The 2019 FIM Trial World Championship fires into life this weekend, May 25-26, with TrialGP Italy at the superb, purpose-built Arco Di Trento’s Metzler Offroad Park in the foothills of the Alps.
Staged over seven rounds and running until September 21-22, the series features the finest two-wheeled trial technicians on the planet whose gravity-defying talents, sublime throttle control and immaculate balance set the stage for truly jaw-dropping action.
Spanish superstar Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) has just clinched an unprecedented, unparalleled and quite frankly unbelievable 13th straight FIM X-Trial World Championship and the 32-year-old Catalan starts as a firm favourite to claim his 13th consecutive title in the blue-ribbon TrialGP division.
Last year’s battle in the premier class saw Jeroni Fajardo (Gas Gas) emerge as Bou’s main rival with the Girona-born rider taking his first round win since 2009 on the opening day of
-competition at TrialGP Japan. He also came oh-so close to winning in Andorra and was second in Portugal and France on his way to a career-best second overall ahead of Adam Raga (TRRS).
Raga is, of course, back for more this year and the world champion in 2005 and 2006 will be as determined as ever to defeat his compatriot and nemesis Bou as well as Fajardo but he will also be forced to spend the season fighting off the challenge of Jaime Busto.
However in the run up to the opening round Gas Gas released a statement in which they said that they and Jamie Busto have mutually agreed to cancel his contract. And at the time of going to press it was announced he had swiftly signed for Vertigo, (see separate story).
At the tender age of 21 the softly-spoken Spaniard, widely viewed by many to be the natural successor to Bou, won on day two in Japan last year – the first top-flight victory of his career – but still dropped a position from third to fourth in the final championship standings and will be out to make amends this time around.
The first non-Spanish rider in the rankings is sixth-placed Japanese fan favourite Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda).
Better known as Fujigas because of his explosive riding style, he may be the oldest rider in the field at the grand old age of 39 but the 2004 world champion is always a threat as he demonstrated with two podium finishes last year.
Out of the remaining confirmed TrialGP class entries, only Britain’s James Dabill (Beta) and the Spanish pairing of Jorge Casales (Vertigo) and Miquel Gelabert (Sherco) can be considered true podium contenders.
Queen of the feet-up females, Emma Bristow (Sherco) from Britain will be looking for her sixth consecutive TrialGP Women title and following last year’s perfect season should be a good bet but expect strong challenges from Spain’s Berta Abellan (Vertigo) and Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas).
Last season a tie-break was needed to separate eventual champion Matteo Grattarola (Montesa) and runner-up Toby Martyn (Beta) in the second-tier Trial2 class and the pair will resume their fiercely-fought battle in 2019 in a contest of experience versus youth.
British teenager Martyn has returned to a two-stroke this year as he bids to dethrone the veteran Italian. Their main opposition should come from Spain’s Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) with Britain’s Jack Peace (Sherco), following his older brother Jack’s move to the TrialGP class, also likely to be pushing for podiums.
Trial2 Women could see the closest fight of the whole series after last year’s champion Alex Brancati (Beta) and second-placed Maddie Hoover (Gas Gas) both moved up to the TrialGP Women class
This leaves fierce rivals Sophia Ter Jung (TRRS) from Germany and Norway’s Erika Melchior (Sherco), who finished just one point apart in third and fourth last season,
in the driving seat for honours.
With last year’s dominant Trial125 champion Billy Green (Montesa) from Britain switching up to Trial2, along with the Spanish trio of Martin Riobo (Montesa), Pablo Suarez (Gas Gas) and Eric Miquel (TRRS) – who finished second, third and fourth – the door has been thrown open for other rising stars to make their mark.
Sadly, young French rider Hugo Dufrese (Gas Gas) – who was fifth in the class in 2018 – is injured which potentially puts his compatriot Arthur Rovery (Sherco) in pole position, although it’s too early to identify a favourite in this incredibly competitive class.