By Dick Law. Nathan Watson withstood the pressure of being tipped as the man to beat in this year’s Le Touquet Enduropale by finishing the hardest beach race of them all second to a very happy Milko Potisek who was robbed of the win two years ago by a high tide.
A massive crowd of over 250,000 flocked to the sleepy little seaside town to watch over 1200 riders storm down the long first straight, slowed down by a couple of chicanes, at speeds over 100mph at the start of the three-hour event with a slight drizzle making the sand stick everywhere it touched.
Victor Bossier lead the field into turn one with last year’s winner Daymond Martin in his wheel tracks followed by Potisek, Jimmy Cossus and Watson but as the riders came around to Bossier had already opened up a sizable lead and was looking over his shoulder checking out where the opposition was.
As the race reached the end of the first hour Potisek was still in the lead from Richard Fura, Watson, Camille Chapeliere, Martins and Britain’s Jamie McCanney on his first time at Le Touquet and first time on a big 450 Yamaha.
Britain’s Luke Philpott didn’t see the end of the opening lap Sam Ashley and David Marty, and Richard McKeown didn’t see the end of the second lap as McKeown went out with a broken rad like so many other.
Matt Moffat went out on lap four when another rider collided with him and knocked the rad hose off spilling all its coolant and without that he was going nowhere.
Martin Davis, Brad Thornhill, Quentin Wester races lasted six laps Ben Hunt went out four laps later.
Of the leaders Yental Martins stopped at seven laps with engine problems while Fura pulled into the pits from a comfortable third place after crashing hard and hurting his shoulder. He stood with his team shakings from head to toe with the pain and exhaustion.
While all this was going on Watson was closing in on Potisek fast and was less the thirty seconds behind.
But Watson had a standard tank and had to make another full pit stop as well at the required two stops, but Potisek made do with a slash and dash which gave him the win by just over two minutes.
Chapeliere was a distant third and almost collapse as he crossed the finish line and into the eager hands of the world’s press.
“There was a lot of pressure and hype on me this race weekend” said a knackered Watson, “I have had a good season in the French beach race championship, but I haven’t had much experience with Le Touquet and it’s so much bigger than all the other races in the series. I had a good start with rode a solid safe race with no mistakes.
“I’m really happy with second place, to get on the podium at my first real shot at Le Touquet is something special. I am a little disappointed not to have taken the win, but it’ll give me something to aim for next year. There are so many riders out there, you have to weave left and right to get past them and sometimes you get a little held up. One of the biggest factors in the race is the physical hardship, other than the start straight there is nowhere to get a rest – you are stood up and riding hard the entire three hours. The event is amazing, with all the build-up before the race, I’ve never been so nervous. The fans are incredible too, there are so many here cheering us on. My team have been great all winter so it’s nice to reward them with this result. I gave it my all but came up short. I have learnt a lot and hope to be back next year.”
Last year’s winner Martens had to be content with fourth in front of ex-MXGP rider the big Ken De Dycker.
Jamie McCanney was in a great ninth and was second British rider home at his first Le Touquet attempt. Husky’s Jordan Divall was a fantastic 13th and Tommy Alba was a creditable twentieth and Rob Holyoake who was over the moon with his twenty ninth as his first attempt.
1 Milko Potisek (Yamaha)
2 Nathan Watson (KTM)
3 Camille Chapeliere (KTM)
4 Daymond Martins (Yamaha)
5 Ken De Dycker (KTM)
6 Victor Brossier (Yamaha)
7 Damien Provot (KTM)
8 Romain Dumontier (Yamaha)
9 Jamie McCanney (Yamaha)
10 Florent Blanchard (Yamaha)
11 Lars Van Berkel (Husqvarna)
12 Stephane Watel (KTM)
13 Jordan Divall (Husqvarna)
14 Sebastian Dulot (KTM)
15 Julien Jagu (Yamaha)
16 Jeffrey Dewulf (KTM)
17 Thibaut Hatte (Kawasaki)
18 Nicolas Cailly (Honda)
19 Remy Annelot (Suzuki)
20 Tommy Alba (Kawasaki)
Other British finishers: 30 Olivier Pain, 46 Brian List, 55 Tony Barret, 110 Alan Morel, 131 Ben Thomson, 250 James Clark, 274 Thomas Bart, 281 James Holt, 369 Charlie Sutton, 409 Eddy Sloane, 570 David Clayborn,