Back in the early days of the Hertz FIM Trial World Championship, Scandinavia was the powerhouse of the sport.
Legendary Finnish iceman Yrjö Vesterinen claimed a hat-trick of TrialGP championships from 1976 to 1978 and, following a year’s hiatus when the title headed to the USA in the hands of a Californian kid by the name of Bernie Schreiber, the biggest accolade in the sport was back in Northern Europe thanks to the efforts of the late, great Swedish star Ulf Karlsson.
There then followed a 12-year wait before Finland’s ever-smiling Tommi Ahvala lifted the crown but since then Scandinavian success has been in short supply. However, there are some northern lights at the end of the tunnel.
This year Norwegian rider Ingveig Hakonsen (TRRS) is more than holding her own in the TrialGP Women category while her compatriot Seline Meling (Beta) has put in some impressive performances in Trial2 Women – and there’s a third rising star from Norway who’s making waves.
Competing in the Trial2 class, 22-year-old Sondre Haga (Beta) is currently chasing British riders Jack Peace and Toby Martyn and sits third in the standings following the Italian and French rounds.
Like so many of the current crop of star riders, Haga was introduced to the sport by a relative.
“I started mostly because I had a cousin who did it,” he says, “and from the age of five until I was eight I asked almost every day to start riding. Finally, when I was eight years old, I was allowed to begin at a very low level but when I was 13 I started to train harder and became a lot, lot more serious.”
Trial is still very much a niche sport in Norway but there’s a strong sense of community among the riders.
“I think there are maybe 1,000 licensed riders in Norway so it’s not super-big but it’s like a big family!”
Too young to have grown up idolising the likes of Vesty, Karlsson and Ahvala, Haga instead looks to riders still competing for inspiration.
“I have to say Adam Raga has always been a big role model for me and now being able train with him is perfect.”
Haga has yet to get on the podium this season but a series of strong, consistent finishes put him third in the highly-competitive Trial2 class with two fourth places in Italy and a fifth – just one mark from the podium – at this month’s French TrialGP all pointing towards greater things to come.
“Jack and Toby have started the season very strong. I feel great on the bike myself and I feel really close at every event. I think if I continue to put in the hard work and ride to my ability it will be possible to reach them. My goal is to catch them.”
Haga is already turning heads and building a strong fanbase and he was immortalised in a mural on the side of a house before last year’s Spanish championship round at Pobladura.
“Ha ha! The painting doesn’t have a big back-story really. It was my first race in the TR1 class in the Spanish championship and they really liked the picture so they used it. Let me be honest, I love it – I’m so grateful!”
For the immediate future Haga has his sights set on beating Peace and Martyn but he has even bigger ambitions.
“Of course, as with any rider my goal is to live well from the sport and I would like to one day be pushing for podiums in the TrialGP class. So we will work hard to make this dream come true!”
The Trial2 class fires back into action alongside the TrialGP, Trial125 and Trial-E classes at round three of the 2021 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship – the Andorran TrialGP – on August 20-22.
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Picture (c) aliciapresaphotography