|Dave and I at the start of The Downland Trial|
We got away bang on time and headed for the first group of three sections a few minutes ride away at Napper’s Lane for a couple of subs adjacent to the old railway line. Whilst the first sub went well a tight, uphill turn on very loose scree in Sub 2 caught me out and I had to take a steadying dab in order to stave off a maximum. The weather had taken it’s toll on the track and the going between sections here was treacherous however, I managed to clear the tread of the tyres which proved a good idea for Sub 3 which was a sinuous affair plotted in and out of a gulley. The two Subs at The Moors used the stream which is always tricky but having successfully negotiated an underwater obstacle in the first and gauged the grip levels correctly in the second, I came away without troubling the observers. The last sub here generally catches me out; the exit is very close to a barbed-wire fence which always catches my eye and I dab but this year I put it out of my mind, rode the stream perfectly and exited the greasy bank for a pleasing clean.
|The bowl in Seymour's Arena|
Next up was the brilliant
’s arena where we had to
ride six technical sections. A large
crowd had built up to watch the sidecar entertainment which gave me time to
think about the first tricky sub which featured a huge jumble of rocks in the
middle. The tight entry and exit needed
some thought however, my line was good and I only had to take a dab. I rode really well here and overcame the urge
to dab by using innovative lines and good control to move ahead of my main
rivals. Interestingly, traction was a
little more difficult to come by this year but I held my nerve and came away
with that single dab in the first. Seymour
The tricky Lollingdon Hill group followed where wet clay and steep banks combine to make this the most challenging of groups in the entire series. The first Sub here was a real stinker and most people had taken “fives” rather than get stuck in the deep, muddy bowl as this drains your energy reserves for the rest of the trial. I was on a high from Seymour’s and decided that if I could get the bike down the hill in third gear I should be able to make the extremely difficult climb. I rode the decompressor, hopped over the greasy log and lined myself up. I decided to ride the contours of the bank in a “S” shape and as I opened NT410 up the power came in smoothly and I was away. The plan worked and I popped out of the ends cards with the first clean of the day and a round of applause from the observer and Dave. It only became apparent how lucky I’d been when, at the next section I realised I had ridden Sub 12 with the petrol tap off!! The double Sub of 13-14 was just as difficult and I was overjoyed at getting my weight right in 13 however, Martyn Wilmore got in my way on the exit of 14 and caused me a two. The observer said I could have a baulk however, looking at the severity of what I’d just done I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and I settled for my two dabs. They were the last of my penalties for this trial as I cleaned everything else.
|Most people dabbed at this point. Keeping|
my feet up in a technical section at Seymour's
The ride between Lollingdon Hill and Aston Pit is one of the most beautiful scenes in trials and I was on a high from the last two groups. We refuelled at Aston Pit where we did a couple of Subs on the muddy banks before heading off to ride the steep banks of Pump House. Interestingly, the apple trees here still had some large fruit so I helped myself to the windfalls which, I must say, were wonderfully tasty. This natural sugar rush stood me in good stead for the steep banks of the four Subs at Air Raid shelter and after polishing off a corned beef sandwich we headed off on the long cross country ride to Bower Farm for one sub on the steep grassy bank. It was here that I fell off between sections and I really hit my head quite hard on the ground. Unfortunately, a group of walkers witnessed this impromptu spectacle and I rode off sore and rather embarrassed.
|Strange's Gate, the final|
I thought my four mark loss was par for the day, so I was very surprised to find that I had achieved the best score throughout all classes on my route and beat my rivals quite convincingly by seven marks. Dave struggled with his chest infection but did finish and provided me with some sound advice throughout the day for which I am most grateful. Veteran rider and Gentleman, Mike Holloway (Matchless 410) finished second on the day to take the Class 1 championship; very well done Mike.
|My prediction was one mark too many|
Despite the strong finish I finished my 2013 Sammy Miller campaign as runner up in Class 2 which is the best I could’ve hoped for especially since I have been penalised for competing in all the rounds. The rules state that you drop your worst round but the winner didn’t do the first round and therefore, loses no points at all (i.e. all his rounds count). This is a pretty poor ruling in my opinion and goes against those that spend a lot of time and money to compete in all the rounds. Hopefully, I can take the fight to my rivals next year but I haven’t ruled out changing to Class 1 and will be practicing on a rigid between now and the first round, The Cotswold Cups Trial, on
As always, I owe grateful thanks to the Factory, especially Dave Arkell and Nige Townsend without whose engineering expertise, generosity, time and good grace I wouldn’t be competing. Thank You both.
|Dave (Ariel HT5) exits at Strange's Gate|
Thanks to all at North Berks
MCC for setting out another
superb trial and to the observers. The route
marking was outstanding and I’d like to thank the advance riders for doing such
a great job; by far the best route marking I’ve seen in a trial.
|Thanks to all at North Berks MCC|
Next up: Zona 1
MCC Race Techniques Trial at Nettleton