Maximum Men

Having spent last Saturday week at Rugby doing the clerk of the course course (if you get what I mean!), it was an ideal opportunity to pop down to Stoneleigh, about three quarters of an hour away, and see the Dirt Bike Show.

Thanks to JC letting us out of school early, we got to the show at 4pm so only had an hour and twenty minutes to whiz round. I haven’t been to the Dirt Bike Show for a good number of years, three or maybe four I suppose; the reason being is that I thought the last one I went to was poor.

But this year was totally different. Bigger, better and certainly of more interest, in the very short time we had to visit, we were able to do one very quick tour of most of the stands, speak to a few folks and get a feeling for the show.

Obviously the Gas Gas side valve four stroke was the big interest for trials fans, but the bike is unlikely to be available for at least another nine months, and with the four strokes from Beta, Montesa, Scorpa and Sherco already well established, Gas Gas may have a hard time breaking into a limited market. But it looked the part and no doubt in the next few months we’ll get an idea of what it is like once some riders can get aboard it and report back.

So Dougie Lampkin is returning to Beta after an extended spell with Montesa. I don’t suppose it has come as much of a surprise to anyone, for if you look at it all logically, Doug was an unlikely candidate for Gas Gas, Sherco or Scorpa. As I have written here in the past, I spoke with Miguel Cirera at Hawkstone back in July and “reading between the lines” I came away with the impression that the Lampkin and Montesa relationship would not last for very much longer. When we spoke it was not what Miguel said to me, in fact he was exceedingly positive and full of support for Dougie, however it was what he didn’t say that gave me that impression. I could well have totally misread the discussion, but in the end I didn’t.

So, what are my views on his return to Beta? I think it is absolutely brilliant for the sport. He is without any doubt incredibly popular with the trials fans and whilst there’s no denying he is in the twilight of his career, I also think that there is still a fair amount of winning left in him. Whether that can be achieved at world level only time will tell, but let us hope so for when it comes to dedication, determination and the absolute will to win, there’s none better.

Forget his riding for the moment, what I see with Doug which makes him stand out from the rest, is his way with kids. Ask him to have his picture taken with a youngster and he’ll always oblige, with his characteristic smile that lights up any snap. I’ve yet to see the foreign riders oblige in such a way, but I could be wrong.

Whilst we’re talking about real stars of our sport, let me include World Superbike Champion James Toseland in that category. Rather surprisingly (to me) I sat down to watch last week’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year, expecting Lewis Hamilton to walk away with the trophy. That he didn’t came as a big surprise; two boxers in first and third place makes one wonder quite how they managed to achieve such success from a live vote, but never mind that, did you see Toseland tinkle the ivories?

Toseland got a very cheesy introduction from presenter Adrian Chiles, asking him whether he can be the next Barry Sheene – gosh, not heard that one before! – and James duly obliged with a sensible answer. But then James got to showcase his incredible talent as a pianist with a three minute blues piece that left the 8000 strong audience applauding for more.

Rarely does anything make me feel intensely proud of someone, or produce something that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but last Sunday night James Toseland managed both.

If winning the Sports Personality of the Year award was ever down to “the performance on the night”, then Toseland should have walked off with a maximum score. He was tremendous.

And as a biker, he’s one of us.