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Reg Bowker trial: the view from an observer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gordon Ayshford   
Monday, 24 January 2011

Areas of the woodland tracks had seen no direct sun for quite some time and despite the general release of the frosty grip that had paralysed the country some days before, the main access track to our usual car parking and start area in Chawton Park was still impassable.

After some soul-searching, the event was close to cancellation, but with careful marshalling and the co-operation of the riders and all the allimportant observers, Neil Bowker with his team of officials managed to run a very successful event. Dead engines before the start and after finishing a lap were the order of the day, which provided a safe environment in the cramped parking conditions and reduced the risk of any complaints from nearby residents. With a few more than 50 riders on the programme from postal entries, it was rewarding for the total numbers to rise to about 75 in total on the day.

A cold day with a very long walk to the sections gave the observers a new challenge, but feedback received indicates that the venue is wellliked and everyone seem to have had a good day overall. I found the cups of tea before the start and complimentary Mars bar and can of cola to take with me, to keep me going through the day, a very welcome touch. Then, getting a hot roll for lunch – delivered by Neil – really kept the miseries at bay. I am sure the riders enjoyed the rides between the sections and the availability of the hot drinks and snacks too.

As is usual for an observer, I saw no more action than that which occurred on my own section 2, and walking to my section only showed me section 1 on the way. I did, however, receive some brief feedback on a questionnaire card that most observers had in their clipboard, along with their score cards. I have used these remarks to help compile the report below and I would like to thank those observers who took the trouble to fill them in on top of their observing duties. Your comments were very welcome and have been noted. Section 1 had been designed to ease the riders into the conditions, and despite the exposed roots in the hollow with trees to negotiate, it did not seem to offer too great a technical challenge – most riders managed to stay clean.

However, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security(?), a few riders suffered problems and the section managed to claim several 5s with a couple of riders falling off!

Deeper into the woods, Section 2 was level and used exclusively trees; some fallen to ride over, some still standing to ride around. The beginners’ route avoided having to ride over any trees; the novices had to conquer one fallen tree, which in conjunction with the tight turns provided this group with the most challenging route. The intermediates were faced with 3 fallen trees and the experts had 5 to ride over, with awkward spacing. Overall, this presented enough of a challenge for most riders to require their respect and managed to claim a couple of 5s though here no one suffered the indignity of falling off.

Section 4 featured exposed roots and a step for the riders to negotiate. This provided an entertaining day for the observer who saw about 50% of the riders managing to clean the section whilst several suffered 5s and a few fell off. A similar story came from Section 6 which again had a step to test the riders – half managed a clean while several lost 5s and again a few fell off! (Seems to be plenty of falling off! – Ed)

The trial seems to have developed a character now, with a large number of cleans but still claiming 5 marks from several riders with a few falling off in section 8. The intermediates were most challenged by their route on section 9 – muddy with an off-camber, negotiating a route around trees claimed 5 marks lost from lots of riders and a lot fell off too! The more skilful managed to make it look easy and a large proportion managed to clean the section – continuing this trial’s character as being capable of catching-out the unwary. Rider 67, Nick Robinson, gets a special mention for his “Artistic interpretation” on section 9 with his legs in the air on lap 1 then hitting a tree on lap 3, leaving the bike to carry on riderless!

Section 10 offered a challenge to the Experts and overall there were several riders suffering 5 marks lost and in keeping with the character of this trial with several falling off – though most managed to clean the section.

I would also like to applaud rider 44, Youth beginner Daniel Walsh for getting into the spirit of the event by decorating his bike with a Christmas tree on the front mudguard and tinsel on the handlebars and rear mudguard.

Observer feedback also suggests that the sections were not generally too challenging – I feel it was better to err on the safe side in the unpredictable conditions. The venue was wellliked and event atmosphere was goodhumoured. All riders and observers had a good day overall. Three laps of 12 sections provided the riders with good value and the event was timed to perfection as we managed to get packed-up and away from Chawton just as dusk descended.

Gordon Ayshford

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