Well, this is the aim ha ha, but there's a problem. The dates clash and so I will be left to choose which Championship to complete. This will depend on travelling distances (against S3 and Normandale Championships) and my ability to cope with the riding conditions (everything - ha ha).
So I've started the year with best intentions and the first round of the S3 Championship was here, The Colmore cup.
Craig Daffin and former motocross rider and I travelled up to Stratford with a 6.30 start from my home. We knew many miles of road riding was in front of us and that we would need more fuel somewhere out on the course, so we came armed with petrol cans which we could put out on the fuel truck which would go out to the furthest location away from the course.
So we pulled up in the car park and spoke to a very official guy in the car park and said "Where about's is the fuel truck please?". He replied "There isn't one". "So, how do we refuel ?" I said. He looked at me with a blank look on his face and replied "We use petrol stations in these parts mate". Ha ha, very funny :)
So finally we found a willing mule to lug our petrol around for us, but whether we would find him, I don't know.
Rob Warner parked next to us and was sporting the latest style in Jamaican flag beanie hats. We had a chat and he was considering some pre event maintanance on his bike but thought it was easier to pull things off his bike rather than mend them. "With 2 kids, I haven't got time" he laughed. He then climbed into the back of his mini escort style van and said loudly "Don't come anywhere near these doors, I'm going for a session on the porta loo ha ha ", and the doors swung shut behind me. Those few words left an indelible pic. Another notable face from the past was Tony Scarlet unloading his Beta 300 from the back of his pick up.
I was the last man away with my two buddies right there. Rob Warner was also starting off with with us.
So, it was raining hard and it was cold but not so cold that it was a problem. We set off and rode to the first group 7 miles away. I turned off the road through a farmers gate and then rode for a quarter mile across grass fields to the first section, which was at the bottom a huge huge grass hill. With the usual optimism and vigour, I parked the bike up and jogged down to look at the section. The observer said "Don't blame us, Alan Wright set out this one out". Oh no Wrighty, what have you done?. The observer didn't sound cheery. Still ..... I was fresh, clean and full of energy. The section took us around the edge of the hole turning left through a water ditch and then along the bank. Then you had to drop to your left into the bottom of the hole and then power across the mud and up out of the hole to the ends cards.
I was still optimistic, it was only the first section. What could go wrong. Kevin Nolan immediately sked for a five and rode away. "Oh my God ", am I under estimating this?. I dropped down into the clag and lost my leg up to my thigh. My nice new Jotagas white trousers, were black with stinking festering stagnant mud and I could feel my sock was wetter than a ferret's pocket. "Oh my God". Kevin was right, this was impossible. Craig dropped down into the section whilst I was still walking it and rode the first part easily. He dropped into the bomb hole and went nowhere.
Another rider, I don't know, came through and took a different line. He blasted through the mud and was up the other side with no problem. This gave me confidence - fool :)
I cruised the first part of the section and then selected third gear launching down into the mud pit, on this new "possible" line with engine revs high. I made it 3 feet and sank :(. I then spent the next few minutes precariously trying to maintain my balance whilst tottering around the bike, so that I could get a good purchase on it, to pull it out of the clag. I was holding onto overhanging twigs like my life depended on it ha ha. What a start. Dragging the bike out I then left for section 2, which was a breeze and a twiddle on the hillside through some twists and turns.
Section 3 was a graded hill climb. The hill was covered in slippery glass. The begins cards meant that you had to approach it at an angle .The fact that 120 riders had already been through these sections and that we've had the most rain ever recorded + this area suffered from a lot of flooding, meant that these sections were very very slimy and slippery. I set off, third gear and made it to the 2 marker before I span to a halt.
Although I hadn't had a particularly good start, to say the least, I was still enjoying myself as we left this group and headed on.
The sections a while later, then started to get harder and harder. We dropped off the road into some woods to be confronted by some of the largest hills I've ever had to face on a trials bike. 120 bikes had been through these sections, the hillside where they were was huge, massive, monumental, but all the leaves from the trees had gone from the floor. It was a floor awash with mud and slime.
It was what can only be described as like a scene from the World War 1 battle of the Somme. Riders were everywhere, lying under and next to their steaming over heating bikes. Bikes laying on their sides, forgotten and unloved. It was a formidable, frightening and yet intriguing sight.
This is where I saw Tony Scarlet reveal a little of the magic he still has on a trial bike. The biggest section was a straight climb on mud up a straight climb which then bent round to the left. At the top you turned right and dropped down. Tony let it rip and that tractor, I mean Beta :) just would not stop. The throttle had one position and that was flat out. The Beta sounded like a Honda C90 with no exhaust :) but he made it to the top. A great ride.
The sections continued for the rest of the trial in this vein. Big 4th gear slippery climbs that you couldn't stand up on and glass like greased down hills what made you wince and think about your family back home.
It was an epic trial, one that totally outclassed me completely. My Jotagas was perfect all day. The Jotagas was excellent and didn't miss a beat. Everything worked ace. It was no longer pinking. Perhaps this was because of the colder temperature, by half way through the day the rain was coming down so hard that I couldn't even see. My glasses had a thick layer of mud on them and my wiping cloth was dirtier than the mud itself :)
I did feel that the easier sections, which I was riding had become the harder of the two sections by the end of the day. 110 riders through on the harder course cut them lines and wiped out logs whilst my sections were as snotty and nadgery as ever. But hey, I'm not making excuses.
As I rode around, I had one reoccurring thought. How the hell did the men, back in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's cope with this going and terrain, here at the Colmore Cup. This is the slipperiest, slimiest and steepest trial I've ridden in a long time. I rode this trial back in the 90's but had forgotten how hard it was. That's the problem with memory, I for one only tend to remember the good bits ha ha.
I was so cold as I left the last group on the 7 mile ride in the stinging rain back to the start. I couldn't see, I was shivering and the rain at 40mph on my face was like being tattooed ha ha.
Well, thank God that's over. I was like a drowned rat. I got changed in the men's loo's at the football club where there was the luxury of hot water.
As for finding our fuel in the mystery van..... I can't tell you the amount of vans we opened up on the side of the road before we got the right one :)