Just a few days remain now to close 2014 and already the focus and attention has shifted to the new year and this coming weekend which will see the 2015 FIM X-Trial World Championship get underway in the city of Sheffield, Great Britain. Saturday 3rd January will mark an early start for the new series that will visit four different countries and six cities over the next three-month period in order to crown one of the first 2015 FIM World Champions before the end of March.
Sheffield has long established itself as the curtain raising event over the last two decades, with the British fans always eager to pack the arena on the outskirts of the industrial city each January as the World gets it first glimpse of the riders and their bikes in their new colours. After the rude awakening of such an early start to the new year, the riders and teams will then have the opportunity to regroup ahead of the next stop of the tour in the French city of Marseille at the end of January.
The opening two venues are in some contrast with Sheffield’s ice rink facility being spacious and light whereas the tight confines of the sporting arena in Marseille offers a totally different atmosphere with the darkened stage adding extra drama to the occasion each time the series has visited France’s largest commercial port. It was in this tense setting back in 2010 that long reigning FIM Indoor / X-Trial World Champion Toni Bou – Repsol Honda last tasted defeat in the championship, and thus always carries with it extra significance for the undisputed King of Trial.
Round three of the 2015 FIM X-Trial World Championship sees a brand new addition to the calendar with the second stop in France being in the city of Pau just six days later. Pau has previously hosted international Trial events, but has never been included in the series and becomes the eleventh different French city to have hosted a round since the original championship started back in 1993.
The first weekend in February could prove to be an important one in the 2015 title race, with two rounds in three days. Following Pau on Friday night the riders and teams will then dash south ready for the Sunday afternoon encounter in Barcelona, Spain. The event housed in the imposing Olympic arena is always a popular and big occasion on the tour and often brings the best out in the leading protagonists as the Spanish riders look to excel in front of their noisy home fans.
With the hectic double header out of the way, the series will then pause again and allow the competitors to regroup ahead of the closing two events the following month. The 2015 FIM X-Trial World Championship is delighted to welcome Austria back to the calendar with the city of Wiener Neuschadt picking up the mantle after the country last hosted a round of the same series in Vienna back in 2003. If last year’s international prelude event is anything to go by, round five should be an exciting new venue on the tour.
As per last year, the Spanish city of Oviedo will have the honour of bringing the series to a close with the relatively small arena having been packed to the rafters during the 2014 climax. Few would bet that the home fans will once again have the chance to welcome home one of their native riders as the newly crowned King, which will only serve to create a fitting finale to the 2015 FIM X-Trial World Championship.
So whilst most people will celebrate the new year in the traditional fashion, the eight riders included in the Sheffield line up will have to postpone their celebrations until late on Saturday night at least.