All the usual suspects plus a few new recruits will gather for two scoring days of action at Tolmezzo where TrialGP, TrialGP Women, Trial2, Trial2 Women and Trial125 riders will all get their championship campaigns under way.
The big question hasn’t changed since the start of the 2008 season and that is, of course, can anyone dethrone Toni Bou (Repsol Honda)? The sublime Spaniard picked up his 14th-straight outdoor crown last season and starts in pole position to make it 15 on the trot this time around.
Aged 34, the man from Barcelona – who now calls the Pyrenean principality of Andorra home – may be approaching elder statesman status but if his performance in 2020 is anything to go by he’s still very much top dog. Last year he won six out of eight rounds – taking his tally up to an incredible 118 TrialGP victories – and ran out champion by 31 points.
His two losses came at the hands of his long-time rival and compatriot Adam Raga (TRRS) who beat him on the second day in France and the first day in Andorra but, after finishing runner-up in the championship 14 times in a row, 39-year-old Raga knows he’s got his work cut out.
Third in the pecking order is another Spaniard – although this time the rider in question has youth on his side. At the relatively young age of 23, Jaime Busto (Vertigo) grew up with Bou and Raga as role models and his youthfulness is not the only difference between him and the leading pair as, unlike the Catalan duo, he comes from Basque country on the Atlantic coast in the north west of Spain.
Busto has carried the pressure of being the ‘next big thing’ on his shoulders since his TrialGP debut in 2015 but he’s getting to grips with it and his third-placed finish in 2020 matched his performances in 2017 and 2018 following his first season with Vertigo that saw him drop to fourth.
However, while he’s scored 15 podiums – he added four to this total last year – he still has just one solitary win to his name and that came back in 2018. With another season under his belt with his current team this could be the year he comes good but he’ll need to start topping the podium on a regular basis.
Fourth and fifth-ranked riders Jorge Casales (GASGAS) and Jeroni Fajardo (Sherco) can also be expected to be up at the sharp end of the action. Casales’ great run of form at the tail end of last season saw him claim four consecutive podiums while Fajardo was on the box at the first and final round.
If you’re looking for a wildcard contender then Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) is certainly one to watch. After moving up into the premier class following his Trial2 title in 2019, the 21-year-old from Galicia near the Spanish border with Portugal took a third-placed finish on the second day in Spain and finished fourth on three separate occasions to underline his status as a rider with incredible promise.
Out of the remainder of the 12-strong field, ever-green Japanese fan favourite Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) is still capable of challenging for podium finishes at the ripe old age of 41 and last year’s Trial2 champion Matteo Grattarola (Beta) has had to return to the premier class and has a point to prove so will be looking for a strong start on home soil.
As the reigning queen of trial, Britain’s Emma Bristow heads into the 2021 season hunting for an amazing eighth straight TrialGP Women crown.
Unbeaten for the last three seasons, the 30-year-old has now taken 15 consecutive wins since her most recent defeat at the final round of 2017 and following a solid off-season is looking good to make it eight this year.
With female entries back up to a pre-pandemic level there is no shortage of challengers gunning for her crown with Berta Abellan (Vertigo) and Sandra Gomez (TRRS) from Spain leading the way – although there is a huge fly in the ointment for Bristow in the shape of record-breaking women’s champion Laia Sanz (GASGAS).
The Spaniard dominated the TrialGP Women class from 2000 until 2013, winning 13 titles with her sole defeat coming at the hands of Germany’s Iris Kramer in 2007. Since moving away from trials she’s proved to be a formidable match for the men in rallying and was 17th overall in this year’s Dakar Rally but has her switch to a speed-based discipline has affected her feet-up skills? We’ll get answers in Italy.
British hopes are also running high in Trial2 where Toby Martyn (TRRS) starts with a great chance of the title, especially given two-time champ Grattarola’s return to TrialGP. Still only 20, Martyn lost the 2018 title on a tie-break and then went off the boil in 2019 before finishing third last time out.
His main opposition is likely to come from France’s Alexandre Ferrer (TRRS) – who ended last year in second – and Aniol Gelabert (Beta) from Spain but Martyn’s heading into the opening round on the back of a victory at the final round of 2020 and his confidence is soaring.
The bumper 30-strong entry also includes British riders Dan Peace (Sherco) – fifth in 2020 – and 2018 TrialGP 125 champ Billy Green (Scorpa) and don’t rule out strong performances from last year’s Trial125 king Pau Martinez (Vertigo) from Spain.
In the Trial2 Women class British rider Alicia Robinson (Beta) starts as the highest-placed competitor from last year after champion Naomi Monnier from France opted to move up to TrialGP Women.
The 19-year-old ended last season in second, snatching the runner-up position by a single point from Italy’s Andrea Rabino (Beta). Rabino should, at least on paper, be Robinson’s main title rival this season.
There’s a big entry in the Trial125 class where Britain’s Ben Dignan (Vertigo) starts as the highest-placed rider from the class of 2020. Dignan picked up a win last season to narrowly beat compatriot Jack Dance (GASGAS) – who also claimed a day victory – into fourth with Harry Hemingway (Beta) rounding out the top five.