Spain confirmed its place as the World’s No.1 trials nation with a winning double in the end of season Trial des Nations staged at Baiona, on the north west coast of Spain.
It proved to be a spectacular and popular venue with the rocky sections on the seashore close to the town.
On Sunday the men romped to their expected victory and the Women overcame defending Champs Great Britain on Saturday to make it a great weekend for the home nation.
Although the British Women were disappointed to lose out on what would have been a fourth consecutive TdN success it was still a great weekend for the team riding under the Union flag, as the Men also bagged second place on their podium.
This regained what we have become to accept as our rightful place in the hierarchy following a slip to third place behind the ageing Japanese trio last year, Team GB turning the tables this time round, after both countries fielded identical squads to last year.
Great Britain only just failed to nail a fifth straight FIM Women Trial des Nations victory when they were beaten into second place in Saturday’s event by a rampant Spanish squad riding high in the event on home soil.
The home Nation trio, Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas), Berta Abellan (Beta) and Maria Giro (Montesa) supported by a partisan crowd, held their nerve in a nail-biter of very a low-scoring event – for the top teams – to claim their first victory for four years.
Defending champions Team GB were led by reigning TrialGP Women’s Champion Emma Bristow (Sherco) joined by World Championship contender and World No.6 Jess Bown (Scorpa) and Donna Fox (Sherco) the latter drafted into the squad after having retired from World Championship competition at the end of last year.
And they started at a disadvantage following a disaster in Friday’s timed qualification. Despite posting the fastest time of all 10 teams by almost three seconds, a single mark on observation unfortunately dropped them back to sixth place – five teams having stayed clean – and so they were forced to start well ahead of their targeted opposition, the Spanish and German teams.
This meant they were the fourth team to leave the start in the 10-nation field while Spain – who after Britain’s problem comfortably topped qualification from Germany and Italy – enjoyed the advantage of being last away.
With warm, sunny conditions the 15-sections marked out over a two-kilometre course on rocks around a headland on the Atlantic coast remained dry and grippy which meant that the slightest slip would be punished.
The best two scores in each section from the three-person teams – although Ireland and Portugal fielded just two team members – counted towards their total and Great Britain were soon playing catch up when they dropped three marks on section six on the opening lap.
This was unfortunate as, despite matching the Spaniards from that point on – both squads dropped a single mark on the penultimate section on the second lap – the damage was done and Great Britain were forced to concede defeat.
World vice champion Sandra Gomez said: “I’m so happy, it has been four years since we won so it’s fantastic to win again and to do it in Spain. “The fans have been awesome and the venue is incredible. We worked together as a team so if one rider made a mistake the others went clean which was fantastic.
“We decided this morning to be fast around the course because we thought maybe time could be important.
“We didn’t know the scores of the other teams, we just concentrated on our own performances and enjoyed ourselves and the party tonight will be amazing!” The German team comprising Theresa Bauml (Beta), Ina Wilde (Gas Gas) and Women’s Trial2 Champ Jule Steinert (TRS) started well as expected and tied on three marks with Great Britain after the opening lap.
But the Germans saw their chances of a fifth-consecutive podium finish end on lap two after they added a further eight marks to their total.
This unexpected lapse allowed Ingveig Hakonsen (Beta), Huldeborg Barkved (Sherco) and Mette Fidje (Sherco) to claim a surprise first Women’s TDN podium for Norway since back in 2002.
An excellent second lap score of just two hoisted them back into contention on a total of six.
With the Germans knocked back to fourth Italy, led by the fiery Beta rider Sara Trentini, finished fifth on 23 marks lost but well ahead of the USA who rounded out the top six.
Ireland’s Michelle Hanlon (Gas Gas) and Kate Callaghan (Beta) battled round to finish ninth ahead of the Portuguese duo, the trial venue being very close to the border with Spain.
Home Nation Spain stormed to an emphatic victory at the 2017 FIM Trial des Nations at Baiona on Sunday, extending their winning run in the International team event to a phenomenal 14 victories – and with the promise of many more to come!
The Spanish squad comprised the three top-ranked riders in the World in 2017 led by reigning and 11-time FIM Trial World Champion Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) with Adam Raga (TRS) and teenager Jaime Busto (Repsol Honda) who displaced long-time team member Albert Cabestany.
And they were simply untouchable on the towering coastal rocks lining the Atlantic coastline.
The good news for Great Britain though is that our three-man team of James Dabill (Gas Gas), Jack Price (Gas Gas) and Iwan Roberts (Beta) bounced back to second place after the same trio finished third last year. The difference was the improvement in Welsh ace Roberts, who stepped up to become Trial2 World Champion this year and Pricey having upped his level since moving up to TrialGP.
The British squad were engaged in an anticipated battle with the vastly experienced Japanese team comprising European-based Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda), Kenichi Kuroyama (Yamaha) and Tomoyuki Ogawa (Honda), the latter two flying in from Japan. These three first rode as a team in the TdN back in 1999!
Following a comfortable win in Qualification on Friday, Spain had the advantage of starting at the back of the seven-nation field, not that it would have made much difference to the final result.
In contrast Great Britain suffered a disastrous maximum in qualification which meant they started at the front of the seven-Nation field ahead of Norway, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Spain.
As with the Women the course comprised 15 sections to be lapped twice.
In reality the only hope contesting Nations have of beating Spain is with an easy trial, and hoping that pressure will take its toll, but that was never going to happen with the event in their home country and the section difficulty was cranked-up to a high level.
With the best two results in each section counting towards the teams’ overall scores, Spain soon opened up a lead – much to the home fans’ delight.
It was not without drama, though, as Bou crashed heavily on the third section, but cleans from Raga and Busto made sure no damage was done to the scoreboard.
After the first seven sections they led Great Britain by 10, an advantage they maintained at the halfway stage.
This was a great start by the Brits but then light rain made the sections very slippery and Spain upped their game and completed the second lap for the incredible loss of just one mark to take their final total to an unbelieveable six.
Following their strong start, TeamGB struggled a bit in the conditions second time round and a late five almost dropped the boys into the clutches of the ever-present Japanese threat.
But cleans on the final two sections earned them second on 42, a long way behind Spain’s six but crucially three marks ahead of Japan.
There was then a massive jump in marks to Italy – Matteo Grattarola (Gas Gas), Gianluca Tournour (Gas Gas) and Daniele Maurino (Scorpa) in fourth on 84 with almost double Japan’s score of 45 – but two marks ahead of rivals France.
In the popular International class the furthest travelled team, Australia – comprising Connor Hogan (Gas Gas), Kyle Middleton (Gas Gas) and Christopher Bayles (Gas Gas) – came out on top of the 13 competing nations after a close-fought contest that saw the Czech Republic team of Martin Matejicek (Gas Gas), Marek Wunsch (Gas Gas) and Martin Kroustek (TRS) lead initially after a perfect unpenalised opening lap.
The Aussies held second at the halfway stage on five, a mere two ahead of the United States squad of Daniel Blancgonnet (Honda), Bryan Roper (Gas Gas) and the talented Pat Smage (Sherco) who has TWC experience.
As the Czech challenge crumbled on lap two, a confident Team USA eased into the lead but in a further twist two maximums on section 13 sealed their fate and they finished an eventual second, four marks behind Australia but five ahead of the disappointed Czech Republic.
Ireland claimed a fine fourth place a further 10 marks adrift thanks to the efforts of Sean Doyle (Scorpa), Stuart McClurg (Sherco) and Jonathon Lunney (Scorpa), with fancied team Sweden, led by the popular Eddie Karlsson (Montesa) one behind in fifth.
Last word to winning SpanishTrial des Nations team Captain Toni Bou: “I’m very happy, the Trial des Nations is always special because we work together as a team.
“For the national team to win in Spain is very important and makes it even more special for the fans and the riders. “The venue is fantastic for the public, the sections very close to the town and it is a beautiful place to ride.”