Too Tough To Tackle?

THIS column has become almost entirely concerned about Scotland in recent weeks, but that’s the nature of where trials happenings have been recently so with the Scottish Six Days Trial having just finished yesterday, here is the Rapley take on the week.

First of all a fantastic effort by James Dabill in winning the trial to become the first winner on a four stroke since Sid Lampkin way back in 1966. Dibs was absolutely magnificent all week; he always had a smile on, he seemed to be actually enjoying the experience and at no time did he look to be anything other than the potential winner once he had taken the early lead on Monday.

Lots of folk (me included) thought five time winner Graham Jarvis would be able to peg back the deficit, and though Graham fought tooth and nail all the way, his big loss on Monday was insurmountable and he had to settle for third come the end. In fact it wasn’t just Jarvis who was Dabill’s main challenger, his mate Michael Brown was a real threat as was Gary Macdonald and loads of other classy riders, but as the days progressed Dabill simply got better and better. Great rides, all of them.

So, what’s the Rapley view on things?


Is that a cynical view on the trial from somebody who cannot manage to ride like those in the event, or is it a view from somebody who has reported the Scottish 28 times and can therefore be considered to have an understanding of how such a trial should be planned?

Who cares? – I’m going to say my piece and if you have a different view, then air them here, on Trials Central.

First of all let me say that I have no criticism of Mark Whitham and his team for the way they plotted the trial. There were some significant problems for them to face during the week, and for all I know, they may well have decided to make the event as difficult as it turned out to be, but it is my considered view that in a great many locations, the sections were simply too difficult.

As a general analysis, the sections made superb riders look pretty good, good riders look average and average riders look pretty poor. So where does that leave the less able riders? In a position where they simply can’t do it, that’s where.

Of course there’s a strong argument that as it’s the premier trial in the world in which anybody can take part, then it should be of a severity level to suit that status. However, there comes a point at which you have to decide whether to aim the trial at the top twenty, or the capabilities of the top 200. If you decide to aim the severity level at the top twenty, then fair enough, that was achieved, but the danger is that you then make the remaining 180 fed up because they can’t do it.

Time and time again riders said to me that they had taken enough and wouldn’t be back. Of course time is a great healer and when next year’s regs come out attitudes may well have changed.

One of the problems as I see it is that the more mature rider forms the bulk of the entry. The nature of the trial is that it requires a lot of time and money to take part, therefore the older rider is financially more able to fund the event.

But it is the younger rider that is able to tackle the bigger sections and from where the winner will emerge, yet they are numerically far fewer than older riders. The younger element may well have been very happy with the severity level, but the trial, to be financially viable, needs a full house entry of 275 riders and this year for the first time in a long while the club were unable to fill all 275 start numbers on Monday morning. They were only seven short and I’m not suggesting that the potential severity will have put riders off, but whereas the trial was well over-subscribed, perhaps next year it could well prove even more difficult to fill all the starting places.

One of the problems with over-subscription is that if you don’t make the first ballot, many riders then back out from accepting a place on the reserve list. For many it is too late to organise time off work and to fund the experience when the club have places to fill mid-March, mid-April and even the week before the trial.

That’s not a criticism of the club, but I suspect they may well have to consider an earlier commitment date after which a non-starter does not get his entry fee returned. The Edinburgh Club is frequently in a no-win situation, but a decision to ease the trial for future years may well turn that round to a win-win situation.

One other point I want to make and this will get some furious reaction I’m sure is over observers. I don’t care whether observers are tough or lenient as long as they are consistent through the entry. What really bugs me as a spectator is to see Joe Sprogger manhandle his bike through the toughest section to the ends card with several little stops along the way and get a five, whilst Sidney Superstar reachs the end feet up with the aid of similar momentary halts and gets a clean. One may be fighting for fifth to tenth place whilst the other is battling for 180th with his mate in 184th , they should be treated equally – and they are not!

Oh, and another thing, it would do no observers any harm to just acknowledge a rider’s request to know what he has been given. A few do, but the majority don’t. He’s not going to argue with you – honest he’s not – but he does like to have some idea of what score he can expect at the end of the day.

So, was it too hard? Am I being unfair? Have I totally lost touch? Or have I hit the nail bang on the head? Come on, post your views, after all, it’s only a game!