The French Ales Trem is the new “must do” race on the extreme enduro calendar. It caught our attention in 2015 with its first edition. A good first attempt but had it’s flaws. Twelve months on and it’s now worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the top tier events of extreme. This one’s here to stay…
For 2016, organisers moved the paddock from Ales town centre up to the nearby Pole Mecanique race circuit to accommodate the bumper 400-plus entry. Hard standing and top notch facilities were very welcomed.
Saturday morning got things underway with a 10-minute enduro loop around the Pole Mecanique facility.
Saturday’s morning qualifier marked Walker’s only defeat at Ales. With Wade Young laying down a scorcher of a time, he had to play second fiddle to the South African.
Julien Gauthier was the best placed Frenchman in sixth. He looked good all weekend, running as high as third early on in Sunday’s main race.
Overnight rain didn’t help. Greasy and slimy underfoot, the snotty downhills and logs claimed their fair share of victims.
Making use of the town’s car park, the Prologue was rammed with spectators checking out the action all evening.
This set of tyre whoops caused some serious grief for the majority of competitors. Hitting it right off the start, it quickly became gridlocked with fallen riders and bikes. And as the more people fell, the more mud, water and fuel got carried across the section making it slippy like ice.
A few mistakes cost Graham Jarvis any chance of getting closer to the SuperFinal podium than seventh.
If you didn’t bring you’re own set of lights for the night time finals, you were literally left in the dark. Adding to challenge, there was no external flood lights brought in to guide the way.
Mario Roman put in an impressive ride to split Walker and Young for second in the SuperFinal.
There’s nothing like stretching your legs before a six-hour plus ride. A Le Mans start, in groups of 10, got everyone warmed up before the off.
Wade Young was fastest on his feet and grabbed the holeshot. Walker and Jarvis both made the rookie mistake of reaching for the electric start and not the kickstart and missed the jump when their bikes failed to fire first time in the frosty cold conditions.
With each passing lap for Sunday’s main event, the difficulty level increased. Some sections were also marked No Help Zones, meaning a bit of teamwork was essential to getting through it.
Steeper than it looks, it wasn’t until you dropped into the section that you saw why riders were getting stopped in their tracks.
We noticed a few 50cc enduro bikes out there too. Riders as young as 14 years old got in on the extreme action in Ales, which was great to see.
Making his official Sherco debut, Wade Young was on a bit of a mission in Ales. Highly motivated for 2016, Young has upped his game. Looking fast, confident and comfortable on his new steed, it’s going to be interesting to see how much stronger he can get with more seat time.
Some of the climbs out in the hills were seriously slippy. When the majority of the world’s best extreme riders are working up a sweat then you know it’s tough. Mario grabs a breather.
During the first two laps, Walker and Young were neck and neck. But as the difficulty level increased, Walker picked up his pace and pulled away. By the time they crossed the finish line at the end of lap three, he was seven minutes clear.
If anyone felt Ales Trem was easy in 2015, they weren’t saying it was easy in 2016. Graham Jarvis compared it to the same toughness as Hell’s Gate.
Despite stepping out of his SuperEnduro schedule to compete, Walker was all smiles climbing onto the podium. And rightly so. Claiming first blood at the first major extreme enduro of the year where all the top dogs came out to play, Walker has got to be feeling good about his 2016 prospects outdoors.
Photos: Robert Lynn/Future7Media