Irish boys ride their hearts out in Baiseux!
Team Ireland put in a great performance in the 44th Coupe de l’Avenir international team event in Belgium over the weekend.
The track was typical European: huge jumps, flat out straights, marled clay surface which rutted up in the corners with massive braking and acceleration bumps. There were no stones and with heavy rain during race day created mucky conditions were difficult to say the least. Any suspension mechanic would have his work cut out for him in setting up for the steep takeoff jumps and 25 feet drop offs coupled with the extremely fast and cut up corners.
The Coupe de l’Avenir has progressed over the past number of years from being an open type invitational to a truly international team event, which is a de facto.
“Youth des Nations”. The race format is almost identical to its big brother with three different classes (MX1, MX2 and 125 2 stroke) in the same race with the best 7 out of 9 results counting. Teams all have matching custom jerseys and number plates with their national flag emblazoned on every thing resulting in the team spirit which is so rare in motocross but always in the forefront at the MX Des Nations. This is truly a “Des Nations” for youths. Over the past few years more and more teams are represented and 2016 has seen the return of the Dutch and the entrance of the Portuguese. This year 14 European countries were entered.
The pace of the riders has been upped year on year and when you see the likes of 10 times world champion Stefan Everts on the grid as just another dad trying to get the best out of his son, you realize that this event deserves is position at the top of the European Youth Calendar.
It is a great honor to be selected to represent your country as a motocross rider and a lot is expected in return. All riders on the 2016 Irish team returned this expectation to the best of their abilities. 18 year old James Mackrel hyperextended his Achilles’ tendon in Saturday qualifying and after icing it for the night, despite being in extreme pain he raced all day Sunday showing that he does have the bloody determination that it will take to fulfill his dream of being a GP racer. James’ best result on the day was 16th. James rode a Yamaha 450f which he upgraded to just for this event.
Jason Meara showed his strength as a rising talent all weekend especially during the last race of the day where he got a great start and was in the top 10 after the first three corners until he was blatantly t-boned in front of the pits and came back from last position to 19th, fighting with Europe’s best, place for place. Jason rode a KTM 250f, which had just been got brand new for the weekend.
Jordan Mc Caw stepped in at the last minute as a 125 2-stroke rider for Stuart Fee and proved himself as the absolute right man for the job. Although starting from the outside of the gate all day, Jordan managed to obtain unbelievable starts on his small oil burner against heavy machinery on the long uphill drag to the first corner. Jordan’s best result was in the first race where he would have finished 15th until he landed on of the massive drop-offs in the second last lap and smashed his two (aftermarket) foot pegs right off the bike! Jordan landed it any way and finished the race. Jordan rode a 125cc Husky.
Team Ireland under 21s finished 9th overall pipping the Germans (again!) at the post in the final race.
A deluge of rain just as the 85s came out marred their performance, however 85cc class finished 13th overall with Ben Kennedy posting the best 85cc result of the day on his Suzuki in 24th position after battling back from the mid thirties. Ben Hall injured his knee over the massive jumps; never the less he powered through the day and with his fitness and strength he was able to add to the team’s points by pure commitment and determination. Ben Hall rode a Husky 85. Aaron Gray from Bray, Co Wicklow was the first of the 85s to conquer the jumps but a blown piston in the final race blocked him from displaying his full potential. This, just as he was getting the hang of this technical track. Team Ireland 85cc finished 13th overall.
2016 was the first year that Ireland fielded a team of 65cc riders and they were indeed in at the deep end. All the 65s are ultra successful in Ireland and in the British Youths, they are a force to be reckoned with. However we all learned that in Europe’s mainland, the pace is far quicker and the jumps are higher.
Never the less the bravery these boys displayed was a tonic to the older generation. It takes a lot for championship winners to keep on going when the likes of Liam Everts (Stefan’s son) is coming up to lap you and it is a credit to these riders that they kept on going race after race never losing spirit and it bodes well for their future that they can take the pressure and keep on going.
Rossi Dobson, Rhys Hawthorne and Fin Wilson all rode KTMs and finished 13th overall.
As team manager for this youth team, I was privileged to represent the boys in 2016 and be with them for this event. Over this weekend, I have many moments (far too many to mention here) that inspired me and broke my heart too and I would like to thank all who gave me the honor and opportunity to do this job.
I would like to thank my friend, Jim Jones who was indispensible in his help to me with the team. I would also like to thank the boy’s parents and friends who ultimately have put the greatest amount of work, time and encouragement to the riders and of course the riders themselves who without them we simply would not have a sport.
Words: Mick Mc Ginn, Team Manager Team Ireland Coupe de l’Avenir 2016