Playing and winning the unplayable game – ten victories, including five consecutively is the record book ripped apart. The story…
Playing and winning the unplayable game – ten victories, including five consecutively is the record book ripped apart. The story of Dougie Lampkin and the 2017 Scottish Six Days Trial is genuinely the stuff of legend.
To do well, which is to say finish inside the top fifty, you need commitment and dedication of a full-time professional sports person. To be at the sharp end of the results you must dedicate yourself to the cause, develop highly tuned balance, throttle control and above all incredible levels of concentration.
To do all this and come out on top at the end of the week with hundreds of observed sections, at times in weather which mountain rescue workers would call “difficult”, all the way being marked over obstacles which by their nature are utterly unpredictable: riders are literally playing an unplayable game to attempt to ride a motorcycle up some of the observed sections. To arrive in Fort William on the second Saturday in May as the person with the least marks lost is so chaotic as to be unfathomable. To do that ten times, as Dougie Lampkin now has, is astonishing.
That men and women compete to this level at this event each year laughs in the face of far higher profile sports like football, for example. It is impossible to imagine the comparisons between the top fifty trials riders competing in the SSDT and the top fifty footballers competing in the Premier League. Mind-bogglingly different ends of the sporting spectrum financially but no question, absolutely no question, all with the same levels of commitment to succeed.
Who you then compare Dougie Lampkin too is down to your preference for footie teams or possibly national players. Doug is a very rich man and doesn’t need the comparison to justify his enormous and deserved success. His domination of the World Trials Championship either side of the Millennium was total. It put him among the all-time greats, particularly the rider he took the mantle from, Jordi Tarres, and the rider who has taken over the mantle almost ever since, Toni Bou.
His achievement in winning the 2016 SSDT was all the more poignant given the sad passing of his father, Martin, only a few weeks before the event. To say it must have been difficult to prepare is one thing but for a professional sportsman to arrive at the start of a six day long event without his professional companion, minder, side-kick, buddy, mentor and above all father as the constant presence must have been enormously difficult. Like riding in a void.
Powers of concentration required to ride any given section or sub-section in the annual Highland event are total. The knife-edge along which you tip-toe to arrive feet up at the ends cards of each section is the game all trials riders play, a game Lampkin is certainly a master craftsman at. But to arrive at the end of a whole day of fifty sections or a whole week of 250 sections with a total of 17 feet down is a measure of concentration those Premier League footballers couldn’t comprehend.
For certain there’s more than a little luck involved and Doug was able to rely on heavy support along the way. By some accounts Lampkin surely “got away with a few” as well where others could have been penalized but without doubt every rider ‘gets away with a few’ at some point and suffers at others. Plus, as a wise man called Harold Martin Lampkin once said: “You make your own luck in this game.”
In his own post-event press release Lampkin said: “It’s difficult to put into words just how I feel right now as it has been an incredibly tough week both mentally and physically. Just a few weeks back I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ride, but after my mum had a word with me there was no chance I was getting out of it.”
“Practicing on my own has been pretty much impossible as it gave me far too much thinking time. So I had to revert to riding with the kids after school towards the end just to get a few hours in on the bike at least.”
“It’s been a massive week for my whole family, and especially for my brother and my mum. To have Harry ride with me all week has been brilliant, and then for my mum to come up and be at the sections later in the week was something very special and strong.”
“It has been hard to keep my head together this week, but there was a job to be done and that was even more important when it came to Saturday. The ride back from Nevis Forest to the final section at Town Hall Brae was definitely a strange feeling especially when I thought about my dad.”
“To have won a tenth SSDT title and a second for Vertigo feels amazing and is something I will remember for a long time and is hopefully in some small way a fitting tribute to my father.”
Here’s to 2017.