Words: Filipe Koberg
Photos: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven & Neil Sturgeon, Darlington
Costa Rica is a very small country in Central America with only 4.5 million people. Is one of the greatest places on earth to live since we have many beaches surrounding the country either on the Atlantic or Pacific side, lots of natural beauty, no army and the most politically stable in the region.
There are just a few active trial riders in the whole country, ten to be exact. Unfortunately trials are not so popular in Latin America therefore we have no trial schools whatsoever. So in order to learn we have to watch a lot of videos and improvise the best way we can.
When we were accepted in the 2017 SSDT, Ronald (doctor), Gustavo and myself (entrepreneurs) were super excited and started watching a lot of videos so we could understand a little better what were getting into. We prepared ourselves going to the gym, going on the trial bike to difficult places and trying to be fit for the event. We also purchased appropriate clothing since the coldest it gets throughout the year in Costa Rica is 18 degrees!
The day before the inauguration, we saw all different riders and realized that most of them were very experienced, country champions, top trial riders and we got intimidated a bit. We were amazed watching 3 year old kids practicing on their trial bikes in the park, something we’ve never seeing before.
During the inauguration we were very proud to participate in the parade wearing our Costa Rican team uniform. Seeing our flag in the poles next to countries that have participated in the SSDT for ages made us feel important! Team Vertigo France was very friendly with us and gave us some valuable tips.
The first day was a reality check day where the three of us were very stressed since we did not know what to expect. Everything was new for us. Driving on the left, new signs, the zones signals, driving under totally different conditions as we are use to (specially the cold weather). Throughout the day we realized that it was a lot more difficult than expected, that there is absolutely no time to waist, and the inter zones with deep trenches full of mood was something totally new for us where some could become traps. Having so many people watching did not help either and the rocks we saw on the videos were 10 times bigger and the hills were steeper!
Monday night we were dissapointed and thought that we would not be able to finish because there was little time for delays and that day we tried to waist no time and barely made it on time at the end of the day . We were encouraged by Vicki Anderson, a physiotherapist which helped us throughout the week, on not quitting. At dinner the three of us decided to build a strategy which we wrote on a napkin and put on the mirror of our hotel room with the different things we would commit on doing in order to try to finish the entire event.
Tuesday we had an issue with Gustavo’s bike which we were able to fix but we were about 20 minutes late at the end of the day. Following the rules we committed the night before made it easier and at the end of the day we were very happy because there we started having hopes that we would have some chances to finish the race if we continued the same strategy.
Wednesday we left early, and we were the first riders out. We took advantage of that and the whole day flowed better being happy that some zones we were absolutely first feeling less pressure. That day we arrived 35 minutes before our return time so we were able to change the rear tire and check all the bike properly. We felt as champions there and were very motivated. Then we learned that going first on the zones wasn’t a good idea because it was even more slippery in some cases and no tracks so we needed to improvise.
The following day was really hard and we were told that if we finished the 4th day we would have very high chances of finishing the six days. So we were mentally prepared and pretended that nothing had happened in the previous days and that was day one out of three having the advantage that we knew then what we did not know on Monday when we got started. Murdo, a trial fanatic who was giving us support; recognized how most people thought at the beginning of the week that we would not make it. This encouraged us more of course to prove they were wrong!
Friday was not as hard as the previous day but our bodies were resentful. My knee was bad from a fall on Tuesday, could not move my shoulder almost due to an old injury that reappeared this week and Ronald and Gustavo were also getting their forearms tired and with cramps.
Saturday was a long day since the inter zones were forever but we managed to follow some experienced riders like Colin Ward & son or Robert Paterson who always had a constant flow and had participated in several SSDT ’s before and had a positive attitude towards us.
When we were able to get to the finish line we were very happy because finally the journey was over and we were extremely proud because throughout the week we’d learned that it was the first time ever that a latin american team had participated as a team and all riders finished in the SSDT. We felt as everyone recognized our effort and made many good friends with a great attitude throughout the week which is a very special feeling since they all share the same passion but are located in the other side of the world. Having the support of Vertigo, Dougie Lampkin mechanics and many riders, helped us finish with a big smile in our faces.
We know that we were very lucky because the weather helped us and because in all the different sections, even if they were very difficult, we went after them in most cases. Now the feeling is even greater because our other trial friends back home are into it and want to go back with us next year, where we know that the weather will not be as nice; but now know what we will be facing and have plenty of time to train accordingly. Maybe we bring the good weather again!