Tanel pulled the bike’s ear with the necessary enthusiasm during the first training session on Saturday, and posted the third fastest time. Although not quite matching it, he posted the 8th fastest time during qualifying practice. A duff start in the qualifying race held him back, and he finally got to choose the 13th gate for Sunday’s race activities.
Tanel launched into a good start in race 1, and held 6th spot for a while. Two riders ahead of him collided, however, and this set the skittles toppling. He had an unplanned off-track excusrion, and collected some of the much-beloved track-side netting in his rear wheel. Now as we’ve reported before, this stuff is as effective at stopping a bike as the anchor of an oil tanker, so it’s highly advisable not to let it get too friendly with your bike’s wheels. Fortunately for him, Tanel is blessed with hands so big he cold slap a man on both sides of his face using only one of them. He used these to good effect to rip the netting away, and got going again in 26th position. After 40 minutes’ worth of hard work, he had worked himself back up to 13th position, and the race day didn’t get off to a good start at all.
The planets came into alignment in a big way in race 2, though. As Antonio Cairoli barrelled through the first corner after yet another of his holeshots, the rider hot on his heels had a very distinctive style. From 10 000 odd km away and peering at a small internet image, your reporter knew without a shadow of a doubt who it was. Tanel had manufactured his best start of the year, and now all his pit-bull instincts rose to the top.
The attacks soon came, fist in the form of David Philippaerts, then as the race progressed, from former team-mate and local favourite Jonathan Barragan. Series Leader Clement Desalle also came forward to join the party, with Max Nagl in tow. The Estonian Express was in full flight now, with complimentary cherries on top. He fended off all and any attacks and held his second position all the way to the flag after a spine-chillingly exciting last few laps, IN the end he pipped Desalle by 6/100ths of a second, or about the difference between the knob on a new – as compared to a 2 hours-old tyre.
Over in TM-ville the happiness was unbounded. They had worked ceaselessly to provide their rider with the kind of motor and suspension set-up that he needed, and now he came through with elan. The interview was long distance, but the happiness beamed through the ether. “That was a great race,” he remarked in his quiet way. “Everything worked just perfectly off the start, and once I was in the groove, I could match just about everyone’s speed out there. The team have been working so hard in the last few weeks to improve even further on the bike and the suspension, and now it is showing.”
The Red Bulls flanking his ears must have been snorting with joy too. Tanel had, with the help of his team, rediscovered his muse. The Estonian Express had left platform 13 and is at full momentum again.
Words: Tinus Nel
Pics by Christophe Desmet