The opening day of the 2018 Scottish Six Days Trial passed off without incident but at the end of the day, with no fewer than six riders still ‘clean’ having lost no marks through the day’s 30 sections – and a mighty 33 competitors on single figure totals – we have no clue at all as to an eventual winner!
The guys sitting pretty on zero are last year’s runner-up Jack Price on Gas Gas, twice Six Days winner James Dabill (2007/2011), veteran former winner Sam Connor (2005), both Beta mounted and a trio of Scorpa riders with Pre-65 winner and Scottish hope Gary MacDonald, Tom Minta – who finished a fine fifth last year – and perhaps the surprise packet of the day Andy Chilton from Whitby.
So where is hot favourite to lift the Premier Award for an unbelievable 12th time Dougie Lampkin? Sitting right there behind them on a single mark, dropped on the rolling rocks of old favourite Garbh Bheinn which heads up the steep hillside just outside Kinlochleven.
Doug was joined in the single dab club by Devon’s Joe Baker, the Sherco rider every bit a Scottish specialist and always in with a chance of picking up a Best on Day award. The route was the usual Monday starter with Scot Stuart Mack first man to be flagged away from parc ferme at 7.30am.
The route headed north from the Fort taking in a couple of gentle openers at Coire na Cloich before the first testers with four subs in the boulders of the riverbed at Leanachan.
To be fair, the top National standard riders expect to clean them, good centre riders can have a confident attack – but you can instantly spot the entrants who are going to have to endure a long, hard weekif they are going to nail that all-important Finishers certificate.
From Leanachen it is away off to pick up the moorland track that leads to distant Bradilieg and then a first gallop over the moors, taking in several groups, to Kinlochleven and lunch. It is then back out onto those moors to take in a loop round the Blackwater dam and back into the village, then along the lochside road with Garbh Bheinn and Cameron Hill before the 10 mile road run to the final group of five subs at Lagnaha.
It was a pretty good day on the weather front, Fort William not included in the heatwave enjoyed in the south, but just a couple of heavy showers landed in the morning through the heavy low cloud before a bright afternoon saw spectators packing the Lagnaha banking sides.
Lagnaha used to strike fear into all competitors, aces and Clubmen alike but a combination of machine advances and the sections perhaps losing some of their bite down the years saw some very reasonable scoring right down the order.
As things stand there is no real clue as to who will eventually do what – it will all be revealed as the week progresses and things inevitable alter as the riders revolve their early start days. For instance James Dabill is very early on Thursday while Doug has really drawn a short straw and is first man away on the road run day round the Moidart Peninsula.
Given our six riders with cleans sheets plus Doug and Joe with one they are being shadowed by Sam Haslam, fellow Gasser rider Dan Peace, who could be a real dark horse this week) and Jack Sheppard. Jack has not had the best start to 2018 but today has been promising and this could easily be the defining moment of the season for the popular Ipswich rider.
On three marks are Guy Kendrew, coming back to form, Alexz Wigg who is also on the comeback trail and Dec Bullock riding to a cracking result on the opening day.
Then on four we have Vertigo rider Tom Affleck, who was riding with real confidence, the ever-steady Dan Thorpe and then a couple of surprise packets in Ulsters Suart McClurg and Irish ace Sean Doyle really getting involved at the sharp end.
The Newcomers has a real International flavour just now with Frenchman Arnau Seyve and Czech Jiri Svoboda – James Dabill’s World Championship ‘Assistant’ – followed closely by Yorkshire’s Thomas Housecroft.
Emma Bristow has a clear lead in the Ladies of course being on the Leaderboard, Gary MacDonald is heading for yet another Best Scot award, followed by Andy Anderson and Craig Houston – all three Scorpa mounted. Top Services rider is Phil Wiffen who warmed up for the task with a cracking Pre-65 ride.
As we have said, there were over 30 riders with scores still in single figures including a superb effort by leading Lady Emma Bristow, the Sherco factory ace dropping just nine marks for the day.
You can’t read too much into this as it stands, about the only fact is that Doug’s hope’s of a totally clean week – after last year’s epic effort – has already gone. The main thing is that he really didn’t dwell on it and was very happy as he arrived at Lagnaha, enjoying a joke with the crowd in true Lampkin tradition.