Adam Raga is a name that goes back to the ‘Noughties’ of the Dougie Lampkin era.
The last rider to have won before the domination of Toni Bou; yes, Adam Raga with the FIM indoor and outdoor doubles in
2005 and 2006. As we know, Bou moved to another plane and rolled off 26 FIM World
Trials Championships in both the indoor and outdoor disciplines. So who could be the future world champion, we ask? Adam ‘The Destroyer’ Raga believes he can still win. He endorsed this as the only rider to beat Bou in the FIM X-trial World Championship in 2019 in Barcelona and more recently at the Urban Trial in Cahors France. What does the future hold for the TRRS rider? Read on…
It is a little over 14:00 hours, the time set to get to go to lunch, when the Red Transporter rolls up — some gossips already joking in Girona pointing out that the red is gaining more and more space on the TRRS truck as it aims to replace Gas Gas!
Adam Raga arrives in the parking lot of a restaurant on a highway in Tona, the city in Spain where the official TRRS office was established in 2010. “I live mostly alone, 50km from my parents”, he explains later in our conversation, surprising me to the fact that, at 37 years old, it is his first reference of his parents. It’s true, his father has shaped his son to get where he is in life and he is very important to him.
“It’s hard to find the right person to start a family with as my chosen career demands so much from me. Many of today’s top riders have no children, with the notable exception of 39-year-old Takahisa Fujinami, the other survivor of the Lampkin era who was the world champion just once in 2004, just before Raga. This will not prevent me from meeting Adam’s friend at night when we arrive at his home.
Raga first lived in two other locations before settling in Tona where he had known a girl. He rented accommodation for a year before buying a farm, a small holding in 2011. I discover just now that Adam is not secretive.
“The area is perfect for training, I’m right on the highway, halfway to Barcelona which is 40 minutes, Girona 30 minutes and Manresa 30 minutes too, where the TRRS factory is”.
Toni Bou, at 33, is younger. Is the weight of these four years separating them felt? Raga does not hide it.
“I feel good, but since I turned 30, it has been so much harder to recover from injuries. I have suffered many injuries; not big ones, but almost every year. Knee, back, a little bit of everything. I had to learn how to manage the races where I was not 100% fit; this also made it harder to train.
“I cannot exercise now as I did before. If I do, I’m burnt out. Before I understood this situation, I was in pain everywhere. It was then, in 2014 or 2015, and I had to change my method. I did fewer hours on the bike, more gym and cycle work to get fit.”
When Toni injured himself last year, they said that it could maybe end his career?
“He had his injury, which I respect, but I too had problems at the beginning of the season.”
Adam had problems with his food and did not feel well, having stomach pains and poor digestion. Analysis revealed an allergy to gluten and the presence of a virus which he got treatment for. Going gluten free felt so fresh.
“Some riders show their wounds, others prefer to hide them so others do not see them. I have had a lot of problems; not those that keep you from riding like Toni last year, but I was not
100% last season.
“I have never shown anything regarding an injury because I think it gives an advantage to your opponents. This year, for example, I felt very good until the X-Trial in Andorra where I stretched a ligament in the crotch. After that I had pain in this part of the body, in my back, everywhere. But I prefer not to say anything and keep looking ahead.
“Moving back to Toni’s injury, look at this year; he showed just how good he is winning every round. Fujinami too is amazing. Even though I have better results than him. In my opinion, he has had his best season of the last five years. Physically, he’s better than us on the last lap.”
Toni the Monkey
I cannot help but ask Adam how he is doing psychologically, having finished second behind Bou since 2007, apart from last year when he finished third. Life without Bou, does he sometimes imagine it?
“There are the people who tell me this: without Toni, you would be 30 times world champion! I am not living in the past, I work for the future. For me, the important thing is to do my job well. If I’m second or third, I think that if I did my job well, I’m happy. Last year I finished third in the world, but all the other years since 2006 I was second.
“The motivation is to work to win — every day that I wake up is to win the next event. When I’m not riding well, I’m always disappointed.”
The calm answer is hard to swallow, but I feel Adam’s deeply honest … and happy. I move straight to the point and ask him if he still believes in a third world title.
“I think I can do it. I beat him in the Spanish Championship in
2010 and 2013, but on the world scene it’s difficult. I do not know why. Psychologically, I am very strong. In difficult times, I fight, I know it. If I had to tell you what prevented me from winning, I know that physically Toni is on another planet. The strength he has, the power, his ability to fall and get up without anything wrong ... he has a physique of a monkey!
“Technically there were several years where I thought I was superior to him, especially in the wet and mud. His natural strength sometimes makes it easier to pass through a hazard with a strong single mark to move the machine, when I have to have to use a lot more technique to beat him.”
Adam confesses to me that he needs to work much harder than Toni to maintain his physique. One aspect of his preparation, which I discovered later at the end of the afternoon when I asked a random question, relates to a strange bodybuilding device in his garage. It was a retractor attached to the floor in front of gym bars.
“In 2009, when I injured my knee, I could not ride but wanted to maintain my physical condition. I invented this device to which I fixed a handlebar.”
It maintains a permanent pressure in both directions, as Adam demonstrated to me. He then gets out from under one of the benches another funny blue platform machine, on which he climbed and had to resist vibrations to work the balance. Rafael Nadal’s physical trainer had asked him for this device. Other trainers then began to ask him about it, and he became the representative of Adam’s products!
“I started making them and selling them. I found out later that the players of Inter Milan football team used them.”
“People tell me this: without Toni, you would be 30 times world champion…”
“For two or three seasons Toni and myself are no longer progressing”
Toni, Adam ... and the others
I remain stuck on Toni, and I ask about the relationship between them both.
“Normally we do not eat together, for example, but we do respect each other, more than with Lampkin or Fuji before. I do not know how it would be if it was the opposite, if I won, because it’s easier when you win”.
I always try to understand how anyone can resist such a steamroller as Bou and I decided to go back to the famous season in 2006 where Bou became ‘Dynamite’. Did Adam see him coming?
“No, Toni was doing well in 2005 but so was Jeroni Fajardo. Toni was just another rider. I suspected he was going to perform well, but he was very inconsistent. When he went to Montesa, he exploded; from one year to the next he became totally different. From a rider able to do good things but also bad ones, he started to do everything perfectly. For me it was a difficult time because I thought I had everything under control,
I did not understand what was happening. I lost the championship because I was not ready for that. After that I worked to be better, but he too worked hard and every year he became better. I worked to win but he was always better.
“In a team like Gas Gas, it was also not the easiest way to work. He had everything in place to train and improve. I’m not looking for excuses. I know that if you ask him why he’s working, he’ll answer that it’s because he knows that Adam is going to be stronger.
“In 2013 and 2014, I got closer to him and the title went all the way to the final rounds. During all these years there was just him and me, the others were far behind. Just look at the differences in the points to understand this. For the last two or three seasons we did not progress any more.
“When Toni arrived very strong in 2007, he and I worked at such a level of perfection that it was normal that the others could not follow us. Right at this moment, young people like Jaime Busto are strong, but to fight for the title, it will be either someone who has not arrived yet and we will start to see in training things that he will be the only one able to achieve, like Toni in 2007, or we will have to wait until we get older.”
It was time to ask the questions about the biggest change in Adam’s career, when the Gas Gas situation at the factory became ‘wobbly’ once again. He would leave and sign for TRRS and Jordi Tarres.
“It’s a shame, I had a contract that meant that I could finish my career with them. I was the only rider in history to have only ridden for them before that. Gas Gas has always been managed by people who destroyed everything. Many thought it was this duel that made me win and that if I left Gas Gas I would not win.
“Since switching from Gas Gas to TRRS my results have silenced the critics. I was happy to show that my performance was not related to the motorcycle and I must admit that the TRRS is better than the Gas Gas. At first, there was only one machine, which Jordi had. I signed the contract with TRRS and I took the only one that existed. At that time, I was doing the testing of the evolutions and, four or five months later, the machine came into production. I hesitated between Beta and TRRS as Gas Gas was finished at that time. The TRRS project was with Jordi and the investors, who I knew. If I had moved the Beta, everyone would have said it was to be expected because it was an old established brand, but what we did with the TRRS, going on to win events and finish the season as the vice-champion at both indoor and outdoor world championships with a new machine, it was an exceptional moment.”
It was time to head to the TRRS factory where Adam has to get his machine ready for the Spanish championship. In the summer the factories close at 4.30. Adam anticipated this so that we would not find the factory doors closed and we arrived in good time for a luxury guided tour. We then go to Adam’s home ‘Raga Towers’. Inside the small secluded property, in the middle of the fields, all the former parts of this farm where animals once lived, have been converted to human accommodation. Tenants are settled in one part and, in another, we find Sandre Haga, the indoor and outdoor champion of Norway, the pupil of Raga who lives there as part of the family.
“I can accommodate two professional riders. Maybe I’ll do a bigger school later but, at the moment, I’m still a rider and I’m happy because TRRS will soon be the brand selling the most trial machines.”
“TRRS will soon be the brand selling the most trials machines.”
Adam shows me some motorcycles in the workshop, poses in front of the bodybuilding machine that I mentioned earlier, and dresses. I tell myself that for his sponsors he wants to make a picture in his riding kit. No, it’s not true, it will soon be seven o’clock and he intends to go and train in his garden in the late afternoon!
Earilier in the day, before we headed to the factory, he had photos taken for Braketec.
Adam asks ‘Rafa’, his minder, to hold his new companion, a young Jack Russell, the ninth replica of his good old dog Jack, who accompanies him everywhere.
Right on the side of this field, you will find rocks, indoor obstacles and many other obstacles all close together. The slightest fall and you will crash into the obstacles — it’s not glamorous, but it’s in here that, for an hour, Adam trains on the hazards and will stop only twice to drink.
When he invited me to share a last drink before I departed in the kitchen of his magnificent home, I asked him why he sports the number 67.
“It’s since last year when the FIM allowed us to choose our riding numbers. Before that, I was required to wear the number two. My father arrived with a helmet painted with the number 67. He told me that I was six times world champion and seven times National Champion in Spain. 67 is better than two.”
“He told me that I was 6 times world champion and 7 times National champion in Spain”
Destroyer: The Hebo riding pants carry Adam’s own emblem.
Focus: Adam always likes to check any changes to the TRRS with his own hands. Watched here by his mechanic and all-round good guy Rafael Salceco.
2018: A collection of second-placed trophies from the 2018 season rest in the garage. Soon they will be moved to his own personal museum.
Office: This is the working office of Adam Raga. Inside his van, living the dream.
78 In the near future Adam plans to separate the front of his house to make a museum so he can show his collection of some 40 machines. From the moment he started on his trials career with his father they have saved every machine. Here he stands proud with his TRRS machines from the 2018 season. Museum:
Factory: A visit to the factory, which is only 30 minutes from his home where he can work with the forward-thinking team behind the TRRS success story.
Home: This picture shows the farmhouse that Adam purchased in 2011. Since then he has transformed the old buildings on the left for his animals, a workshop and a guest building for visitors to be accommodated in. On the right is his house.
Inventor: In 2009, when he badly hurt his knee, he could not ride but wanted to maintain his physical condition. He invented this device on which he fixed a handlebar. It maintains a permanent pressure in both directions, as Adam demonstrates. Rafael Nadal’s physical trainer had asked him for this device. Other trainers then began to ask about them and so he started making them and selling them. He found out later that the players of Inter Milan football team used them!
Garden: Just behind his house Adam has a minefield! Rocks, tree trunks, metal cylinders and barely enough room to pass between all the obstacles on foot.
79 Coach: Adam has started to train the Norwegian TRRS rider Sondre Haga, who also lives on the farm.
Team: Adam has worked with Jordi Tarres for many years, and the successful relationship continues into the future and beyond.
Beginning: In the secure arms of his proud father Josep in 1982.
Professional: Looking like the ‘Pro’ rider in 1988 as the trials adventure begins.
67: Until last year, when the FIM allowed the riders to choose their own riding numbers, he was required to wear the number two. His father arrived with a helmet painted with the number 67. He told Adam that he was a six times FIM World Champion and a seven times National Champion in Spain. 67 is a better number than two…
Balance: Adam was always going to be a trials rider, as you can see here with his early balance technique.