Soultz — France
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)