Cody Webb was in a league of his own at this year's edition of El Trial de Espana, the 39th running of one of the most prestigious trials events in the U.S., this year held near Lake Isabella, California. Webb lost only two points in 10 rides on the tight and difficult course to easily outdistance second place finisher Andrew Oldar by a 12-point margin. The win was Webb's third at the event in the past four years, tying him with former National Champion Lane Leavitt for fourth on the all-time wins list behind Bernie Schreiber (8 wins), Geoff Aaron (5) and Mark Manniko (4).
On sections that featured some of the biggest obstacles most of these competitors will see all year, the contest boiled down to Webb, a veteran National Championship contender, versus a bevy of up-and-comers, who right now make up a good portion of the new generation of trials stars currently breaking out on the National scene.
And while the "youngsters" turned in some pretty impressive rides, there was no beating the experience and spectacular technique of Webb, who rode his four-stroke Sherco 320 to clean after impressive clean.
"It's great to get another win here and it's really cool to just be mentioned in the same breath with the guys who have won this event before, like Leavitt, Aaron and Schreiber," said Webb. "This event has a lot of tradition and to win it even once is a big honor."
"El Trial" has a rich tradition of featuring extremely big and nasty obstacles and this year's event left no one disappointed. One of the nastiest was an eight-foot "leap of faith" gap in the opening section which the riders had to jump across to get to the exit of the section. This section was no problem for Webb as he cleaned it on both laps; however, it was a much milder barrier in the second section which cost Webb his only points of the weekend.
"I dabbed in the very same spot in the same section on two different rides," said Webb. "That was probably the least technical of all the sections; it had a couple of big "ups" but nothing special. There was just this little drop into a hole and you had to kind of squeeze between these two rocks, real tight, and then struggle your way out of it and I just flew into the hole and stuffed my front end in there and dabbed each time."
Oldar (pictured, left), who rode the event on a 125cc Sherco, ended up with a two-point ride in the section on his first time through, but duplicated Webb's "one" on his second attempt. But from that point on, Webb would not take another point. However, behind Webb, a battle was brewing over the remaining podium positions, with Oldar holding a distinct advantage over local boy Michael Wenger, on a Montesa, and Gas Gas-mounted Max Nelson, from Oregon. It was Oldar's ability to avoid any major mistakes which would lead to his finishing in the runner-up position at the end of the day.
"I didn't have any fives all day and that was a big part of my finish," said Oldar. "In the first four rides alone, Michael had a couple of fives, where I got though that group with only five points total, so I ended up coming out of that with seven points less than him, and that was big."
Oldar, who is the defending 125 Expert Champion in national competition, will be riding the Expert class in '09 on a 290 Sherco, but still hadn't received his new bike when El Trial got underway, so he was forced to ride the event on his 125.
"It would have been nice to have the bigger bike on some of the sections," said Oldar. "In some of the sections I was full-on pinned and just barely got over the stuff, but it worked out okay because I've been riding a 125 for so long. But it was kind of cool because the crowd was getting into it because I was pinned going into all of the big walls."
Despite the displacement handicap, Oldar finished in second with 14 points, well ahead of a two-way battle between Wenger and Nelson.
The Wenger-Nelson skirmish ended up being settled by a single point at the end of the day. After a series of fives to start the event, Nelson put together a pair of cleans in the middle of the trial which moved him ahead of Wenger (pictured, right) by a four-point margin. So heading into the final section, which Wenger cleaned to finish the day with 24 points, Nelson needed only a safe three to take the final podium spot, however, the tricky middle portion of the section tripped Nelson up and he spun out and took a five, dropping him to fourth in the final standings by a single point behind Wenger, 25 points to 24.
"On the next to last ride, I didn't make it up the big wall, and that put me in a bad spot but on the last ride of the day I cleaned it and that was what I needed to do," said Wenger. "Max ended up taking a five which gave me third.
"I was a little bit worried before the event, I looked at the sections and they look pretty big and hard, so I was really nervous going in because I didn't know what to expect. But after I got going I settled down a bit and had a few cleans which made the difference in the trial for me."
Keysville Special Management OHV Area
Results: March 29, 2009
PRO: 1. Cody Webb (SHR) 2; 2. Andrew Oldar (Shr) 14; 3. Michael Wenger (Mon) 24; 4. Max Nelson (G-G) 25; 5. Reed Davis (Shr) 27; 6. Ian Delaney (Mon) 28; 7. Eric Storz (Shr) 38