A wet start to the day made me think "should I"?
It did not take me long to move on and say yes. Why not! Its at Nant Ucha so its under a good canopy, I was riding the Evo for the first time in ages, I was having a go at the Expert route and most importantly I was out to meet my trials buddies, so whats a little rain.
I am so glad I did, as did the 71 riders who turned out on Sunday 5th November for a day that started with layers and gradually warmed up to normal riding gear. This event saw a good mix of 20 Pre 65's and 22 twinshock, with 13 AC Monos and 16 modern monos making up the entry. Once again, the highest entry class was the popular intermediate route with 28 riders taking up the challenge.
Nant Ucha always makes for a great event and whilst their are some regular favourite sections, once again Russ and the team were able to keep it fresh and interesting by reversing some sections or throwing in some twists on the regular theme. The new parking area provided by Dave and the family has also made the venue even more event friendly, certainly with some of the colder / wetter months coming up.
With only two events left in the 2017 Championship and some of the places still left to contest it was always going to be a tight event and once again the final results show a nice balanced table.
For those of you who know my story, I have dotted across a number of bikes the last few years. Mainly the Bultaco and a TY Mono turned into a twinshock to learn sidecar. The Beta Evo has played last fiddle as I focused on the TY and Bultaco to attempt the intermediate route. I have never felt confident to tackle the Experts on the older machine. I know my capability and know that I was likely to run the risk of injuring myself but the modern bike is a bit more forgiving and I always promised myself when the time was right I would try that route on the Evo. So that's what I did and it was so the right choice. I have always believed that trials is about 60% technique and 40% psychological approach and having practiced regularly at Nant Ucha, the likelyhod that the routes will stretch me and force that 40% to the surface as i was "forced" to ride a route in practice I would probably shy away from was quite an attraction.
Well Section 6 and 8 immediately did that!
Section 6 was a stream that we regularly practiced and the waterfall at the end was actually on my bucket list 6 years ago to ride up and ride down (ticked that one off a few years ago). That was the waterfall before the storm reshaped it. The route (taken by the green route) was our regular practice line this year but the bit to the left for the Experts was something we never touched (and so lies the lesson - in competition you have to ride what is put in front of you)! So what did I think? Well the first lap I took the easy option. The flags had two lines, a 4 rock climb to the left which was quite steep and to the right a more forgiving route but involved a left hand turn on the approach followed by a right hand turn as you traversed the climb over a number of misshaped rocks and slabs. I elected for this route on the first lap, taking a couple of well planted dabs to ease my way up. Happy with that, on the second lap a chat to the observer made me aware that most riders were getting up the harder left hand side without a problem so the only option really was to give it a go.
A little tip here. Observers are brilliant for helping you improve. It is one of the reasons I observe regularly as you get to watch other riders lines and techniques. Having a chat with the observer on the second lap on sections you are struggling on can sometimes have great benefits. Anyway back to the section.
Having seen Messer's Bou and Raga throw modern bikes up much harder things I realised the bike was capable. It was just about mastering the 60/40 split above. My head told me that "technically" I could get lined up and squirt the throttle with some reasonable body position. The 40% psychology aspect was the problem! My brain told me "nah -you will only five it or worse crack a rib, or maybe the bike will slip out from under you and then you won't be working tomorrow will you....". But what is the point of stepping up the class if you fold at the first hurdle. So I entered the section thinking on Mr Bou and Raga, cleaned it up the river bed and lined up for the waterfall. All I can remember is getting up it quite smoothly and slightly overshooting the turn out of the out gates as I carried a little to much speed, but a reassuring dab corrected that and I think I exited for a single dab. Result! The final two laps I think were a dab and a clean and a massive smile on my face and I had conquered a demon.
Section 8 was a different outcome. Once again, an area we regularly practiced but the twisty turns with the rock aspects were something we had not added before. That was all straight forward and really helped to fine tune slow control and a little bit of obstacle climbing but the key challenge here was a short sharp incline up a root infested bank. Once again, this bank had a varied aspect that went left to right with a more serious aspect of gradient and concentration of roots. We normally stick to the left hand side but the expert route was covering the right hand aspect. A significant gradient of 10-15 ft climb with a tree to the right hand side and a collection of 3 muddy roots. Regardless of my line or speed of attack I could not get this. Once again the bike was more than capable but on this occasion my mind would not allow me to attack with the right closing speed and roll off. Fears of the bike grabbing grip and throwing me backwards or carrying to much speed over the roots and getting airborne prevented me from mastering this section. Two fives and two threes were the best I could muster but a specific obstacle to clean in the next practice session.
The other highlights of the Expert route were the range of new obstacles in the stream sections and some great climbs and banks in the other sections. Am I happy that I tried the Expert route? Absolutely. I know at the moment I would not be confident tackling them on the twinshock or AC Mono bike and I am comfortable riding around the inter route on these machines but the confidence the modern bike gives has allowed me to experience the harder sections and bridge that 40% psychological gap and maybe one day.... just one day the Bultaco would be treated to a set of blue and red flags.
As always, a huge thank you to the observers, organisers, signing on team and section plotters. Not forgetting Chris for the catering on a cold day and also the Kynaston family for the use of the land.
You will notice a few photos on this report courtesy of Jan Jones and Roger Kenyon. Many thanks for taking these. The full selection can be found on the Aqueduct facebook page.
Pre 65 Expert: Peter Edwards, BSA (38)
Pre 65 Intermediate: Vernon Roberts, BSA (11); Roly Jones, Ariel (13); Keith Gardner, Triumph (14)
Pre 65 Clubman: Roger Smith, BSA (11); Peter Cottrell, BSA (17); Terry Lloyd, Triumph (21)
Pre 65 Beginner: No finishers
Twinshock Expert: Tony Gush, Majesty (9); Matt Spink, Beamish (12); Dave Wood, Gareli (20)
Twinshock Intermediate: Paul Cook, SWM (15FC); Adrian Kent, Bultaco (15); Jim Williams, SWM (23)
Twinshock Clubman: Phil Cottiga, Fantic (16FC); Peter Cockins, Fantic (16); John Sowden, Honda (27)
Twinshock Beginner: Chris Jones, Yamaha (45); Craig Fowler, Yamaha (50)
AC Mono Expert: No enteries
AC Mono Intermediate: Paul Young, GasGas (14); Ian Emery, Yamaha (19); Martin Powell, Honda (23)
AC Mono Clubman: Andy Steele, Yamaha (22); Steven Blaxall, Fantic (26)
AC Mono Beginner: Chris Macgillivray, Fantic (25); Chris Matthews, Fantic (32); Pete Thomas, Fantic (36)
Modern Mono Expert: C Hughes, Beta (40); Cleif Roberts, Beta (47); Rob Sloggett, Beta (92)
Modern Mono Intermediate: P Hempkins, Beta (25); Andrew Dean, Beta (36); Spencer Bradley (42)
Modern Mono Clubman: Ken Williams, Montesa (19); Mark Bill, Honda (25); Kevin Hillidge, Sherco (27)
Modern Mono Beginners: Pete Rainsford, Montesa (29(
Sec 1 - Zara
Sec 2 - Ben
Sec 3 - Ange
Sec 4 - Addie
Sec 5 - Annette
Sec 6 - Gordon
Sec 7 - Laura
Sec 8 - Russ
Sec 9 - Dave
Sec 10 - Rob
Pre 65 - 20
Twinshock - 22
A/C Mono - 13
Modern Mono - 16
Total = 71
Expert - 11
Intermediate - 28
Clubman - 19
Beginner - 13
Ariel - 1
BSA - 8
Francis Barnett - 2
James - 2
Triumph - 7
Beamish Suzuki - 1
Bultaco - 3
Chase TY - 1
Fantic - 4
Gareli - 1
Honda - 2
Montesa - 1
SWM - 2
Yamaha Majesty - 2
Yamaha TY - 5
Aprilla - 1
Fantic - 3
GasGas - 2
Honda - 2
JCM - 1
Yamaha - 3
Beta - 9
GasGas - 1
Honda - 1
Montesa - 2
Sherco - 1