STILL WIN­NING

Trial Magazine - - INTERVIEW - AR­TI­CLE: GEN­ER­ATED BY ‘RODO’ PIC­TURES: SABATIER, TRI­ALS ME­DIA AND THE RAGA FAM­ILY

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.

Gluten free

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.”

All change

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”

74

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.

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