French Bliss

Following a three-week break the best riders on the planet roar back into action this coming weekend at Charade for the first French TrialGP of the season – round two of the 2021 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship – which features one day of points-paying action.

Laia Sanz is tied with reigning champion Emma Bristow at the front of the TrialGP Women class Pic (c) Pep Segales

The premier TrialGP class is, as expected, led by Spanish superstar Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) who’s aiming to make it 15-straight titles this year but British riders flexed their muscles at the opening round at Tolmezzo in Italy earlier this month andEmma Bristow (Sherco) has a share of the lead in TrialGP Women, Toby Martyn (TRRS) and Jack Peace (Sherco) are tied at the top of Trial2 and Jack Dance (GASGAS) heads a British 1-2-3 in Trial125.

The Trial125 class, however, won’t be in action in France with the series’ youngest stars getting a weekend off as the Trial-E championship gets under way.

Bou got his campaign off to a successful start on the opening day of competition in Italy but after breaking his leg in May he wasn’t 100 per cent fit and his compatriot Adam Raga (TRRS) was just a point adrift at the end of the two laps of 12 sections as Italy’s Matteo Grattarola (Beta) – freshly promoted from Trial2 – scored a fantastic third.

The following day there was a huge shock when Japanese veteran Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) stormed to an eight-mark victory – his first since 2016 – with Bou second from Raga. The result made trial history with the hugely-popular Fujigas – the youngest-ever TrialGP winner aged just 17 all the way back in 1997 and world champion in 2004 – bookending his illustrious career by at 41 becoming the oldest-ever TrialGP winner.

Realistically, Bou has to start as favourite – his record speaks for itself with 119 TrialGP wins – but Raga beat him twice last season, Fujinami will definitely be fired up and riders including Jaime Busto (Vertigo), Jeroni Fajardo (Sherco) and Grattarola will all be pushing for at the very least a podium finish.

TrialGP Women is currently a tale of two riders – reigning champ Bristow and returning Spanish legend Laia Sanz. Sanz, who claimed 13 world titles between 2000 and 2013 before switching to rallying with considerable success, won on the opening day in Italy before seven-time champion Bristow hit back on day two to level the points.

Spaniards Berta Abellan (Vertigo) and Sandra Gomez (TRRS) are most likely to contest the final step of the podium but the attention will be focussed on the two big hitters slugging it out at the front.

The Trial2 competition in Italy was dominated by Peace and Martyn and there’s no reason to expect France to be any different.

Peace won on the opening day by a single mark before Martyn pinched victory on day two after winning a tie-break by completing the trial in a shorter amount of time.

However, the pair openly acknowledge how competitive the class is this season and former Trial125 champion Lorenzo Gandola (Beta) from Italy and Spain’s Aniol Gelabert (Beta) also scored podium finishes – although inconsistent performances from both mean it’s Sondre Haga (Beta) from Norway who’s currently third in the title chase.

Italian riders Sara Trentini (Vertigo) and Andrea Sofia Rabino (Beta) each took a win and a second at the first round to tie the lead in Trial2 Women but British contenders Alicia Robinson (Beta) and Kaytlyn Adshead (TRRS) emerged from Italy with a podium apiece although they’ll need to up their game in Charade if they’re going to challenge for the top step of the podium.

Six riders are expected to contest the first of three Trial-E rounds and with two-time champion Albert Cabestany not signed up, last year’s runner-up Gael Chatagno (Electric Motion) and his fellow Frenchman Julien Perret are most likely to dispute the win – but don’t rule out Spanish late-comer Martin Riobo (Electric Motion), the Trial125 vice-champion in 2018.

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