At the grand old age of 40, Albert Cabestany (Gas Gas) is one of the Hertz FIM Trial World Championship’s most respected elder statesmen with a glittering career at the highest level that stretches all the way back to 1997.
To put this into perspective, 1997 was the same year that Dougie Lampkin won the first of his seven consecutive titles. It was hardly a dazzling debut season – the teenaged Albert nicked a couple of points for 14th on the opening day of the championship in his native Spain and then didn’t score again all year with his next-best result a solitary 16th on day two in the Czech Republic.
However, the man from Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast refused to give up on his dream. Just three years on from his debut he claimed his first TrialGP round win and went on to add a further eight victories to his total – not a bad record for someone whose whole career was spent competing against the likes of such trials legends as Jordi Tarres, Lampkin, Adam Raga and Toni Bou.
In 2002 Albert ended Lampkin’s six-year reign as FIM X-Trial World Champion and from 2004 to 2016 he never finished outside the top-five in the TrialGP rankings.
In 2019 Albert went electric, winning the FIM TrialE Cup for Gas Gas and he made it two in a row this time around after a fierce, closely-fought fight with Gael Chatagno that was only decided on a tie-break at the final round.
We tracked Albert down to get his take on what has surely been an intense, nerve-jangling 2020 for him…
DBR: First off, congratulations on retaining the FIM TrialE Cup – how does it feel to be a back-to-back champion?
Albert Cabestany: “Thank you very much! For sure the feeling is fantastic and for many reasons. For one, I’m the first rider in TrialE that has repeated the championship so that feels nice. Also, to become the champion in that way – with so much pressure at the last couple of events where only two victories were valid to became world champion – makes it taste fantastic. It’s been really tough with a big contender fighting for the title as well.”
DBR: For many people you started the season as a clear favourite – how much of a shock was it to be beaten by Gael on both days in France?
Albert Cabestany: “Well, we knew that this could happen. The contenders are so strong. Gael is a rider who not long ago won a round in Trial2 so it’s clear he has more than enough skill to ride TrialE sections. The important thing is that after France, instead of going down the team pushed harder than ever and all the members gave 100 per cent to reach the goal, win both days in Italy and become World Champions one more year.”
DBR: You had to hold your nerve in Italy and emerged as a worthy winner. Did you feel any pressure heading into the last round?
Albert Cabestany: “Of course I felt it. I’m human! But I knew what I should do – stay focussed the whole time and avoid stupid mistakes. We all knew that the winner would have a low score so there was no room for error. I’m happy because I handled very well the situation and rode really nice and smooth the whole time.”
DBR: You mentioned in an interview that you worked hard with Gas Gas after the French TrialGP to improve the bike – is it a constant process of development with the E-bike?
Albert Cabestany: “The team did a fantastic job in less than a month. Jose and Chema really worked nice and precise – it was not easy because things needed to be tested enough so we knew the bike would work fine the whole weekend. I think they should be proud of what they have done – I am! So 50 per cent of this championship is thanks to the teamwork!”
DBR: Is it too early to be talking about 2021 or are you already focussed on winning a third TrialE crown?
Albert Cabestany: “I think it’s too early and I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I have new goals on my mind and I’m not sure they will be compatible with defending the TrialE crown. We will see what happens in the following weeks and months.”
DBR: Does the E-bike require a new technique to a petrol-powered machine and are they very different to ride?
Albert Cabestany: “We work hard to make it as similar to ride as the petrol bike and that’s part of the magic and the nice thing of riding and competing in TrialE – to see how this project grows. Every time there’s a more natural, petrol-like feeling and that means we are going in the right direction. Once we achieve this goal, the next one will be going even further!”