This years Trial Des Nations saw the British Women’s Team demolish the opposition to take a resounding win at La Chatré in France. Reigning Champions Spain survived a late charge from Germany to take a distant second place; doubling the score of the dominant Brits.
Overnight rain dampened some of the sections where reduced grip was expected to be a problem. The British Team consisting of the new World #2 Factory MRS Sherco rider Emma Bristow, World #3 Top Trial Team Beta rider Becky Cook and a returning former British Champion JST Gas Gas UK rider Joanne Coles proved to be unaffected by the slippery conditions and blitzed the 2 lap 15 section course. The unique format of the TDN where the team’s worst individual score on each section is dropped meant that the rampaging Brits only lost marks on two of the sections!!!
After a few steady openers, section 6 was the first real test. Starting second from last (reverse finishing order from 2012), the British women had the luxury of seeing two of their expected rivals; France and Germany experience problems scoring 5 and 6 respectively. Joanne Coles, fresh from her fantastic podium in the previous days World Championship round on her return to the International scene, proved that she wasn’t fazed by the severity of the section and recorded a stunning ride to achieve the first clean of the day. Emma Bristow matched this feat and Becky Cook parted with just a 1 (which was discounted) to set the marker for reigning champions Spain, who were without the talismanic 13 times World Champion Laia Sanz. The Spaniards were obviously rattled by this and recorded a score of 5 to give the British team an early lead.
Section 10 was eased slightly from the previous day’s trial, but still proved to be a real tester. French rider Sandrine Juffet was the only rider to reach the ends cards until the British women arrived on a high after extending their lead on Spain on section 7. Emma proved why she has pushed Laia Sanz so hard this year by recording a fantastic clean ride. Joanne was up next and unfortunately had a big crash taking a heavy blow to her shoulder whilst just on a 1 and agonisingly close to the ends cards. Credit must go to Joanne for trying to hold on to the bike and record the 1 for the team rather than simply ditching the machine. This epitomised the ‘Bulldog Spirit’ of the team. Becky, suffering slightly with a confidence sapping result from the previous day, rose to the challenge and recorded a solid 3. Spain scored 6 therefore extending the British lead to 9.
The next section had also been modified with the end part being tightened up to make a clean unlikely. Emma was on course to record the first clean (and the only score under three marks) when unfortunately the new difficult last turn took her for an unlucky 3 rather than having a precautionary dab. Becky and Joanne never really looked like cleaning the section but still recorded dependable threes. Spain matched Britain here ending the lap 9 behind the Brits with a score of 18, with Sanz’ replacement Elisabet Solera riding particularly well. Germany was on 27; with France and Italy tying on 34 to round off the top 5.
The final lap followed a similar pattern to the first. All of Britain’s rivals dropped marks on section 6, but the girls were ‘on fire’ here with all three recording stunning cleans. With her confidence slowly returning, Becky in particular made mincemeat of the section, making it look effortless. Section 10 was again causing problems. Emma matched her first lap efforts with another fantastic clean. Joanne was understandably nervous with the pain in her shoulder proving testament to how dangerous the section could be, but she still managed a determined 3 and actually came close to just having 1. Becky rode the section very well and somehow also ended up with a score of 3 despite making it look easy.
Section 11 again proved difficult for all the teams. Emma learnt from her previous lap’s mistake and recorded the lowest score of the day with just a dab. Joanne and Becky were also looking good until the dreaded last corner turned their good efforts into 3’s. The rampant Brits completed the lap with no further loss making their lap score an impressive 7 and their total an unbeatable 16, recording their fourth win in the history of the event since its introduction in 2000. Spain finished runners-up on 33 and Germany left it a little too late with an impressive last lap score of 13 to finish on 40 and claim the last step on the podium.
Credit must go to the organisers and officials who put on a fantastic event and also the observers who did a great job. Thanks to reserve rider Katy Sunter for keeping track of the scores. Thanks also must go to the efforts of all of the minders, especially the chief minders: James Fry, Craig Talbot and Paul Coles, and the travelling British helpers and supporters who made it feel like a local event.
Roll on 2014!!!