Repsol Honda’s Toni Bou continued his march towards an incredible eleventh straight FIM Trial World Championship with an impressive double victory at the TrialGP USA in Arizona. The event marked round six of the 2017 Trial GP series where it was held at 6500 feet in elevation in beautiful Hualapai Mountain Park near Kingman, Arizona. Despite dealing with the altitude, Bou managed to handle the massive granite rocks and difficult climbs with his usual precision to claim wins on both Saturday and Sunday of the two-day event. The event also marked the first round of the Women’s Championship Series, which was won both days by Great Britain’s Emma Bristow, the defending women’s champ.
Roared on by a large, vociferous and knowledgeable crowd, the Spanish superstar claimed an amazing ninety-fifth career victory on the opening day of round six of the 2017 series in Arizona to extend his championship lead to twenty-one points while Britain's Bristow took career win number fourteen as she bids to take her fourth consecutive TrialGP Women’s title.
The high altitude and 90-degree heat proved challenging for riders although the dry conditions meant the sections plotted on a tree-covered mountainside rode easier than expected.
In an extremely low-scoring event pinpoint precision was crucial and it was Bou who made the least mistakes to run out a narrow winner from fellow Spaniard Adam Raga on a factory TRS. With both riders recording clean second laps the Trial was won and lost on the opening lap with Bou's first lap of just two contrasting favorably with Raga's score of four.
"Today was my day," says Bou. "This place and the fans are incredible and it is a very important victory and a good result for the championship because it was an easy event so any mistake could have been costly."
Scores on section thirteen on the second lap were scrapped after a large rock moved, dramatically altering the severity of the hazard, but this had no effect at the front of the field where Spain's Jaime Busto - Repsol Honda converted Friday's qualification win into his third career podium.
After finishing the opening lap in fourth on eleven marks, one mark behind James Dabill (Gas Gas), Busto turned the tables on his British rival with his second lap score of two compared to Dabill's total of four.
With his Japanese teammate Takahisa Fujinami ending the day a disappointing eighth on a total of twenty-five the result means Busto is now tied with him behind Raga for third place in the championship.
Both Busto and Dabill picked up a single penalty for time, but the pair were still comfortably clear of fifth-placed Jorge Casale (Beta) from Spain who ended the day on twenty marks lost, one ahead of Sherco’s Albert Cabestany of Spain.
There was then a gap of three marks to Spain's Jeroni Fajardo (Vertigo) who was unable to recover from three maximums on the opening lap.
Spain's Miquel Gelabert (Sherco) was ninth on twenty-seven before a seven-mark gap to Franz Kadlec (Gas Gas) who rounded out the top ten.
In the Trial2 Women class, American Maddie Hoover (GasGas) gave the home fans something to cheer about with a fantastic third place a five marks adrift of runner-up Nikita Smith of Great Britain. Meanwhile, Spain's Neus Murcia (Beta) finished the day on a total of twenty-three for the class win.
Bou completed an Uncle Sam Grand Slam in front of a packed crowd after two days of competition in Arizona, as the Spanish legend dominated the premier TrialGP category, recording back-to-back wins.
The day started overcast with a threat of rain that thankfully did not materialize, but a heavy overnight downpour made early conditions slippery which, combined with alterations to the sections, resulted in a higher-scoring event.
As we have seen time and time again, when the going gets tough Bou gets going and with main championship rival Raga dropping to fourth on Sunday the 10-time champion could now secure his eleventh consecutive World title one round early in the Czech Republic in early September.
Bou set the benchmark with an opening lap of just three points, seven marks less than his Spanish teammate Busto, who held second at the halfway stage and seventeen ahead of a tie for third between Dabill and Fajardo.
Despite dropping six on lap two thanks to a momentary lapse on section fourteen that resulted in a surprise maximum, the damage had been done and Bou ended the day with a fourteen-mark winning margin over Busto who claimed second to match his career-best finish earlier in the year in Andorra.
"I'm really happy about how the Trial went," says Bou. "I am very happy with my riding and it has been a big step forward in the championship - this has been a fantastic weekend."
In Trial2 Women the home fans finally had an all-American winner to cheer for as Sherco USA’s Kylee Sweeten advanced from eighth on Saturday to the top step of the podium on Sunday.
The nineteen-year-old from Oregon City produced the ride of her life to come home first on thirty-eight, five marks ahead of Spain's Carla Caballe (GG) and Norwegian Erika Melchior (Shr).
In the championship it is Saturday's winner Neus Murcia - Beta from Spain, who slipped to seventh on Sunday, who leads Sweeten, Melchior and America's Maddy Hoover - Gas Gas by one point.
The TrialGP series now takes a break and will resume it hugely successful campaign to date in September for the closing two events.
Info courtesy TrialGP
Toni Bou (Hon) 2
Adam Raga (TRS) 4
Jaime Busto (Hon) 14
James Dabill (GG) 15
Jorge Casales (Bet) 20
Albert Cabestany (Shr) 21
Jeroni Fajardo (Ver) 24
Takahisa Fujinami (Hon) 25
Miquel Gelabert (Shr) 27
Franzi Kadlec (GG) 34
Toni Bou (Hon) 9
Jaime Busto (Hon) 23
Jeroni Fajardo (Ver) 27
Adam Raga (TRS) 30
James Dabill (GG) 33
Albert Cabestany (Shr) 35
Takahisa Fujinami (Hon) 41
Matteo Grattarola ((GG) 42
Jorge Casales (Bet) 46
Miquel Gelabert (Shr) 48