2007 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships|
Fort William, Scotland
03-09 September 2007
By Michael Friddell 2007 US Trials World Team
Elite 26” : Cam Kowall
Elite 20” : Neil Willey
Elite 20” : Brian Yezierski
Junior 20” : Dave Campbell Monday, 03 Sep.
Not too much noteworthy happened today. I met up with part of the US team in Philadelphia for our connecting flight to Glasgow. We made it through the Glasgow airport, loaded the bus and cargo van and were on our way for Fort William. To our surprise, it was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures around 50 degrees (F). Unfortunately, we heard the locals saying that this is the best weather they’ve had in forty years! I cannot say enough about how beautiful this country is and how narrow the roads are. I spent just about as much time cringing in anticipation of the bus hitting something (though it never did) as I did staring out the window at the breathtaking scenery. For you history buffs, we passed through Glencoe on the way from Glasgow to Fort William. This is a very rugged, steep, dark valley in which one of bloodiest inter-clan battles in Scottish history took place. The cultural impact of this battle continues to define Scotland to this day. As soon as I arrived at the team hotel in Fort William, I met up with Cam and Dave. They had already been up to the venue (about 10km from the hotel) and scoped out a few of the sections. I didn’t get a chance to go to the venue myself but spent the afternoon and evening getting everything ready for the coming days. Tuesday, 04 Sep.
Today started a bit lazily (luckily) as I was still recovering from the long day yesterday. The weather unfortunately took a turn for the worse with temps down in the lower 50s and upper 40s and spitting rain forecasted off and on all day. Dave, Cam and I worked out transport to the venue at around 11am and went looking for a practice area. The head of the German team, Joakim, was nice enough to lead us to where some of the German riders were practicing. True to some of the pictures that Fred Savage had posted, there is a great selection of nice, big, round, grippy rocks all along this creek bed. This is where most of the sections are set. However, some are set around the main venue area where more spectators can see them. These are the typical UCI sections – logs, concrete pipes, arranged rocks and, interestingly, a Nissan pickup truck. The riders don’t actually come into contact with the truck but will have to negotiate around and over it on some other obstacles. We also met up with Darcy Belfield from New Zealand, newly appointed as a UCI official. It will be nice to have another voice within the UCI that understands the core needs of trials and our riders. We also saw Vincent Hermance and Marc Caisso checking out some sections. This evening was the Opening Ceremonies. Most of the US team was in attendance, which provided quite a sight for the locals since we have the largest team of all the nations, including the host nation, Great Britain. All of the teams marched, parade-like, down High Street with local kids carrying our flags to the town square and gathered around the park lawn and stage.
It’s all pretty much pomp and circumstance but it’s cool to be part of it. I personally love the fact that every time anyone mentions the title of the event, it is always said as “the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships.” They never ever leave out trials. That’s awesome. Tomorrow will be our first competition day, with Dave Campbell riding Junior 20” from 9am to 1pm. Dave has seen all of his sections already and is anxious to get riding. Wednesday, 05 Sep.
Today was a difficult day. The weather was awful with misting rain pretty much all day long and temperatures down below 50 degrees (F). Everything was thoroughly soaked and mud was everywhere. Dave and I also made the mistake of thinking that, since the cards showed 20 sections, we would use one card for both loops. As such, we started at the nearest section to the main area and worked our way out to the farthest, with the intent of starting the second loop at the farthest and working our way back. It was only when Dave had finished the last section in his first loop that we found out he had to turn in his first loop card and get a new one for the second loop. This meant we had to walk all the way across the whole venue, nearly a half-mile, to turn in his card for his first loop before he could even start the second loop. This made us worry about the 3 hour 30 minute time limit more than we should have needed to. I should have known better. In the end, Dave rode pretty well for his first time at a Worlds. The night before, he worried a lot about the logs section because of all the rain but it turned out to be his best section with a 4 and a 3 on it. Unfortunately, the combination of the weather, the crowds, the pressure and the Worlds proved too much for him and he made a number of simple mistakes that he really shouldn’t have. However, this was an invaluable learning experience for him, he has proven that he does have World-level abilities and he will be back, hungry for a much better finish. Thursday, 06 Sep.
The weather actually got quite a bit nicer today. I even saw a bit of sunshine and blue sky for a little while today. The temperature was also up. This really helped with traction in nearly all of the sections, especially the logs and the creek rocks. The US didn’t have a Junior 26” rider today but I still went out to watch the competition and cheer on James Barton. I know all of you who have seen his videos know how good a rider he is but many of you also know that the head games of the Worlds can knock down even the best riders. Well, you will be impressed to know that James did not let it control him. Sure, he made some unnecessary mistakes, as every rider does the first time they ride at the Worlds, but he quickly learned from those mistakes. The only section he fived on both loops was number three – the logs. However, it should be noted that 14 of the 18 riders that finished fived that logs section at least once, many twice. James had a number of cleans and kept a consistent score between loops, showing no signs of a lacking fitness level. Most impressive is the fact that he made it through to the Final by finishing 5th in the Semi-Final with 29 points. It will be interesting to see how he does in the Final since it’s all big moves – his specialty. Tomorrow we’ll get to find out how Neil and Brian can do in Elite 20”. We saw most of the sections for them today and there are some huge moves. Good luck guys! Friday, 07 Sep.
Today started with a bit of intimidation. When Brian, Neil and I walk over the practice area we find Gilles Coustellier, Marc Caisso, Danny Butler and many others already hard at it. Today also provided the largest number of competitors for the Elite 20” Semi – a total of 32 was shown on the start list. Thankfully, the organizer decided to extend the competition time by thirty minutes, making it four hours. Given that the Junior Semis only had eighteen riders and they took nearly all of the three and half hours, this was a very good idea. Learning from the lesson with Dave about the riders needing to turn in their cards between loops, I advised Brian and Neil to start at the farthest section (up the creek on the hill) and work their way back down to the Nissan truck section, which was right next to the Trials office. The downside to this was that nearly everyone else had the same plan so the first section had a long queue. Also, this section had a massive up barely more than a bike-length from the entrance. This proved to be a huge challenge for all but the top five to six riders. Most people were trying to strato-dab up in hopes of saving a five but many of them still fived it or ran out of time later in the very long section. As many of you know, it’s always a bit of a morale buster to five your first section of the day. The next section was just down the creek from the first so that created another queue for everyone. It was another long section with a massive up gap in it that a lot riders fived. The result was that many riders started the Semi with two fives. No one likes that. In the end, all of the sections proved to be too much for our guys. Both Brian and Neil fived all of their sections on the first loop. However, that’s not to say that they couldn’t do anything. Both of them made it most of the way through all of the sections except the Nissan and logs sections. The scariest section of the event was the “north shore” style section. It had several large, high, sketchy gaps but the worst part was the big, slanted, slippery platform. The riders had to kick from one level platform across to this crazy-angled thing and then work their way across it to the exit. Rob Poyser worried us all when he took a header off the thing and lost some skin from his chin and shoulder. Luckily, he didn’t get more hurt than that. Saturday, 08 Sep.
Today was the big day: Semi-Finals for the Elite Men 26”. Names like Kenny Belaey, Vincent Hermance, Giacomo and Gilles Coustellier, Dani Comas, Marc Caisso, Thomas Ohler – to name just a few. The field ended up being 32 riders deep! Today was also Cam’s day to ride against the big boys. Actually, he came to this year’s Worlds with a significantly higher skill level than years past. He spent most of August training with the Coustellier brothers and competed in one World Cup and two French Cups. Most of the sections were simply the Elite 20” Semi sections in reverse. Fred Savage planned his sections out very well to be able to run them in reverse with so little modification. I need to learn how to do that. They did have three creek sections that were completely different from 20” so that kept it well balanced for those riding both bikes. As with Dave, Brian and Neil, Cam also had the most difficulty with the big, man-made sections in the main venue (i.e. Nissan, Rocks and Logs). Most of the moves were all or nothing. Add to that the pressure of performing in front of thousands of people and the other trials superstars and you can see why they had a hard time with them. Most impressive was Cam’s score of 2 on section 4, the death platform we watched Rob Poyser fall off of yesterday. Cam also pulled a 2 on section 8 in the last massive creek section, a section that bit many others. Saturday afternoon started the Junior 26” Final, of which James Barton was a competitor. As you know, the UCI only allows an hour and thirty minutes for the eight Finals sections. So, in the interest of time, James started at the Nissan and CLEANED IT!!! This gave him a huge boost of confidence. We quickly made our way over to the rocks sections and he carefully walked his line. Unfortunately, bad luck struck fast and he flatted only one move in. He valiantly tried to finish the section but there were just too many rear wheel moves so he had to take a five. As he dashed off to the logs section, I sprinted by the US team tent to get a floor pump so we wouldn’t have to take forever with a little frame pump. James nervously installed the new tube but, in his haste, pinched it. I decided he needed to calm down so I asked him to step aside while I made the change. I got him back up and going within a few minutes. However, between the rushed nervousness and the massively hard log section, he ended up with another five. Yet, amazingly, James didn’t let that faze him. He proceeded on to the concrete tube section and ripped it up – another CLEAN!!! A quick trip to the Trials office to turn in his first loop card and back to the Nissan section resulted in just a forty-minute first loop. I made sure he realized that he now had fifty minutes to complete his second loop and told him to just relax and take his time. This seemed to help him a lot because he again cleaned the Nissan section. This time through the rock section proved much better, up until the last move. It was a very tricky sidehop to rear on a six-inch wide ledge and then another sidehop to the top. James got off-kilter on the first ledge and couldn’t make the second move. He mentioned afterward that if he would have made it to that point on the first loop, he would have been better able to make it the second time. He sped on to the logs but took another five there due to the huge moves and lack of traction. It should be noted here that the Junior 26” Finals rode the wet logs with nothing added for traction whereas the Elite 20” and 26” Finals on Sunday had chicken wire strategically placed on the logs. James last section was the concrete tubes and he cleaned them yet again. This gave him an overall score of 20, good for fourth place, just one point behind third and only three points back from second! This bodes well for his performance next year since he will still be eligible for Junior. Sunday, 09 Sep.
I can’t even begin to describe how big some of the moves were in the Elite 20” sections. Just take a look at these: Even so, the scores were insanely low – first and second in single digits. We always talk about the amazing riding of Benito, Diaz and Dani but I must say that Rafal really stepped it up this year. He only missed third by one point – Polish pajamas and all! I also want to mention something about Sebastian Hoffmann from Germany. Since Hoesel’s retirement from Trials, some of us have been wondering who might be able to fill the top German’s shoes. Sebastian is great guy and a great rider. He was also the youngest rider in Elite 20” having just turned 21 in June. I look forward to seeing a lot more from this one. And so this brings us to the Elite 26” Finals. I’m sure it was planned but it also happened during the time of the largest crowds. I don’t envy the riders in having to make their way through the crowd between the four section and two loops in only an hour and half. If you’ve seen the results, you know the field for this Final was pretty well stacked – Kenny, Vincent, Gilles, Giacomo, Benito, Dani, Caisso and, a relative unknown, Guillaume Dunand. It’s amazing and lucky that Dunand made the Final. The scores from Elite 26” Semi from 8th to 15th went 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 with the likes of Florian Tournier, Danny Butler, Thomas Ohler, Welsey Belaey, Andrei Burton, Thomas Mrohs and Ben Savage!!! This has to have been the tightest Finals cutoff ever! Brian, Cam and I had a little friendly £1 wager on this year’s overall winner. I took what I thought was the safe bet with Kenny, Cam took Gilles and Brian took Giaco. Kenny had been looking solid on the new Monty and he pulled a second place in the Semi with only six points. Still, Gilles had won the Semi with only two points so there seemed to be a good chance he might take it. I don’t think anyone really expected Vince to sneak in there, especially after he fived the concrete tubes on his first loop. In the end, he rode an amazing second loop with one point at the Nissan, two cleans on the rocks and logs and a vindicating two on the concrete tubes. His primal yell at the end of the last section said it all – FINALLY, WORLD CHAMPION! More pictures: http://biketrials.com/gallery/2007-UCI-World-Championships Complete results (bottom): http://www.uci.ch/templates/UCI/UCI2/layout.asp?MenuId=MTUyMDc
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