The 2019 FIM Trial World Championship hits the halfway mark this weekend with TrialGP Belgium at the beautiful Comblain au Pont in the east of the country, just a 30-minute drive south of Liege.
Following last weekend’s largely man-made sections at TrialGP Netherlands, the world’s best riders can look forward to a return to Mother Nature with plenty of big rock steps and perilous loose climbs, mostly plotted in a quarry and on virtually sheer banks on a wooded hillside overlooking the town.
With soaring temperatures of up to 35 degrees forecast for the weekend it promises to be a major test of fitness for the riders but the top four – who are all either Spanish or Spanish-based – should take the sweltering conditions in their stride.
Leading the way after the opening three rounds and four days of competition is defending champion Toni Bou (Repsol Honda). The superstar Spaniard – who is on course for his 13th consecutive TrialGP title this year – is unbeaten so far in 2019 and sits on a maximum score of 80 points.
Whether he can go clean – as he did on day two at TrialGP Japan – remains to be seen but at the age of 32 he is in the finest form of his life.
“We have got good results so far,” says Bou, “although in some cases we had to suffer a lot because the rivals are always right there. I think I'm on good form at the moment and I’m riding well and, together with the team, we have to take advantage of this and keep working in the right direction over the coming events.
“We have hardly had time to rest but I'm already looking forward to this weekend in Belgium.”
Adam Raga has finished second to Bou on the three previous occasions the FIM Trial World Championship has visited Comblain au Pont in 2014, 2016 and 2018 so we know he feels at home at the venue but he has to raise his game if he’s to threaten his compatriot.
Currently sitting in third, Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) has a huge fan base and he’ll certainly be cheered on this weekend. The all-action Japanese rider was third at Comblain au Pont last year and will be aiming to go one – or even two – places better this time around.
There’s no shortage of riders pushing for a podium and maybe Jeroni Fajardo (Gas Gas) can end his day on the top step? After finishing second last season with a victory on day one in Japan, the Spanish rider will be looking for more of the same and Britain’s James Dabill (Beta) – who has never won a TrialGP round – must surely fancy his chances of advancing from his current fifth place in the championship standings.
In Trial2 defending champion Matteo Grattarola (Honda) from Italy slumped to his first defeat of the season at TrialGP Netherlands behind Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) but he still holds a commanding nine-point lead over the Spaniard whose victory last time out lifted him three points clear of Britain’s Toby Martyn (Beta) who currently lies third.
Martyn won in Belgium last year from Grattarola by just a single mark and needs a repeat performance this time around to keep his championship hopes alive.
In Trial125 series leader Kieran Touly (Scorpa) tasted defeat for the first time this season in Holland but despite slipping to a shock fifth the French teenager still heads Carlo Alberto Rabino (Beta) by a healthy 14 points with Austrian Marco Mempoer (Beta), who came out on top at TrialGP Netherlands, in third just a point behind the Italian.
The TrialE Cup for electric bikes concludes in Belgium with former TrialGP contender Albert Cabestany (Gas Gas) the man to beat. Aiming to make it a hat-trick of titles for the Spanish manufacturer, Cabestany kept a clean sheet in Holland to win by four marks ahead of last year’s runner-up Kenichi Kuroyama (Yamaha) from Japan with Italy’s Gianluca Tournour third on 11.
Timed qualification will get under way on Saturday at 3.30pm local time. You can keep up to speed with the action as it happens 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.