There’s an action-packed two days of competition in store this weekend with five classes competing at TrialGP France – round six of the 2019 FIM Trial World Championship – at the spectacular Alpine venue of Auron where Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) could clinch a record-breaking 13th consecutive TrialGP title.
Just 50 miles north of Nice, at 1600 metres above sea level the ski resort – which TrialGP visited for the first time last year – is unmatched on the 2019 calendar in terms of altitude and the thin air brings with it a serious test of rider fitness.
Of course, that’s not the only test facing the best Trial riders in the world and the mix of sections split between rounded boulders in a dry riverbed and more angular rocks on the side of a steep, wooded hill will provide a major challenge.
When it comes to physical conditioning there’s no question mark hanging over the head of defending champion and series leader Bou. The 32-year-old is fighting fit and unbeaten since June 2018 and leads the championship chase on a perfect 120 points.
“We are having a great championship and we are confident that it could continue this weekend in France too,” said Bou. “We are going to try to find the right rapport with the bike in Auron, where altitude can influence things a lot.
“We know we can win the championship, sure, but the first thing we want to do is have a good Trial and make sure nothing strange happens.”
Currently a clear second, although 22 points adrift of Bou, his fellow Spaniard Adam Raga (TRRS) has been second on four occasions this year and must win to take the title fight to the final round and you can guarantee that third-placed Jeroni Fajardo (Gas Gas) from Spain – who is a further 16 off the pace – is hungry to claim what would be his third career victory after battling Bou until the very last section at the venue last year.
The spectacular sections will suit Japan’s all-action fan-favourite Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) who sits fourth and fifth-placed James Dabill (Beta) from Britain – who’s currently tied on points with Spain’s Jaime Busto (Vertigo) – is no stranger to big rocks.
Emma Bristow (Sherco) will start as a firm favourite for victory in the TrialGP Women class. The reigning champion hasn’t tasted defeat since the final round of the 2017 championship and a win at Auron would set her up for a sixth title in a row.
Her main challengers are Berta Abellan (Vertigo) and Sandra Gomez (TRRS) in second and third and although the Spanish pairing have pushed Bristow hard this season, neither have managed to break the British rider’s stranglehold on the championship.
Norwegian Ingveig Hakonsen (TRRS) in fourth and fifth-placed Neus Murcia (Gas Gas) from Spain have both been on the podium this season and will be looking for more of the same but it would be a major shock if either were to beat Bristow.
Following his disastrous result last time out at TrialGP Portugal, defending Trial2 champion Matteo Grattarola (Honda) from Italy has seen his series lead slashed from 14 points to just three by Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) and the Spanish teenager will be aiming to carry his momentum into this weekend.
Britain’s Toby Martyn (Beta) won at Auron last year but he’s struggled so far this season to find the form that made him a title contender in 2018 and is currently a long way off the pace in third. He’s also coming under pressure from Alexandre Ferrer (Sherco) from France who won on day two in Japan and only missed out on the win in Portugal on a most-cleans tie-break.
Spain’s Francesc Moret (Montesa) sits in fifth but is still looking for his first podium finish of the season.
Following last weekend’s opening round of the Trial2 Women championship, Germany’s Vivian Wachs (TRRS) leads Britain’s Alice Minta (Scorpa) and Lenna Volpe (Sherco) from France.
Just four marks separated the top two in Portugal so they are very evenly matched and expect competition for the podium to be fierce with France’s Caroline Moreon (Sherco) who sits fourth looking for strong home support to propel her up the leaderboard.
One of the pre-event favourites, Germany’s Sophia ter Jung (TRRS) was fifth at the opening round and will be aiming to improve on her position.
The Trial125 title will be decided in France this weekend and home hero Kieran Touly (Scorpa) is in pole position to win the championship.
The 18-year-old has won four out of the five days of competition held so far and, despite a lapse in concentration at TrialGP Netherlands where he dropped to fifth, leads by 18 points which means he can afford to finish in 13th and still be crowned champion.
Austria’s Marco Mempoer (Beta) won in Holland and is just one point ahead of third-placed Carlo Alberto Rabino (Beta) from Italy and their battle for second and third in the championship is where the real fight will be this weekend.
The action gets under way on Saturday at 1pm local time with the first of two Qualification sessions to determine running order. You can keep up to speed with the weekend’s events by checking in to www.trialgp.com or by downloading the free TrialGP Live app and across our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – just search for TrialGP.