Over the last five decades I have visited hundreds of country towns for motocross and supercross races and sure, there is a small dent in the town’s atmosphere but Cessnock was completely transformed in the lead up to and during the A4DE – every coffee shop, motel, hotel, caravan park, shopping centre, butcher, baker, hairdresser, service station, motorcycle shop, and even Bunnings were feeling the positive effects of the influx of 350 competitors, their entourage and event personnel. The town was dead-set buzzing!
I have been to more of these compulsory things than most people have had hot breakfasts but Tuesday nights riders briefing for the A4DE was a dead-set eye opener. With ‘matter of fact’ Don Atkins hosting the ‘Rookies Briefing’ backed up by ‘follow the rules or hit the road’ Jan Waldon who quite clearly laid down the law in a manner that left you with little doubt over who was going to come out second best if you crossed her.
Honestly, I walked away completely confident that these people knew what they were doing and had our and the events best interests at heart. To top the night off the local head cop even got up to tell us that he had locked away a person who had come to town specifically to steal some of our dirt bikes – unreal!
Bulldust and Boulders
The Hunter Valley is in the middle of a drought so everyone knew that there would be dust but by day three, which was the same course as day one but in reverse, some of the bulldust ruts were in some spots more than a metre deep, and many were riddled with bowling ball sized rocks.
Throw in several steep hills that were for many impossible and you can see why some riders have said it was the toughest riding they have ever done on a dirt bike. When I was asked about how hard day one was my response was: ‘It’s the A4DE, what did you expect?’
24 Vintage Finishers
60 plus Vintage Class riders fronted up for the Cold Start Test on Day 1 and believe me, this was far from a picnic having to traverse tracks and trails AFTER 250 plus modern bikes had belted their way ahead of us.
But to then try and keep the bike going through the tough conditions was a feat in itself so a massive hats off to the 24 who made it through all four days.
Did You Hear the One About the Three Poms?
Andy Elliot, Martin Baker and Terry Allen made the trek from the UK to Cessnock to contest the Vintage class and bugga me dead if all three didn’t finish AND take home the Club Teams Trophy.
Expect the Vintage class to become a permanent and popular part of future A4DEs AND expect more international interest.
284 modern bikes got underway on day one and 212 finished the final motocross on day 4 – believe me, considering the conditions and how tough some of the trails were that is impressive.
Names You May Know
Former motocross star Lyndon Heffernan was at the A4DE with his son Jack and it was Jack who got the better over his dad with a solid 47th outright while ‘Heffo’ finished in a credible 104th. Other names that ring a bell are Nic Tomlinson (38th), Jeff Dray (77th), Sophie Coldicutt (93rd), Jason Cater (106th), Jeff Curley (135th) and Mark Peacock (141st).
With just two sections to complete on Day 1 my PE175 shit a stator so I ended up pushing the bike for about a kilometre along a bush trail just as the leading modern bike riders were coming through and you could have blown me over with a ducks feather when Daniel Milner, the outright leader, pulled up next to me to see if there was anything he could do to help.
Obviously there wasn’t much he could do for me so I said that I was ok and to keep on going which he did but over the next five to ten minutes EVERY one of the top riders gave me the thumbs up or beeped their horns at me in acknowledgement of my less than ideal situation – I was pretty impressed.
Sean Clarke is a six-foot plus Kiwi who made the trek across the pond and took out third place in the Masters class behind Brad Williscroft and James Deakin but that is only a small part of the story. You see, Sean is a Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Famer, a 17-time New Zealand Enduro Champion, a class winner at the 1998 A4DE, a class winner and podium place getter at the Red Bull Romaniacs, a dual ISDE Gold Medallist and was a key to the success of the 2006 ISDE in New Zealand as the Event Director and the FIM accredited Clerk of the Course. But that’s not all!
I personally witnessed Sean encouraging James Deakin to ‘settle down and not lose any more time’ after James had accidentally gone through a check point one minute ahead of his scheduled time on Day 2 – it’s not often you hear a rider helping his rival, but Sean Clarke is simply a good bloke first and an extraordinary competitor second.
Way back in 1978 Norm Watts won the very first A4DE and he came back to Cessnock to contest the 40th running of the event in the Masters class on a Sherco 300. Despite not getting through the whole event Norm was able to share not only the podium with 2018 winner Daniel Milner but he also got to catch up with several riders who were there back in 1978.
You Bewdy Udy
Geoff Udy made his way from Toowoomba to Cessnock back in 1978 to an event that was so foreign to anything else that had ever been held in Australia before, that in his own words left a fair amount of uncertainty in him during the drive down, and against better judgement he did it all again in 2018. This time around on a PE400 that bubbled along nicely throughout the event despite receiving nothing more than minimal attention – Geoff added much to the 2018 A4DE in personality AND was one of the 24 Vintage riders who finished the event. Take it from me, this guy can still ride a dirt bike at pace.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a one-rider privateer effort, part of a factory backed team, one of the many pit crew, support crew, family members, sponsors, officials or one of the volunteers from the two clubs that helped put the whole show together, the A4DE takes an incredible amount of organisational skills so if you are thinking of being part of this event in the future, don’t underestimate the logistics involved. Thankfully, the information coming from the people behind the event is plentiful.
2017 was a massive let down for the A4DE with the Toowoomba club pulling the pin on the event due to lack of entries. From what I hear, the future of the event was in serious doubt after that debacle, so the 40th anniversary in Cessnock couldn’t have come at a better time.
The venue for 2019 has yet to be announced but no matter where it is the prestige and popularity of the event has been re-established and the A4DE is here to stay!
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