Nice France 3/4/2015

Finished 5th in X-TDN

photoX-TRIAL DES NATIONS took place after three years of absence. The five teams representing the countries of Spain, UK, France, Italy and Japan participated in the event that took place on April 3rd in Nice France. Tomoyuki Ogawa and Takahisa Fujinami, the same duo took part in the X-TDN three years ago teamed up for Japan for the challenge.

It was the first world championship competition for Fujinami since having the knee surgery. X-TDN has an unique atmosphere as an entertainment, and it was a good opportunity as a warming up for him for the coming series. Ogawa had been busy traveling from Japan to Spain for numerous times for testing and development of the bike during his off season. He traveled one more time to Europe for the occasion to ride Fujinami's spare bike.

The two teamed up for X-TDN in 2012, in the similar circumstances and the similar team structure, and they finished second following the team Spain. The team Spain, Bou and Cabestany, for this year was again the favorite. Beating the Spanish team would be difficult if not impossible, so, naturally, the objective for the rest of the teams was to take the second place. Although Fujinami said it was a good opportunity for warming up, he did not mean the competition to be easy. He picked up Ogawa at the airport and set their goal to repeat their performance when they teamed up three years ago, which was to take the second place.

In 2012, one rider was assigned to ride the whole first lap, and another to ride the second lap. This year, it was up to the teams to designate which rider to ride the each section, and each rider had to ride six sections at both laps. It was a relief change of the rule for Fujinami, that he could avoid to ride some of the sections appeared to be stressful to his recovering knee. After the quick inspection of the sections, the team Japan decided that Ogawa to ride the Section1, 2 and 6, and Fujinami to ride the Section3, 4 and 5 for Lap1.

photoThe starting orders were decided by the results of the speed races. There was no Dual-Lane competition so the orders were decided by the finishing time. Cabestany of the team Spain rode fastest to pick the final starting order. Ogawa was the next fastest to pick the fourth starter for the team.

As the observation section started, Gubian fived at the Section1, followed by single point riding of Gratarola and Brown. Ogawa marked clean followed by Bou with his frawless riding. The Section2 was a bit harder than the first, where Ferrer rode with three points, and the rest of the riders except Bou rode with two points.

All five riders marked clean at the Section3, including Fujinami. The team Japan went onto the Section4 being second with one point advantage. Then there was a little happening with the team. Fujinami waited for Ogawa to start his ride, but obviously, his team mate was not planning to do so. Fujinami was surprised and had to rush to ride the section when he was told it was his turn as scheduled originally. Although Carles and Josep were there to support the team Japan, there was no manager to look after the proceedings. The two Japanese were there competing at their own. It was a simple mistake-misunderstanding of Fujinami, which they could have laughed, but the outcome affected the team's rhythm.

The Section4 was cleanable with the hardest part of the section at the beginning. The four riders marked clean, so everybody expected that Fujinami would do the same. He did not inspect the section in advance as he was not aware of riding there, which was a bit of concern, but he clear the entry of the section with no problem. Fujinami seemed on the way to mark clean. However, he made a mistake at the later part of the section to finish with five points. As a result, team Japan's accumulated points became seven, moving down from second to fourth with only a point advantage over the team France.

Fujinami continued to ride at the next section, where he marked clean as everybody else except Grattarola dabbed a single point. Ogawa was next to ride at the Section6, and he must have felt pressure to turn the things around with his riding at the final section. He became the only rider to make a mistake at the section to finish with three points.

As the Lap1 was over, the team Spain stood at the top in the standings with all cleans, followed by the team UK with three points. The team Italy was third with four points. The team France was fourth with eight points as the team Japan moved down to fifth with ten points.

photoAlthough there was additional difficulty by switching the riding direction, the severity still was not very high for the Lap2. All the four teams expected to ride solidly, so the two Japanese believed that they had a chance to move up the position if they could perform boldly at their lap.

The commitment however worked in the opposite way for the team Japan. Ogawa started with five marks at the Section1, where all the other riders marked clean, allowing the rivals to build more cushion. He fived at the Section2, too, but Italy and UK also fived. Fujinami rode the Section3 and he fived. That was another regrettable mistake as Tournour of the team Itay was the only other rider who made a full mark error. Rivals built more cushion as Dabill rode with two points and Ferrer rode with a single point.

Ogawa marked clean at the Section4, but it did not help so much as it was a cleanable section for everybody except Grattarola. Fujinami rode the Section5 to finish with a single point, where Brown of team UK dropped two marks, and Tournour rode with a single point. The final section of the lap was cleanable for all five riders, so catching up was not possible.

The team France fought strong at the Lap2, where Gubian rode flawlessly and Ferrer made two single mistakes only. They were fourth at the end of Lap1, but they moved up into second in the standings at the end of the day. Without checking the results sheet, both Fujinami and Ogawa knew not only they failed to achieve their initial goal, they had to accept to finish last with 10 points disadvantage over the team Italy.

The team Spain dominated to take the victory with zero penalty point. The team France and UK fought closely, to finish second with 10 points and third with 13 points, respectively.

After three years, the duo teamed up again for X-TDN, but it ended with disappointments. Ogawa and Fujinami, the two childhood friends and rivals, left Nice with bittersweet experiences.

Quote from Fujigas:

Ogawa and I set our goal for this year to repeat the performance of the last time's, which was to take the second place. It is pity that we put everybody down with the results. I made a mistake at the Section4, and it must have ruined Ogawa's rhythm. Some of my bad performances were not because of the condition of my knee nor because I was away from the world championship for months. We have failed, that's all. I will try to forget about it and go back to get ready for the coming championship.

Nice France
1st Lap
1. Spain 0
2. UK 3
3. Italy 4
4. France 8
5. Japan 10
2nd Lap
1. Spain 0
2. France 2
3. UK 10
4. Italy 12
5. Japan 16
1. Spain 0
2. France 10
3. UK 13
4. Italy 16
5. Japan 26