seven days for the opening British Championship round last weekend.

“You are never going all the way up there again are you” she said. But it’s several years since I’ve been to a British Championship round, and with my new found involvement with Trials Central and Trial Magazine, it seemed only right to make the effort. To be fair, it wasn’t actually much of an effort as John Hulme of Trial Magazine picked me up from my doorstep and gave me the ultimate white knuckle ride both up and back!

So, what was new, what have I learnt and what was my opinion of the trial? Be prepared to dispute these views – or perhaps even agree with them.

First of all let there be no doubt that the trial was superbly organised by the Lochaber Club. Singling out one individual for praise is hardly fair as it has to be a team effort, but the figurehead if you like is Arthur Macdonald, Gary’s dad and through him the club must accept loads of praise.

The sections, designed for the style of trial that the British Championship has become were absolutely spot on. They were plotted and flagged to perfection; all were taped with sense, loads of thought had been given to the safety of riders, minders and the public; they were all within easy walking distance of the start and each section was clearly numbered in numerous places so that you actually knew where you were. Full marks to all concerned. As an interested spectator, I have no criticism and even the officials were happy to let us photographers do our jobs without complaint. Credit to you all.

So, what about the trial itself? First of all, in Kinlochleven, only one rider looked the likely winner, he was Graham Jarvis and he was the winner. Even though he may well be considered one of the more experienced riders (i.e. older!) there was nobody to touch him. It’s all a bit strange really, I half expected to see Michael Brown or Shaun Morris flatten Grimbo, but he was in full control right from the start.

Obviously his ability is superb, but it’s the mental strength that is his greatest asset. Graham has never been an outgoing fellow, but he seems able to soak up the pressure without flinching. He has the courage of his convictions, is happy to ride all the sections at the back and doesn’t seem to find the need to ride first and set the pace. It does put pressure on him but he seems happy with that. Most impressive, and he must be the odds on favourite for another Scottish win in a couple of weeks or so.

Also impressive was the fact that he won on the four stroke Sherco. I wasn’t aware of the fact, not having really thought about it, but it’s the first four stroke British round win since the days of Steve Saunders on the Honda. The Sherco wasn’t the ideal bike for every part of the trial, it certainly wasn’t the outright best for the very biggest steps, but Graham had it all under control and demonstrated that in the right hands it was good enough.

I rather expected Shaun Morris and Michael Brown to put in a stronger challenge, and possibly even Steve Colley. Steve definitely seems to be a step below the very highest level these days, possibly due to his recent elbow injury, and though both Shaun and Michael were very good on the big steps, they still didn’t seem to have the extra edge every where that was needed on the day.

I did miss James Dabill. I personally think it’s a great shame that he is not riding the British Championship, having been contracted to the Italian Championship as he rides for an Italian team. The British series seriously misses him and I for one hope that another year that can be rectified. I look forward to seeing him in the Scottish for I think he will be a force to be reckoned with up there.

I purposely have never shown much interest in the debates over how the British Championship series should be observed. To some extent what happens with the very best lads is of little interest to thee and me. I know what I like and that is what I want, but I accept that others want different rules. In case you don’t know, the current ruling is that a rider can do everything except go backwards and not be penalised unless they put a foot down. You can balance, hop, hop sideways, pick your nose, scratch your ****, anything except go in reverse – unless of course you want to edge just a little bit back to get the best of the rock, then that’s allowed. The section has to be ridden in one-and-a-half minutes, so does it work? Yes – and no!

Yes, of course it works, but the no bit comes because if forward motion at all times was required, then the sections would have to be eased to achieve that and that MIGHT make spectating even more interesting. What I’m seeing is ever more difficult sections and I can see the time when a limit could be reached. Already some VERY good riders are struggling with the size of some steps and rock faces. But will it change? I don’t know, but probably not yet awhile.

There are some very good youngsters coming through but on last Sunday’s performance they are still miles away from Jarvis and Morris. Things may be different at different venues, we’ll have to see, but one thing for sure, it was an entertaining day and I’m delighted I went.

Scotland next!