After Tom’s exceptional 2017 SSDT performance, he went into the 2018 event with a lot of self pressure. Finishing 5th overall and best first timer in 2017 would be hard to beat or match with such a talented field of riders including many current and former World, European and British champions.
Speaking with Tom on Sunday before the start of the event, he knew it would be a different and tricky year but after discussing with many people the pressure put on himself was adjusted to a sensible expectation for the 2018 event.
Tom started the event wanting to finish 10th overall and possibly get some silverware.
Sunday is the Parade day, in the morning is the “weigh-in” where the bikes are marked to ensure that during the 6 days none of the key parts are changed during the event. The Scottish six day trial started and continues to be a endurance test event for both man and machine where limited repairs and replacements are allowed. At 15:00 the town of Fort William, the hub for the event, comes to a standstill as all 282 rider ride through the center of the town.
In a contrast to the weather in 2017 and on Sunday’s parade day, Monday started with rain! During the whole of the event in 2017 there were very little showers so this would be a new challenge to get used to…..slippy wet sections!
Each day comprises of 30 sections and a varied amount of miles. The miles between groups of section are a mixture of road and moors. With the wet weather the moors in 2018 would bring different challenges for all riders with this sapping energy and adding more risk.
Tom was off the start ramp as number 106, starting just after 9am and heading to the Nevis Range for the first sections of the day. The Leanachen sections are used every year and popular with both spectators and riders. There are plenty of large rocks and setting you up for the 6 days ahead.
With a “short” day’s riding (71mile) on Monday, Tom came into the final group of sections at Lagnaha having dropped no marks, but it was in this group of sections in 2017 he dropped a single dab meaning he didn’t tie for best performance on day 1. In 2018 Tom was able to clean the 5 sections at Lagnaha to leave him tied with 5 other riders on clean for the day and gaining best performance on day 1.
The overall leader of the trial going through the week has there number board changed from a white background to a yellow. On Tuesday Tom was one of 6 riders who started the day with a new yellow number board, a great achievement on only his second event start as fellow Scorpa rider Gary Macdonald has been riding the SSDT for 16 years and this was the 4th time he’d had a yellow board.
Tuesday and Wednesday were difficult days for Tom. Dropping marks that he knew were costly, but also marks he knew he should be dropping. At the end of Tuesday Tom had moved down from 3rd overall to 11th and then on Wednesday he’d moved down to 13th.
Thursday was a better day from the amount of marks dropped but with the overall results being so close in the top 20 it’s possible to drop 5 or 6 places with a couple of extra marks dropped. At the end of the day Tom was 16th overall but 5 marks off moving into 11th. All very close.
Friday was the start of moving back up the leader board, Tom dropped a total of 3 marks for the day which was a better total than a few riders ahead of him moving him back up to 13th and only 3 marks behind the next place.
Saturday is the shortest day of the trial, but there are still 30 sections to make a change. Tom again put in a better performance than the riders close to him in the leader board and moved up to 12th overall where he finished.
Not quite the overall position Tom was hoping for but with the weather being against all riders and adding more slippery conditions to the sections this was a positive and strong comeback at the end of the week.
Although not the overall finish hoped for, Tom still came aware from the event with silverware. Tom got an award for the best performance on day 1, shared with 6 other talented riders, then also won the Factory team award as part of the Scorpa Factory team including Gary Macdonald and Andy Chilton.
Two rides in the SSDT and two years that Tom has come away with silverware, there are not many riders that are able to say that!
Next event up for Tom is the British Trial Championship hosted by the West of England on the 10th June. Check back for an update soon after the event.