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..R2W visit Northern Ireland....

.. At a very silly time on Friday morning I met Burners up near Bristol airport and we walked up to the terminal. Seemed like a good idea at the time to save a load of cash on parking by leaving the cars somewhere else and then walking the mile to the airport... but at 5.15am in the dark and bloody freezing I wasn't so sure anymore!
Squancy, Ben, Bob and missus Bob passsed us whilst we were walking and eventually found a spot to park their car in the airport grounds and we all met up at the Sleazy Jet check-in counter. I was a bit worried about my hand luggage weight and size as I wasn't going to leave a Nikon D1, Nikon D40, Canon video camera and various flashes and lenses in a bag to be thrown around and into the hold of the plane... and possibly arrive in a different country to that which I was in!!!.. Apparently that only happens if you fly British Airways, from Heathrow.

On arrival we walked to get the hire car... a nearly new VW passat. Squancy was the driver for the weekend as he had paid on his card for it but the first test was how the hell you start it.... and then get the handbrake off! It has a push button handbrake on the right of the steering wheel. You have to put your foot on the brake pedal and then push the button to release it. So how the hell do you do a hill start!!! We also discovered you can't do handbrake turns in it as the sensors will not allow it to operate when the car is in motion.... Bugger!!
We had booked a Premier lodge around the other side of the bay at Carrickfergus but decided to travel across Belfast from the international airport and on to Bangor to see the practice sessions. Now I have never been to Northern Ireland before and had only really seen it on TV etc during the troubles, so it was interesting to see how much money seems to be around with new, big houses going up everywhere and old factories etc being torn down to make way for retail parks. It was strange to see heavily fortified police stations, looking more like prison camps, in the middle of a smart housing area. And new Audi TT's everywhere!!!
A couple of circuits around the harbour area of Banger later we found a parking spot and wandered down to see the paddock... just in time for everyone to leave and go out to the practice area a good 20 minutes walk around the bay. But the sun was out and we had thick coats and hats on so off we went. As we rounded the first corner away from the harbour the wind hit us in the face.... and it continued to do it in varying speeds and temperatures all weekend..... !

bangor wtc crash
marc freixa bangor wtc 2008

.. the organisors had left an area of the beach for the whole entry to practice on, giving the crowd a good view of everyone at the same time. Raga, Bou and Freixa were back hopping across the sea wall when we arrived and we sat about 2 metres away watching in awe. It wasn't until Burners stood on the wall to look down into what they had been hopping across we realised that each gap was about 2 metres deep as well as a metre wide. One wrong dab and it would have been a broken ankle at best! For us mere mortals it is amazing watching how accurate they are on the back wheel, and even when it does go off line a little they can use a quick dab and be on their "feet-up" way again.
After watching the riders on the beach front rocks for a while I noticed a small crowd gathering at the side of a wall, which was at the top of a huge rock face. A few top riders had decided this was an ideal practice spot... much to the disgust of the fluro jacket brigade.. and were launching themselves up it to get the final hop onto the wall. You will see in my photo gallery some lovely cleans, also a few failures. Harry Harvey was the best crash of the day award winner. He didn't make it onto the wall, he and the bike went back off the 5 metre rock face. He hit the ground first and was then run over by his own bike!! Within seconds he was up and back on the bike ready for another go.... and all the world guys were stood at the top pissing themselves with laughter! Laia Sanz nearly repeated Harry's fall but the minder managed to grab the front wheel just before it went back over her head. Another funny moment was when Fujinami sumped out on the wall and was left hanging behind his bike as the minders tried to stop it going backwards... as they pulled the bike to the side Fuji swung off the pegs and was swept over to the other side of the bike... little legs waving in the breeze. Only his grip on the bars stopping him having a rock face to grab on the way down.

Having nearly filled up a memory card with images of the riders practicing we decided to have a look around most of the sections..... this being the first time Burners has seen anything more severe tyhan an open to centre trial he was somewhat amazed at what they were asked to ride, declaring at least half of the sections unrideable! In fact, the youth and Euro sections to be ridden on Saturday were bad enough....

Friday night was going to be a steady one for me, my long standing back injury and lack of riding had allowed some excess weight to gather in my stomach region and to help with shedding it I have cut down my drinking dramatically. No more bottle and a half of white wine a night for me. Prior to this weekend I had consumed 3 bottles in 3 weeks and a couple of small bottles of beer every so often. We started out sensibly having a quick pint first and then off for a meal. Burners decided that he and I should have a bottle of white with the meal, but this quickly led to another. Then we were off on a trip to a local pub were several more pints were had before returning back to our hotel bar for more..... but I didn't feel like I had had much. Until, that was, about half way to the trial on Saturday morning!!! Watery mouth, shakes, feeling of sickness... it all happened in about 20 minutes.......

... as we got out of the car I really thought I was going to throw up. It must have taken me 5 minutes to do up my shoe laces and zip my jacket!! We had parked almost slap bang in the middle of the sections, at the top of the woods that held sections 6 to 11. Burners and I decided to walk to section 2, about a mile away. Thank Christ for the freezing wind that was blowing. By the time we arrived at section 2 my head had cleared and I was feeling right as rain. So now I know... the best hangover cure is a walk in an Irish gale!!

The tide was in.... you couldn't miss is as it swamped the riders in several sections for the first couple of hours! The first big step in section 3 was being pounded by large waves every 20 seconds or so and you had to time your ride at this point well or risk being washed completly off the bike. And just to add to this extra hazard there was another .... the Sea-cat. I watched it power slowly into Belfast and thought how nice it looked... then an Irish voice behind said "I'd step back from the water a bit if I were you". It appears that about 5 minutes after the sea-cat has gone past a group of bigger waves hit the shore... just what you want in high tide, whilst trying to get the bike up a huge rock step!! Still, it was entertaining seeing some of the crowd get wet feet.

It was obvious from the start that Michael Brown and Wiggy were riding well... and both on possibly the best looking bikes I have ever seen. The TopTrial Beta of Michael's looks lovely with the full black frame and carbon parts all over. He was sporting a new Gianneli exhaust and Leonelli ignition system that allows reprogramming via a laptop... available soon for your Beta should you fancy it.. and Alexz's Future TRW Montesa also looks lovely in black with the new graphics. Sooo much better than last years.
Whilst watching section 2 and taking photo's of the first jump across the water I looked around to the entrance of the section just in time to see Lee Sampson take a dive over the bars. He almost got away with it until the bike came back over and smashed his face heavily into the rock... blood started to poor from his nose almost emediately. It took some time to get him and the bike untangled and even longer for the medics to arrive. He was last seen being led away for treatment. I am not sure if he rode again on Saturday but he was out again Sunday. Just to make it worse I got the faceplant on camera! (not the one at the top of this page, that is Grattarola getting it wrong!)

A brilliant result in the Euro class as Pune won with Haslam and Wiggy also in the top 5.... and all the Brits did us proud. From what looked a bit of a bad future only a few short years ago for the Brit riders we seem now to have an endless supply of riders able to take on the world!!

fajardo beta rev3 bangor

dabill bangor wtc 2008

Thanks to Squancy, Ben, Burners and Bob and Missus for a great weekend.. somewhere warmer next year perhaps!!

Out of 720 images I have so far placed just over 100 in a gallery.. more to come !! BANGOR WTC 2008 Gallery
Now updated with nearly 200 images...

If you fancy larger versions of any of the images i have them saved... email me..

.. and the world's were next. Sunday dawned, thankfully we had not comsumed much in the way of alcohol the previous evening, much to the disgust of Squancy who seems to drink at all hours in large quantities!!
Our parking space at the top of the glen was available again, I think the weather forcast had prevented many from attending, and off we walked down the coast again. And it was even colder today... something that seemed to catch Squancy and Ben by surprise. Now Burners and I had figured that going to Ireland in late winter and spending all day on the coast was likely to result in cold weather, so we had both equiped ourselves with windproof jackets, hats, jumpers, over trousers and even a nice Jitsie over-jacket in my case. (called the "condom" by the others for the duration of the weekend!) They had thin jackets and Ben spent all weekend in a pair of Puma fashion trainers.... and no woolly hats! It wasn't long before they retreated to the safety of the Glen sections, the trees giving shelter from the wind at least.
We managed to get almost every type of weather in the one day... bit of rain, 2 minutes of snow and then every so often the sun would come out and the clouds clear away completely. The only constant being the high, and very cold, wind. The riders also had to battle with high tide again.

The general thoughts were that it was going to be a very tough trial and it would be lucky if anyone lost less than 50 for the 2 laps... and after sitting at section 4 watching almost all the top riders either ask for a 5 or 5 it whilst riding it looked like 50 may be a good score. After I walked back to the start area to see section 1 and 15 the lap scores started to come in..... Raga had lost 10!!! And five of them were on section 4!!! It is at that point you realise the gap between the top 5 or 6 and the rest... stunning.
I won't bore you with the trial report itself as other sites and the papers will do a far better job of reporting the action but I watched all the riders go through section 15 for the last lap... Pat Smage was very unlucky as he dropped off the entrance rock and broke the tapes. That 5 lost him the Junior win... and likewise Albert Cabestany dropped off the big log and pivoted around the front wheel to line himself up for the big step only to drop his rear wheel onto the tape, again breaking it... that 5 lost him 3rd in the world class! And what can you say about the Bou and Raga show... brilliant. Into the last section and it wasn't clear whether Raga was enough ahead to not care about a 5 or a clean. Instead of hanging back so Bou could ride it he went in and cleaned it. No argument then... he had won no matter what Bou did. Bou did clean the section as well for a very well deserved runner up spot. For me the rider I was most happy for was Jeroni Fajardo, not only had he been looking good all day but he was only one of four that managed to complete the final huge splat onto the tree trunk of section 15.. Freixa, Raga and Bou being the others. Along with Freixa and Raga he had also entertained Burners and myself with a backhop competition on the beach rocks on friday.... after almost everyone else had gone home.
It wasn't to be the ending that Dougie Lampkin would have wanted, beaten by Fajardo down into 6th place. But, as Tarres found out years ago, the youngsters have moved onwards and upwards.... to stay at the top at this level for a couple of years is amazing let alone doing it for 7.

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