A Night For A Masterclass

If you weren’t at Sheffield on Saturday night then you missed a Masterclass of indoor trials.

Justifiably claimed as “Sheffield – the world’s no1 indoor trial”, the show by Toni Bou, Dougie Lampkin, Takahisa Fujinami, James Dabill and Michael Brown, was a fantastic entertainment that had the 6000 strong audience cheering the roof down as they witnessed riding to a level that was simply awe inspiring.

Even with former World number one Adam Raga having to pull out with a cracked bone in his finger incurred from a practice crash the day before, the remaining five were truly mind blowing, riding to a level that only a few years ago was unimaginable – and they did it with full commitment, enjoyment and good humour, relishing in their unique ability to display such rare talents.

Toni Bou won for the third year in succession, and at one stage looked as if he would go through the night without the loss of a single observation mark in the sections, but in the end he kindly gave away a single dab right at the very end of the very last section, almost as if he didn’t want to make the others look below par.

Bou and Lampkin – riding the Montesa four stroke for probably the very last time – went through the first lap clean, with Dougie on his very best form, matching Bou everywhere – and Bou was stunningly brilliant, notching up clean after clean with unmatched aplomb.

But Martin Lampkin’s sections are designed these days for the first lap to be achievable, and on the second lap when they are ridden in the reverse direction to be very tough. And they were that! Brown, Dabill and Fujigas were soon out of the reckoning, leaving the field wide open for Lampkin and Bou to show who was the best. In his 13th Sheffield Indoor, Dougie rode to a level that the Sheffield fans had not seen for a few years, but whatever he did, Bou did better.

And when it came to the Cusworth boxes in the reverse direction, it was only Bou who came away with the unique clean sheet as he fired the fantastic Repsol Honda Montesa up and over the biggest gap and step to set a new standard. Bou, riding last every time, repeated the impossible when he alone cleaned the roller coaster section, the most difficult bit being at the bottom of a steep drop to a step and steep ride to the final crest. Nobody had managed it, though Lampkin had come close, but when Bou did it, he failed the first time, but sliding back down, feet up and in control, he realigned himself and powered up, making the impossible, possible, sealing his third consecutive victory to roars of approval from the fans who had just witnessed the ride of the night.

It’s now two years since Sheffield was a World Championship event, and it’s all the better for it. The trial runs to a totally different format from WC events, which gives all riders action all night, thereby giving the paying spectators better value for their hard earned cash. And with no WC points to fight for, the riders are more relaxed, and arguably, more inclined to entertain than to just get a result.

Michael Brown, Alexz Wigg and Ross Danby opened the show in a three section shoot out to see who would go through to the main event. Browny won it easily, with three great clean rides, indeed, for a rider with limited indoor experience, he was the star of the night and the crowd were behind him every stage of the way. In fact whilst the three British lads were obviously the best supported, with Doug, Dabill and Browny getting equal amounts of support, Bou and Fujigas are also crowd favourites and received superb encouragement all night. Raga having to pull out was unfortunate, but I can confirm, having seen his finger and talking with him, he was not able to continue.

Once again Neil Crosswaite and Martin Lampkin with loads of help and support came up trumps with a fantastic show. Neil told me last year that he feared the loss of WC backing could have brought Sheffield to an end, but the support from the riders and the crowd has been fantastic, and if the last two shows are anything to go by, WC backing is not needed for an entertaining show.

Few (if any) shows enjoy a 13 year run at Sheffield, and if you understand this achievement in relation to other events, you can understand why Avondale Management have to be pleased. A few weeks ago Joe Cocker was on stage at Sheffield after a 16 year lapse and drew an audience smaller than last Saturday’s crowd for the indoor. So Sheffield is a very successful promotion, and with a show like Saturday’s, the future for indoor events in the UK, in the current format, is very good indeed.

A great night, and great entertainment.

Just looked at the Scottish Six Days entry list prior to sending this for publication and Dougie Lampkin is entered. Now that is interesting – very interesting, and great to see. Dougie back, riding in Scotland is what we all want to enjoy.