Following a 40-year absence, top-flight Trial action returns to Holland this coming weekend with TrialGP Netherlands – round three of the 2019 FIM Trial World Championship – at a purpose-built facility at Zelhem in the east of the country.
The event will feature the premier TrialGP class along with the Trial2 and Trial125 categories and for the first time this season the TrialE competitors on electric motorcycles will be in action at the highly-regarded venue that’s staged acclaimed rounds of the FIM European Championship in 2012 and 2017.
Leading the TrialGP title race on a maximum 60 points is defending champion Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) who remains unbeaten following the opening two rounds in Italy and Japan. The Spanish superstar is the most dominant rider in the history of the sport and on his current form he surely must start favourite.
So who can stop him? While Bou is certainly the man to beat there is a queue of talented riders ready and willing to depose him headed by two-time World Champion Adam Raga (TRRS).
Already 11 points adrift of the leader, the Catalan rider knows he must strike soon if he is to deny Bou a record-breaking 13th consecutive title. Last season was the first time since 2002 that he failed to win a World round and after two second-placed finishes in Japan earlier this month the 37-year-old is determined to go one better this weekend.
Veteran Japanese rider Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) was World Champion all the way back in 2004 and the evergreen fan-favourite was in great form at his home round with two third-placed finishes. Fujigas will fancy his chances on the venue’s huge boulders specially imported from Germany, Denmark and Belgium but perhaps we need to look to Jeroni Fajardo (Gas Gas) – last year’s runner-up – to stage an upset.
The Spaniard was second at the series opener at TrialGP Italy but failed to find his form in Japan and needs to bounce back this weekend if he’s going to be challenging Bou for the title at the season-closing TrialGP Spain on September 21-22.
Britain’s James Dabill (Beta) has never won a TrialGP round but is always a podium threat and Jaime Busto (Vertigo) also cannot be ruled out, although a slow start to the season sees him currently sitting in sixth in the points table.
Defending Trial2 champion Matteo Grattarola (Honda) has won two out of the opening three days of competition but slipped to third on day two in Japan. Despite this the Italian leads last year’s runner-up Toby Martyn (Beta) by 10 points with Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) a further two points adrift.
It was Alexandre Ferrer (Sherco) who came out on top after the second day’s competition at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit and the Frenchman is looking to carry this momentum into TrialGP Netherlands.
Matching Bou win-for-win in the closely-contested Trial125 class, France’s Kieran Touly (Scorpa) is hoping to maintain his unbeaten record this season but he will need to be on top form to fight off the challenge of riders including Carlo Alberto Rabino (Beta), Pau Martinez (Vertigo), Alex Canales (Gas Gas) and Arthur Rovery (Sherco) who are all waiting to capitalise on the smallest slip from the championship leader.
With 2018 champion Loris Gubian (Gas Gas) opting not to defend his TrialE Cup crown, the Spanish manufacturer has drafted in Albert Cabestany in an attempt to make it a hat-trick of titles. The Spaniard – FIM X-Trial World Champion in 2002 – was a TrialGP podium contender up until his retirement last season but his form on a battery-powered machine is unknown.
What we do know is that Japan’s Kenichi Kuroyama (Yamaha) is hugely talented and after losing out last year on a tie-break to Gubian is motivated to take the title this time around.
The action from TrialGP Netherlands kicks off on Saturday with two timed Qualification sessions before Sunday’s points-paying event. Stayed tuned for regular updates at 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.