Soultz — France

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Ar­ti­cle: Matthew Hep­ple­ston

A two day clas­sic trial in France is al­ways a plea­sure to ride in and this is the first time Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine UK has vis­ited the event in the far east of the coun­try close to the bor­ders with Ger­many and Switzer­land. The foothills of the Vos­ges Moun­tains with its deep wooded val­leys, is an ideal lo­ca­tion to host a su­perb event for clas­sic rid­ers and ma­chines.

Some­times it is bet­ter to go with the flow with­out too much ad­vanced plan­ning and things turn out for the best. The two day clas­sic trial in Soultz lo­cated in the very east of France in the Al­sace re­gion was just such an ex­am­ple. I was talk­ing with Steve ‘Majesty’ Martin and he men­tioned that he was go­ing down for the event which is held in early June. He said it was a good run round in the for­est and a stiff chal­lenge to man and ma­chine with some ‘pretty big sec­tions’ to con­tend with.


As the week­end ap­proached I broached the pos­si­bil­ity with my bet­ter half and with the week­end pass se­cured went to have a look. The event is about a four hour drive from home and I de­cided to cross the Vos­ges Moun­tains as a scenic di­ver­sion. It has been a few years since I drove up to Col de la Sch­lucht and took the ‘Route des Crete’s’ to­wards the Grand Bal­lon, which at 1424m is the high­est peak, fol­lowed by the Storkenkopf (1366m) and the Hoh­neck (1364m) on the moun­tain chain. The views are sim­ply breath­tak­ing as on one side you have the deep wooded slopes of the Vos­ges and on the other the moun­tains drop steeply away to the to­tally flat Rhine val­ley. This is one of the dri­est re­gions of France and well pro­tected by the moun­tains is sunny and warm and pro­duces some ex­cel­lent wines. The Stork is the sym­bol of Al­sace and with a 1.5m (5ft) wingspan is a dra­matic sight in the skies above.

I fol­lowed the sin­u­ous de­scent be­ing passed by many a road bike on the way down. The vil­lage of Soultz is ac­tu­ally on the val­ley bot­tom and I have to say did not look too promis­ing as we had left all the good stuff be­hind… or so I thought. The ac­tual trial HQ is to be found a lit­tle way out of town and as the road rose up­wards I be­came more con­fi­dent in the ter­rain.


I was greeted by the smil­ing Steve who had re­served me a place next to the camper of Mark Stokes right op­po­site the English gen­tle­men of Messer’s Green­land, Bull and Ram­plee.

The Satur­day morn­ing greeted us with clear blue skies and the prom­ise of a ‘hot one’. The earth was to­tally parched and the dust a ma­jor prob­lem. I de­cided to take it easy and be­come a min­der for the in­trepid duo of Steve and Mark who had bravely en­tered on the In­ter­na­tional route. The ruck­sack was filled with wa­ter and the tem­per­a­ture steadily climbed, top­ping out at a magnificent 36°C… far too hot for north­ern boys! The first two sec­tions were over some ran­dom man made rocks and bank­ing which I hoped would not set the tone for the rest of the day.

Sec­tion 3 was a de­cent drag up a long for­est road where the sec­tions be­came to­tally nat­u­ral with some great blasts up near ver­ti­cal banks fol­lowed by the in­evitable steep drop back down. I have to say they looked im­pres­sive but were also well thought out with a good run off and no dan­ger of sump­ing out on the top lip. Af­ter these our path went steadily up­wards to­wards the high­est sec­tion, num­ber 6. Thank­fully each sec­tion was in shade of­fered by the ma­ture for­est through which we rode.

There is an ex­cel­lent va­ri­ety of ter­rain and each sec­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to the last. Per­haps the only thing it lacks was a sec­tion in a gush­ing stream bed but no mat­ter there are plenty of chal­lenges. It was so dry that each sec­tion was equipped with a large fire ex­tin­guisher as a pre­cau­tion.


The boys were start­ing to strug­gle a lit­tle in the heat but man­fully fought their way back to base for a sus­tained bout of re­hy­dra­tion whilst I re­filled the bot­tles.

Hav­ing a look at the In­ter route re­sults at half dis­tance on the first day it was clear that there was only go­ing to be one win­ner and that was Jean-Luc Nic­tou rid­ing a Van Mar­wick framed BSA B40 who is an ex–Beta fac­tory rider from the 1990’s. He turned in a stun­ning first lap score of 6 against the com­pe­ti­tions 25 plus! The sec­ond lap was much the same, although the ef­fects of the heat and the tough sec­tions were tak­ing their toll.

The steep down hills were quite hairy and the ef­fort re­quired to haul up a mighty 500cc Trifield in Marks case was enor­mous. I re­alised I had def­i­nitely made the right de­ci­sion. At the end of the day we sat un­der the awning and were savour­ing the re­ward of a cold beer when the wind picked up rapidly and some very loud thun­der­claps rat­tled the win­dow panes to be fol­lowed in short or­der by a del­uge of al­most bib­li­cal pro­por­tions. The baked earth shed the wa­ter quickly and we were treated to rivulets flow­ing un­der our shel­ter. This lasted for an hour or so and as quickly as it ar­rived the sky started to clear and we were treated to a glo­ri­ous evening with the tem­per­a­tures in the low 20s, per­fect for al­fresco din­ing un­der the mar­quee erected by the club.

Adrien Nic­tou (Fantic)

Alain Pujo (Honda)

Jean Luc Nic­tou (BSA)

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