The U.S Trial des Nations team spent a week in Spain, training for three days at the Jordi Pascuet Offroad Center in northern Spain before heading to Terragona, Spain, to compete in the Trial des Nations.
Story and photos by Todd Roper
The U.S Trial des Nations team spent a week in Spain, training for three days at the Jordi Pascuet Offroad Center in northern Spain before heading to Terragona, Spain, to compete in the Trial des Nations. The women’s team competed on Saturday, Sept. 19 and the men’s team on Sunday, Sept. 20.
The men’s U.S. team consisted of Daniel Blanc-Gonnet, Logan Bolopue, Andrew Putt and Bryan Roper. The women’s team included Caroline Allen, Rachel Hassler and Maddie Hoover.
“I could not have asked for a better team to compete with based on the quality of these riders,” said Todd Roper, team manager.
Change of Bikes
All of the women ride Gas-Gas in the U.S. Nationals and all of the men ride Shercos. Earlier in the summer, the U.S. team received news that Gas-Gas was closing up shop for reorganization. Ryan Young Products (RYP – www.rypusa.com) helped to arrange Scorpa 250s for the women.
“We figured the Scorpa motorcycle would be a pretty good transition from the Gas-Gas,” Todd Roper said. “The few days of training at Jordi’s helped our riders get used to them.”
The men’s team also ended up riding Scorpas, as Sherco had not yet released the new models.
For the World Events and the Trial des Nations, all of the riders get to visit the sections the day before in order to prepare for the ride attempts the following day. On Sept. 17, the team arrived at the Trials des Nations location and set up the pits. They then went to see the sections that the women were going to ride the next day.
Sept. 18 - Women’s World Championship Competition
The loop for the women was about 14km in length, and the ride up the main canyon was very difficult. It was slow-going creek bed riding (dry) and gave the riders a tremendous workout prior to getting to section 5. The women started out with a couple of sections right off of the beach and out of the sand. After this, it was the canyon that tested every rider’s skill level.
Rachel Hassler navigates Section 9 of the Women's World Championship Cup.
A change was made the day before in order to create a better riding experience. The original event was set up for 10 sections with three loops, but the organizers felt that was too many times on the loop in one day. With some quick work by a few, the trial was changed to 15 sections and two loops, much to the relief of the riders.
On Sept. 18, Rachel Hassler was the top American woman rider, with a 20th place finish which was right around half of the riders. She felt she had a good strong ride, and was ready for the next day. Maddie Hover placed 26th and was also looking forward to improving a few rides the next day. Caroline Allen placed 29th. All of the women felt that they could do well the next day after having a few rides under their belt and most of the jitters gone.
Sept. 18 concluded with the presentation of the teams, a parade where the teams all present their riders and fly their national flag.
Sept. 19 - Women’s Trial des Nations Competition
The next day, the women’s team competed in the Trial des Nations. They had 6 hours and 5 minutes to complete the two loops of 15 sections. The sections were to be identical to the previous day for the Women’s World Championship, which is not normal for the event.
The team sent out three minders with the women: Quinn Wentzel, Adam Blumhorst and Garry Hoover. In Section 4, Maddie had a spectacular and dangerous get-off, breaking her clutch hydraulics. The minders were able to repair the bike on the loop. The girls fought their way through the first loop and positioned themselves four points in front of Australia.
“The women seemed a bit frustrated as they knew they could shave some points off of their 54 point loop,” Todd Roper said.
Sections 7 and 8 proved to be the most difficult, as they had been the day before, giving us maximum points on both loops.
For the second loop, the women were able to shave four more points off of their loop and put themselves in seventh place. Italy was 33 points in front of the team, so that was a significant span to overcome.
“Our women’s team did a stellar job in competing, and we congratulate them on their fine finish seventh place,” Roper said. “The prior year they had settled in at eighth, so this was a step in the right direction.”
Sept. 20 - Men’s Trial des Nations Competition
The men’s team started out very strong in cleaning the first three sections. When they got to Section 4, Putt and Roper pulled off two cleans. Then they had an unfortunate five, which put all of the pressure on Blanc-Gonnet to land a favorable ride.
“Daniel really came through and pulled off a superb clean keeping our score at zero through Section 4,” Todd Roper said. “A long trip up the canyon put us at Sections 5 and 6, where we landed clean scores also.”
The team thought Sections 7 and 8 were the tough ones. However, the team only ended up with a single point in 7. Section 8 gave the team five points. Section 9 landed the team a few points, and Roper was beside himself for stopping just shy of the exit gate causing the team one extra point. For the rest of the loop, the team only allowed one more point to occur, putting them at 11 total. The team was in fifth place, but the riders knew that they could clean the entire loop. That would have to be done in order to move up a few spots to the podium.
Logan Bolopue shows how it is done in Section 1.
The team cleaned Loop 2 all the way up through Section 6, then two of the riders pulled maximum points, leaving the team with five total for that section. In Section 8, Putt was on a superb ride and just nearing the exit when his bike suddenly started to rev up and then simply stopped running. After some investigation, the team discovered that the knurled air cleaner screw that fixed the air filter in place had actually come loose, passed through and into the back of the carburetor sticking the slide open.
The team landed three more points, totaling 13 for that loop, which put them in fifth place.
“Blanc-Gonnet, Bolopue, Putt and Roper made an extremely good team,” Todd Roper said. “We have many years to work with this group if they are willing. We are looking forward to being on the podium in the near future.”
Sponsors and Supporters
Twenty-four U.S. team members attended the Trials des Nations. Without the support of sponsors like AIReS Relocation Services (Bryan Putt / www.aires.com), Specialty Welding and Machine (Sid Maulden / www.swmtx.com), Integrated Solutions Inc (Ropers / www.isiaz.com), Ryan Young Products (Ryan Young / www.rypusa.com), and the motorcycle manufacturers / importers, the U.S. team would not be able to compete. Many, many thanks also go to Martin Belair (www.usmontesa.com) for representing America as the FMN Delegate and Bryan Putt for making sure that the team had tools, and support at the events. Thanks also to U.S. team managers Todd & Vonda Roper, longtime trials competitors and supporters, who coordinated the riders, gear, hotels, travel arrangements, pick up of motorcycles at the factories and more.
- Spain - 20
- France - 109
- Japan - 128 (76 cleans)
- Britain - 128 (74 cleans)
- Italy - 132
- Czech Republic - 3
- Germany - 10
- Australia - 17
- Sweden - 20
- United States of America - 24