Bemrose Loses Its Blossom

I’ve had itchy fingers for much of the past week, eager to add my personal views to the problems that surrounded the Bemrose trial which enjoyed its 83rd running, but for only the first time as a round of the Normandale sponsored ACU Traditional Trials Championship.

But instead of rushing into print, or more accurately rushing to write this Sunday’s column on my laptop and then having to re-write it, I’ve waited a bit to see how it all unfolded.

If you haven’t been following the saga let me refresh your memory. The trial attracted a very large entry, around 190 though how many started I’m not sure. Riders were entered in all six Normandale/ACU Traditional classes (Pre 75 British Bikes, Twinshocks, Air-cooled Monoshocks and three Veteran classes on modern machines) plus non-championship Bemrose Clubmen plus non-championship Bemrose hard route riders.

The 40 sections were marked as two routes, a easy and a hard course, but then at very short notice and after the final instructions in the programme had been displayed, a “third” route was added in six sections which were poorly indicated by a piece of paper at the beginning of the six sections which stated that the hard route should be ridden by the Twinshocks, Air-cooled Monoshocks and Veterans over 40 riding the Traditional series.

However, and here’s the nub of the problem, those three classes were not identified separately from all the other groups, therefore the observers had no idea whether the riders who should have been riding the hard course on those six sections did or did not do so.

Well before the half way point in the trial it was very apparent that some riders – and I say here and now, not deliberately – were not riding the correct routes, primarily because they were not expecting to as it hadn’t been stated in the final instructions and also because the indications at the sections were considered inadequate.

Therefore, once the results had been published on Monday, scores for many riders were somewhat different than could or would have been expected. This resulted in some formal and informal protests made and eventually it was decided that the three classes involved would not be awarded points in the Normandale Championship.

But there were also further problems. Initially some 32 riders were classed as non-finishers because they had missing scores from observers’ cards. The vast majority of those 32 rode all 40 sections and according to Normandale regulations, a missing score (officially classed as a missed section) should have 10 marks added to the rider’s final total.

However, whilst it is a regulation, many see it as an unfair penalty for an observing error rather than a rider error, and eventually five marks were added to those riders who had missing scores.

In a difficult trial, an extra five may well be seen as inconvenience rather than as a significant penalty, but the Bemrose this year was an extremely easy trial with a number of clean sheets and many riders with very low scores, therefore an extra five becomes a harsh penalty and can make a significant difference to the rider’s championship points.
However, it proved to be the best of a bad job and the later results, issued at the end of the week have been considered as final. Classes A, E and F get points, classes B, C and D don’t and some riders in classes A, E and F feel hard done by due to the extra fives for “missing” sections.

I don’t know how to overcome the problem of missing scores from observing sheets. Riders can’t rush back to check the observer has a score for them, but equally, if they have ridden the section then they have every right to expect an accurate score. I well know that observing is a job undertaken by volunteers and I also know that our sport is totally amateur with nothing at stake except a few championship points and self satisfaction, but that doesn’t alter the fact that whilst the Bemrose traditionally has always been a very good trial and one that I have ridden a good few times, this year the organisers did slip up.

Does it matter? Probably not, it’s only a sport but even so there has definitely been some grizzling.

Just a week earlier my own club organised the second round of the Normandale series which attracted 169 starters. We possibly had a few too many for the land which proved to be quite wet (in contrast to the Bemrose which was as dry as I’ve ever seen it), but the real problem for us at the end of the event and commented upon by our forgiving landowners was the huge amount of litter left behind.

As a club we failed miserably as we should have had a litter collecting party on hand at the finish when everybody had gone home. But darkness was falling and the day had been long and arduous, suffice to say we didn’t do a pick up when we should have.

But should we? As a club we have every right to expect riders to respect the land we use and not leave behind a significant amount of litter. So please, let this be a reminder to all and sundry, no matter what the trial, leave the land as you found it please.