Pro's, Experts and Intermediates
The section on the logs on both days were undoubtedly the best to watch and the Pro's certainly gave a magnificent display of skill there. The section turned out to be all it was expected to be, thanks very much to the efforts of Michael and Russel in moving the logs into position.
The Le Riche's had asked for tough sections, and I think they got them, yet they certainly handled them well. The highest score on any section on day one of the Pro's was Brent on section 4 where he got 12.
Riding with the experts on lap one of the first day gave me the opportunity to see them in action. In most cases they were happy with the sections and very few changes were made. The logs were the exception and seeing as Tony, who was riding with Jessica, had already attempted it, getting a huge five, they decided to only change it for the next three laps. Unfortunately Charlie hurt his ankle there, affecting his ride for the rest of the day and putting him out on day two. Tyrone was the only rider in experts to get a maximum 20 anywhere and he got it on that section.
The expert sections were tough, but they were generally happy with them and it was great to see and hear the new Hondas of Charlie and Tyrone. I had a ride on one after the trial and it certainly is a lovely machine. Ask Trevor, he also had a ride. Also nice to see Bruce's TRS and the two Vertigo's.
The intermediate sections were set at a sensible level. Challenging but not dangerous. Section four in the river, took marks off us all. In fact no one got into single figures, the best being Sean and Dawie who both got twelve for the day. Section seven was our collective next worst section with everyone getting between 9 and 12. The easiest sections were five and eight with low scores being achieved there. Best of the class was, as expected, John Le Riche whose quiet and smooth riding style makes it look so easy.
Day two was deliberately easier for all classes, and I think most riders were grateful for it. The reversal of day one section 4 into section eleven on day two was eased by the elimination of the muddy bit for us, but it turned into a really good section with the last bit between two trees and up the steep bank being the tricky part. John Le Riche and Steven were the lowest scorers on zero and one respectively.
On both days, the clubmen were generally apprehensive before the start, and elated and relieved at the end. It is amazing how obstacles that seem unridable until the first rider does it, suddenly become manageable. Once the first lap is complete, the riders sail through the sections with more and more confidence, until exhaustion starts taking its toll on the not-quite-fit.
Photos courtesy of Rory Bruins.
Weather - just perfect. Sunny but not hot, with a very slight breeze. Clubmen start at section 10, which is rip-rap rocks. Very daunting.
The observer here is my wife Julie, observing for the first time - and we settle her in to the task. I have the 'flu and am not sure I will be able to finish one lap.
I used to hate rocks, but knowing that this section was going to be in the Nationals, I had practiced on the pile of loose rock at our practice venue (Zonnebloem School). I want to get going before I run out of steam altogether, and start the proceedings.
The section goes up over loose, uneven rocks, with a curve/turn to it, then around a tree and down similar rocks. Once you survive this you are home dry, except when in later laps big rocks had been dislodged by the pros into the clubman line.
Me, with Julie observing.
My riding buddy, Eric Pannaye.
Jessica Orrey, under the tutelage of her father, Tony Orrey:
Andrew Cooper, father of ...
Incredibly, I clean the section on the first lap.
This had a loose hillclimb at the end. To get to the base of the climb, you either rode around the pile of loose rock and negotiated a very tight left turn (which meant you had no momentum), or you took the intermediate line over the rocks which gave a much better angle. We all elected to go over the rocks (with new-found confidence garnered in section 10). Scores on this section were generally low with 6 cleans.
This was a winding section above the parking in the rocky outcrop. It started with a very narrow gap between a rock and a stump that took a number of points before we got the approach just right. It ended with an off-camber turn and a rocky stepped climb that had to be tackled with confidence.
Nobody managed to clean this section through all four laps, but Jonathan Cooper had 3 cleans and a single. Many scores were in the low single digits, but a handful of riders lost more.
We reached this section by turning off the road at the big pine tree on the corner. It was set in a deep ravine with shady forest, steep banks and a stream. The clubman line was fairly straightforward and no-one lost any points throughout the day (as the observer Johann van Blerck kept reminding us). The most tricky part of the section was after the end gate, when you had to get out of the ravine to reach section 2.
This was the big log section. For clubmen, the problem was not so much the much the size of the logs, but the combination of tight turns, mud and the angle of the logs. The section started with a mid-size (for clubmen) log, a tight right turn into a narrow wet and muddy area with tape on the right and a smallish but smooth and slippery log at an angle on the left that had to be crossed. On the other side of the log was more mud. Predictably, the back of the bike slid out when going over at an angle and stole a number of points from the unwary.
After the mud there was a narrow exit between the big logs, or a ramp over 4 logs to get onto the grassy slope from where you descended into another narrow gap to reach the exit.
Jonathan elected to avoid the small slippery log in favour of the intermediate/expert line over a big log with good traction. From there it is a straight line over the ramp of logs, which is what he did. It paid off as he lost only 1 point. Alison Simpson went over the slippery log and also only lost 1 point. I'm not sure what line Dylan Klopper took for his 1 point loss, but my guess would be the same one Jonathan took.
I elected to go over the big log like Jonathan, but avoid the log ramp and follow the clubman line through the gap. It paid off as I cleaned the section on all laps.
This went down into the river gorge via an off-camber downhill, around a tree then down to the river bank. Scores overall very low. Somehow, I just couldn't get it right to clean the section. On the last lap, I finally made the turn around the tree and as I passed the observer told her that this time was was going to clean it. Only to find, two metres from the end gate, that the bike had slipped out of gear and as I tried to make the last little incline to the end I had nothing and had to dab.
Surprising how a tight turn in the mud, with a small log in the way, can turn a straightforward section into quite a challenge. The trick here was to do as much turning as possible before the mud, then balance carefully while finishing the turn and popping straight(ish) over the log.
Jonathan and Dylan had the measure of this section, while others were in the high single figures.
This section looked innocuous enough, starting on a path that went over a rise to a steep dip, where the clubman line did an uphill, sweeping, cambered turn around a tree before joining the path again. The turn was made interesting by the fact that just on the other side of it was a 3m drop into the river. The end had a sting in that reaching the end gate forced riders to do a tight turn to the left up a small ridge. On my first lap I forgot about it and almost lost a clean. Many lost points at the end.
Eric Pannaye, my riding buddy who rides this kind of sweeping turn very well, cut it a bit too fine and hit the tree with his shoulder. His bike went flying and he had a fiasco. Dylan showed the way by doing most of the sweeping turn on the right hand side away from the tree, and those that followed this line did well on the section.
Scores were closer to 10 for most riders on this section, with Dylan and myself the only ones below 5.
Another section in the river - this one dropped into the river, rode along a bit before climbing out, then crossed again with a tight turn and muddy rutted climb out. The limited space for a very tight turn was classic Clubman material. Clubmen had to ride along a very curvy and sloped path to the end gate.
This time Alison Simpson had the best score, and most riders were in the low teens.
A wicked little section this. It started with a river crossing over some logs to make it passable, Then some off-camber riding on the steep bank along the river, with a drop-in to the river, and a rutted, muddy exit that was criminally responsible for many, many points.
Scores were between 10 and 15, with only Eric and Jonathan below 10, with 7 points each.
Finally out of the river, this section was right at the top of the farm near the big rocks and forest. It was a winding downhill, then along the bottom of the big rocks that the pros were playing on, followed by a short, sharp climb up an inclined rock. Most riders cleaned this section, and the highest score was only 2 dabs.
The last section for clubmen, this was a curvy and winding ride up some steps and inclines. It penalised small mistakes and required concentration. Scores were in the low singles, with the highest being 4, but only 4 riders cleaned it all the way.
Round 5 Results
The results are here. I was elated to come 2nd in Clubman, and receive a trophy at the prizegiving.
The trophies are spectacular - thanks to KND Naval Design for sponsoring and designing them.
Another glorious day. Some riders more shattered than others. I had spent the night thinking about the effect of reversing the sections. The rip-rap rocks are still rip-rap, but we tackle the uphill after a tight turn. On section 5, the drop before the wide sweeping turn around the tree becomes a steep climb after a tricky turn. I do a quick ride around the lap to look at the sections, and find Alison fretting over the climb on section 5 (now section 10, our new clubman starting point.
The reverse of the previous section 5. Thankfully we do not need to go around the tree - but we also do not stay on the path. The line is halfway between the two. Some careful riding from the start gate onto the path means you can avoid the trouble the end gate of section5 caused the day before. Scores are very low, with one or two losing a dab. Only Jonathan's dad, Andrew, scored a 6.
Alison was very apprehensive, and equally elated when she cleans the section, making it up the incline with no problems. I lose a point on the first lap, but clean it from then on.
The small log and muddy turn is no better in the reverse of the old section 4. I lost a few points until I realised that you do tight turns in thick mud by focussing on balance and riding very slowly. Dylan and Jonathan had gotten this right in the beginning and cleaned the section throughout. Scores generally low here.
Formerly section 3, this was now a winding uphill, with a tight turn around a tree onto a steep slope that had to be traversed at an angle. If you got it wrong you were in for anything from a 1 to a 5. Some riders measured up, others had a tougher time of it. Jonathan took a wider turn by using part of the intermediate line, and lost only one point, to join Alison as the best riders on this section. There were no cleans.
The big logs. Somewhat easier for clubmen because the slippery log can now be approached straight on, provided you do not go too far and cross the candy tape as happened to Eric Pannaye on his last lap. Jonathan and Fred Levesque both cleaned this section. Scores generally low.
Formerly section 1 in the ravine, with the direction now going uphill after a tight left turn, some riders lost points here but most managed to clean it.
The old section 12 in the rocky outcrop above the road - now started with a rocky, stepped descent, some very tight turns, to exit between the gap of the rock and stump. Dylan rode first, and lifted his foot over the rock to allow his footpeg to swivel upwards. This became the pattern for a number of others. Dylan cleaned it throughout, there were a number of ones, and two riders we around 10.
Behind the farmhouse, reverse of D1S11. The choice of going over the rocks vs doing the tight turn remained, except now the tight turn was after a downhill, not before an uphill that needed momentum. Also, the rocks seemed a little more gnarly from this side. I wasn't feeling very confident and elected to forgo the rocks and try the tight turn instead. It cost me a few dabs over the laps, but eventually I followed Eric's line (keep far left on the downhill to give you more turning space), and had the elation of a clean on the very last section of the last lap.
Alison and Jonathan went over the rocks and were rewarded with a clean round. Dylan started with the turn and lost two points and I am not sure what he did subsequently. Scores below 7 - an interesting little section.
The rip-rap rocks. This time in reverse. Julie observing while coming down with 'flu and a migraine.
There were some mixed fortunes here. At one point a clubman rider dislodged a big rock that made the final exit very difficult for clubmen. Brian fixed it later much to the relief of people in later laps.
Clubmen scores were between 3 (Alison) and 10 (Mike and Andrew). I was out of form with 6, but did manage to clean on the last lap.
Up at the big rocks. Winding downhill between rocks and down some small steps. Almost everyone cleaned this one. But, it does take concentration and effort and ends up wearing the riders down
Down a rock step then up a sandy incline with some rocks straight after an off-camber turn with loose stones. Lack of momentum on the incline caught out a few riders (including me), but most clubmen managed to clean the section.
This section is new and replaced the mudbath of section 7 from the day before, because the clubman line was not reversible. It was a drop down and up through the river, with the up being a muddy/rutted beast that ate a few riders. Then an up-and-around a tree, off-camber along a bank to drop into the river sideways and pop out the other side.
Jonathan made short work of it for a 1, with Dylan close behind on 3. Many riders were in the double digits, with top spot going to myself and Andrew Cooper on 16. I found myself stuck on the tree and unable to budge unless I let go the handlebar and lifted the back of the bike around (which cost me 5 points). To seal the fiasco, I stalled anyway. Not my proudest moment.
Starting again after the stall.
The reverse of section 6, this was now some tight turns leading to a drop into the river with an immediate rutted exit and tight right around a small tree. Then drop into the river, ride along for 4 metres to exit via an increasingly muddy rut.Alison Simpson at the start of the turns.
Perfectly cleanable (Alison, Jonathan), but too many things were waiting to steal points. On my last lap I had a fiasco, dropping the bike during a simple turn. Most riders scored mid-single digits here.
Round 6 Results
The results are here. I was happy with the outcome but had the usual "if only" regrets about the unnecessary mistakes. The clubman course was not easy and yet all sections were cleanable.
I love trials. The challenges and ups and downs, the bonding with others facing the same challenges, the camaraderie and competition. The outdoors, exercise that is fun, continuous learning and exhiliration. My personal thanks to everyone that makes this possible, from fellow riders, to big sponsors like the Nomads MCC. And the Krause family for all they have done for trials and for me personally.