There is one defining factor that makes all the very best sportsmen stand out from the rest. No matter what the sport (apart from darts perhaps!), the best, and by the best I mean the world championship men and women, there is that one factor that allows them to stand out from the crowd of competitors who wish to usurp them.
It doesn’t matter whether the sportsperson in question is a marathon runner, a 100metre sprinter, a top class tennis player, a Formula One driver, a golfer, a trials rider or a motocrosser, or indeed any other contender for top honours.
The defining factor is that they are always supremely fit. As I see it, what usually defines one man over another is that no matter how fit both are, there is one that touch fitter, and when all other things are equal, it is the fittest that comes out best.
And this factor was so obvious to me last weekend when I had the pleasure of attending a World Championship Sidecarcross Grand Prix. As regular readers of this column will know, I had a ten day holiday last week (that’s a misnomer, but you know what I mean!), and at the end of my road-biking trip to Europe, the six of us attended the French Sidecarcross GP at Bourg Bruche, midway between Mulhouse and Strasbourg in France.
The last 'chair GP I attended was more than 20 years ago at Streatley Hills, and to be honest, I can remember little of it. So last weekend’s meeting was to all intents and purposes something new.
The track wa a typical continental offering. It had been bulldozed in a clearing by the local club and wound up and down the hillsides for 1.7km. It was a bit narrow for chairs, but had been well prepared, with few bumps, even fewer ruts, and was hardpacked red clay liberally littered with shaley rocks. And of course there were some spectacular jumps.
Let me get to the point. Prior to the start of the meeting, we walked the pits looking at all the outfits and kit the teams had. The most obvious ace in the pack was the set up of Daniele Willemsen, the Dutch Zabel star and current world champion. He had the biggest truck, the biggest awning, two superb outfits, full-time mechanics and if bulls**t brought results, then he was the guy to do the winning.
Come the first moto we stood at the end of the start straight on the first swooping bend and 30 chairs leaving the line at full throttle is certainly a sight to see. Within seconds Willemsen was into a lead that he never relinquished, and never looked like losing as lap after lap of the 30 minute plus two laps race, he continually gained a significant advantage over his challengers.
Not only was he obviously the fastest on the day, it was so clear that whilst he might have had all the bulls**t, he also had the fitness to race flat out for the duration. His speed never slackened and he man-handled that beast of an outfit like a man possessed. Just occasionally, one sees a supreme example of a man at the height of his prowess and that was certainly the case last weekend. It was a pleasure to see him do the winning in both races in such emphatic style. No wonder he has a reputation for wearing out passengers; his chairman had to be just as fit and as the team, they were brilliant.
It was also a joy to see Brits Stuart Brown and Paul Dunkley take third place in the first race. Chasing championship points round Europe and the Baltic states takes a rare sort of dedication, but British Champ Browny was doing just that, and there was no doubt he was delighted to get on the podium in race one. He got a good gate and managed to hold off his challengers for the duration of the race.
The track was definitely a disadvantage for a left hand chair, but the guy chasing him was also racing a left hand chair (there were only six left-handers at the meeting), which made it almost impossible for him to get past and Browny only needed to hold his line to stay in third.
Afterwards he said that he was delighted with the result, his best GP race of the season, and it was a pleasure to watch and cheer him on.
Whilst you don’t want to read about my holiday tales, I do have to confess that I dropped the VFR. Best I tell you now, because for sure it can’t remain a secret! It happened in a car park at the Rhinefall. I was aiming for a parking space at about 2mph, when a German biker walked from one side of his bike, into my planned space. I put my foot down, only to find the camber of the road was too far away for me to reach; the bike began to topple, and I simply couldn’t hold 35 stone of Honda Sports Tourer upright.
I was pinned under the bike in front of a significant audience, with nothing worse than severely damaged pride. In future, maps will be printed with the name Rappersfall instead of Rhinefall!