After being Race Secretary and Observer at the Final Round of the NSW Championships in Canberra, and then Clerk of Course at the Aussie Championships a week later in Sydney, I really wanted to get back “inside the tapes”.
See more photos from the event in this gallery.
Thanks to some really positive encouragement from the Kiwi Oceania Team at those two events, and with the blessing of my long time sponsor and wife Cheryl, I started negotiations.
Stephen Oliver was upfront in saying that he couldn’t confirm that Team Oliver would actually be attending, so encouraged me to seek other sources for the hire of a bike.
Brendon Wadsworth was good for bike hire, but the cost of freighting the bike to and from the North Island was a bit of an issue. The good thing was he had a Sherco ST300 which is what I ride in Canberra.
An email to the Kiwi Oceania Team Members resulted in Matt Foster posting on the Taranaki Moto Trials Club Facebook page seeking assistance. The response was pretty amazing. Kevin Pinfold offered me his old Gasser, Nick Ball offered me Dylan’s old bike (if his new bike arrived in time), KP also advised that Andrew Clements (?) daughter had a 125 that she wasn’t riding that I could use.
Jim Henderson then blew me away with a generous offer of accommodation for Cheryl and myself. I’ve known Jim since I was Aussie Trials Committee Chairman and he was New Zealand Trials Commisioner and we were trying to organise Oceania Trials meetings. Our accommodation was already sorted, but the offer was something special.
Cheryl and I are over in South Australia on the first weekend in October for the Keyneton Clubs Scottish 2-Day Trial when I’m awoken at 5am by a phonecall from Brendon. He has a person in his shop who would take the Sherco up to Tauranga and deliver it to Francis Sydenham who would take it across to Taranaki to the Trial. Who is the good Samaritan I ask, he has to be a Trials person. Sure enough it’s Kevin Gundry who is a Facebook friend of mine since Gabby came over to Aus as part of the 2010 Oceania Team at Glenmaggie in Victoria. Brendon wants an answer on the spot, so we agree on the fee and we’re under way.
A couple of weeks later we arrive in Wellington at about 1am after being held on the tarmac for 30 minutes at Sydney due to lightening and torrential rain. My old Canberra Trials mate Jim Brown and partner Helena are there to meet us, and they drop us off at our hotel at 2am. Some of the Wellington Trials people will know Jim as someone who comes out to Observe at their Trials. He Observed at the Final Round of the NI Trials Championships on November 14th.
We collect our hire car and set off on the four hour trip to New Plymouth. I’ve got my NZ mobile from when we came over in February when I rode the Ihatove in Nelson. The phone has been getting a workout contacting a number of Kiwi Trials mates ensuring that the bike and us all arrive at McEwan’s Inglewood property on Day One.
I’ve brought my Garmin with me and try to enter the locations of each of the three days in advance. My Garmin skills are very similar to my Trials skills !
None the less Cheryl and I arrive early for Day One. I drive cautiously through the long grass in search of a suitable spot to park. Things get off to a great start when Paul Jackson, Derek Scott, Glenn Smith and Rob McKay all give me a payout on not getting bogged in the carpark.
I duck over to thank Kevin Gundry for bringing my bike up from the South Island, and catch up with Gabby and Jacob. Then over to see Francis Sydenham who is bringing the bike out to the three venues. Then grab my documentation and Licence and off to sign in. Great start by getting a hug from Stef Downes, and then sign in with Jim Henderson, and cop the first of many verbal banter interchanges with Steward Sandra Hallie. Back to the car for cash to pay for tee-shirt and presentation dinner tickets.
A quick hello to the Stephens, Oliver and Armistead, and it’s off to the Riders Briefing. Jim does a sterling job with the Riders Briefing and the one thing I notice that is different from Australia is when one rider is nominated as the Riders Rep on the ‘Disciplinary’ board. John Ravenscroft introduces himself and invites me to check out his very impressive electronic scoring system. The idea of writing the finish time on your last card, so it can be used instead of a countback for tied scores, is new to me but has a lot of merit.
Francis is kind enough to ride the first few sections with me and gets me into the groove. I’m even more grateful that he advised me to ride Clubman when I see a couple of the Presidents sections. I’m meeting and chatting to a number of the enthusiastic Observers. Trials is all new to this great group of young Kiwis and they really do a first class job.
The weather stays warm and sunny all day. Our sections are magnificent and I eventually get a couple of cleans. A minor issue with the kickstart on the Sherco is efficiently taken care of by Francis, thanks to a new bolt courtesy of John Lawton. A couple of the local riders are somewhat surprised when I opt for a line through the water when there is a perfectly cleanable line along the bank. We just don’t get those magic water sections too often in Australia. Cheryl has done a couple of laps and taken some great photos which we duly post on Facebook that evening.
Day Two and we can see the snow capped mountain from our motel which we’ve been assured is a good omen by the locals. Cheryl opts for walking and shopping so I head off alone for the Korito Road venue. I park close to the road in and have Team Roxburgh next to me. Adell Roxburgh asks how I’m going, and do I know Leo Nolan? Leo (from Perth in Western Australia) is her cousin. We chat about Leo’s sons exploits in China where they are part of a group of six young Aussie Trials riders putting on a daily show at a Casino Resort.
The Blue Line riders start at section one and I’m a bit psyched out by the downhill rocks at the start of the section. A couple of nervous dabs and I’m through. Next two sections are quite straightforward and then I tackle section four which is my first ever tunnel section! I’ve walked it and been made aware of the issue with the plank right at the end of the section. I wade / paddle my way back to the start and fire up the Sherco. Drop in to the stream veering slightly to the left of one rock. This astute move also puts me slightly left of the man made grid that runs all the way through the culvert / tunnel. I stop with the water above my knees and seek the assistance of the Observer in lifting the bike up to where I should have ridden it in the first place. Then off along the edge of the stream to the next crossing where I find lots of Kiwi mud that I remember from a previous visit. I managed this mud without too much trouble, then stall the bike in the section. This is much better than lap two, when I go over the handlebars half way through the section, just as ace photographers Andy Heady and Simon Houghton are there with cameras at the ready. I eventually get to Section Seven which features a couple of steep drop-in options. I decide to empty my boots and to wring out my socks. Sounded like a good idea at the time and certainly amused Clerk of Course Jim.
I approach the drop and prop at the top. I’m in all sorts of trouble when Nick Oliver steps in to be my Minder. He talks me through an extremely untidy three to the bottom of the section, where sanity prevails and I take the opportunity to line up the bike for the next part of the rocky exit. Nick advises second gear, and points the rock at which I should aim. Surprise surprise I sail up with a single dab and take another in the mud at the end. Thank you Nick !
I’m definitely struggling with day two’s sections, however I’m still enjoying myself when I get to the river bed that is section ten. I wade through walking the section and filling up my boots again. As it turns out I pick the right line but am incapable of actually convincing the bike of this. Ah well, another five. Stephen Armistead shows me how it’s done with a superb clean on his immaculate Francis Barnett.
It’s taken me far too long to ride my first lap, and I’m physically stuffed after manhandling the bike out of two of the muddier gullies. My second attempt at section seven sees me attempt the other route to the bottom. I stall the bike on the way down and career into a rather large boulder which stops my progress and tips me off at the bottom. Kevin Pinfold is close and offers to help me up. Bad move, as I then slip over pinning Kevin between my bike and the boulder. So I elect to take fives on sections eight and nine. Suffice to say I also stall the bike in the river section but amaze myself with a clean on section 12 (thanks to watching Scotty’s line). By lap three I’m getting into the swing of things and actually complete a crash-less lap. I have to go back to apologize to the Observers on Section 11 after I clean their section and then ride the longest wheelie I’ve ever done in celebration.
The Christchurch connection of Rat, Scotty, Glen and Dad McKay invite Cheryl and I to join them for dinner. We have a really enjoyable evening yarning about life in general and trials in particular. Cheryl knows all of the boys and we have a thoroughly enjoyable night out.
Day Three sees us off to Andrew Clements Opunake property. Francis ,and Nigel Shilton, have my Sherco ready to go. Clerk of Course Jim has a gentle dig at those riders who don’t have the proper nameplate on their bikes. We started using nameplates at the Aussie Titles in South Australia in 1978. In my opinion they are the best thing that has ever happened to Trials. As a visitor I was able to say hi to lots of people kind of personally. Plus the Observers get to chat to you as a rider. They can encourage, or commiserate, with you. Again I ride the first few sections with Francis. As soon as I ride by myself I pick all the wrong lines and my score increases in multiples of five. We had to cross the river twice on each of the three laps. Not that it counted, but I dabbed only once in six river crossings !
The sections the other side of the river featured all types of hillclimbs and must have been relatively easy as I got mostly cleans. I must acknowledge Deborah Oliver’s words of encouragement after an awkward ‘two’, which definitely contributed to me being in the right frame of mind.
It’s pretty cool for an old bloke to be approached by a rather attractive young lady in cut-offs and gumboots. “You’re Trevor Eh?” Jane says. We laugh and I say probably Trevor B is closer. I know Jane is Jake’s number one supporter and she had taken a couple of photos of me getting tips off Dylan Ball on Day Two. She then took a couple of photos of me in the section, and as Cheryl will confirm, it’s difficult to get a shot of me in a section and with both feet on the pegs. On my final lap I see Pat Whitaker and stop for a chat ( yeah, yeah, I know, me stopping for a chat !) Once again it’s great catching up with members of the Kiwi Trials Family and I’ve had a few good yarns with Pat over the years.
As is always the case I try to thank each of the Observers on my last lap. These kids have been fantastic and so friendly. Surprise, surprise I’m just about the last rider to finish and get razzed by the Steward (again). I hand the bike back to Francis and Nigel. Have a quick chat with Stephen Oliver who is taking photos of the Non-Stop Adventure Trial trailer using the magnificent snow capped mountain as the backdrop. We are all packed up and ready to go, but I just have to pop over and get a photo with Team Roxburgh as they aren’t going to the Presso Dinner.
Cheryl the Navigator gets us to Stratford without any issues, and we are actually among the first to arrive. A power failure just prior to our arrival has set the meal back about an hour. More time for chatting. I take this lull in procedings to talk with Jim Henderson about Trials in general and the fun aspects of being Clerk of Course at your Country’s National Trials Championships. We sit with the Christchurch Mob for the meal so we know it’s going to be a great night.
I’ve actually spoken briefly with Jake on each day, not wishing to interrupt his concentration. He is still the best Trials rider I’ve ever seen out of New Zealand and Australia. Dylan Ball is the best 10 year old trials rider I’ve ever seen, and Daniel Herbert showed me lots of times how a good rider should ride the Blue line. Hannah Rushworth will learn what a great Trials rider she can become with just a little bit more confidence, and Lisa Shilton also showed me which line to take in a couple of sections. Stef Downs continues to be a superb role model for young Kiwi Women Trials riders.
You all contributed to what was a really enjoyable trip to New Zealand for Cheryl and myself. We’re coming back over for the Team Oliver Ihatove Adventure Trial in February, and hopefully to ride Round One of the 2016 South Island Trials Championships the following weekend.
Thank you all again.
Keep your feet up,
Photo: Trevor Bennet & New Zealander Dylan Ball (winner of 2015 Australian Champion in 'Junior 7 to U13') Credit: Jane Roberts