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