2019 Trials: Established champions head-to-head with new blood

2019 has been another thrilling year for trials, with skills, stories, determination and drama played out across the UCI World Cup and UCI World Championships. We’ve witnessed the established names pushed to their very limits by emerging talent.

We also saw the future of the sport at the UCI Trials World Youth Games in Wadowice, Poland, in August. With the best of the Girls (12-15 years) and Cadets (15 to16-year-old boys) eligible to compete against the Elite at the UCI World Cup, audiences are being treated to their skills on a bigger stage – not least Spain’s Vera Barón.

The World Cup saw action for Women Elite and Men Elite 26” and 20” classes across three events: Salzburg (Austria) in July, Val di Sole-Trentino (Italy) – voted best event of the series –  in August, then the decisive third round, also on Italian soil, in Il Ciocco, in October.

Men Elite 20”

Young Spanish riders made a flying start in Salzburg with a 1-2 for Alejandro Montalvo (2018 Junior UCI World Champion) and Borja Conejos, ahead of Dominik Oswald (Germany) and 2018 Elite UCI World Champion Thomas Pechhacker (Austria).

The order was flipped in Val di Sole-Trentino, with Pechhacker taking the maximum 200 points, from Oswald, Montalvo and Conejos. It came down to Il Ciocco, with a Spanish podium lock-out: 20-year-old Conejos held his nerve with a 50-point score in the final to take the win from 19-year-old Montalvo and Ion Areitio.

In a tight competition, Borja Conejos won the overall, thanks to double points in the final round.

Men Elite 26”

For the strong French presence in Men Elite there was one fly in the ointment all year: Britain’s triple UCI World Champion Jack Carthy, who won all three UCI World Cup rounds, with Frenchman Nicolas Vallée (2018 UCI World Cup overall winner) taking second spot each time.

In the final event in Il Ciocco there were just 20 points between Vallée and Carthy going into the final round. The Frenchman closed to 10 points, but couldn’t quite catch up and, after a two-year hiatus, the overall went to Jack Carthy for the fourth time.

The battle for bronze? The third places were shared between the legendary Vincent Hermance (France), Joacim Nymann (Sweden) and Noah Cardona (France), with Hermance claiming third place overall at the end of the three rounds.

Women Elite

The Women Elite competition saw an astonishing display from the 15-year-old Spaniard, Vera Barón, taking on reigning and triple UCI World Cup overall winner and triple UCI World Champion Nina Reichenbach (Germany), herself only 20.

Barón beat Reichenbach in Salzburg, with Manon Basseville (France) and Alžběta Pečinková (Czech Republic) third and fourth. In Val di Sole-Trentino, the scene of her first World title, Reichenbach bounced back to win by 30 points from Basseville and Pečinková, with Barón just 10 points further adrift.

Perfectly poised for the finale in Il Ciocco… where, in the final stage, Reichenbach was clear right up to the final obstacle where she dropped points. Barón replied with a clean round to win by 50 points and claim the UCI World Cup overall.

The dust had hardly settled on the World Cup drama before 2019 UCI Trials World Championships were held, for the third consecutive year, as part of the UCI Urban World Cycling Championships in Chengdu, China. And what a week it was in November. Spain warmed up by winning the UCI Trials Team World Championships from Switzerland and France before the five individual rainbow jersey battles began.

Men Junior 20”

Charlie Rolls (Great Britain) and Toni Guillén (Spain) went hammer and tongs, both scoring a perfect 60 points in the first section and 50 in the second. But it was the 18-year-old Briton who hit two perfect scores in the final to take the title, with Guillén second and fellow Spaniard Antonio Fraile third.

Men Junior 26”

Germany’s 17-year-old Oliver Widmann defended his Men Junior 26” world title – after a nervy start he put in a series of clean runs to show his true form. Switzerland’s Vito Gonzalez took silver and Daniel Barón (Spain) the bronze.

Women Elite

The World Cup battle was reignited in the World Champs, with Barón and Reichenbach tied after three rounds. But as the young Spanish rider fell it was the German’s turn to take the honours: Nina Reichenbach showed her resolution, riding it out for her fourth consecutive title. Barón took silver and Basseville bronze.

Men Elite 20”

Just like the World Cup, Spain’s Borja Conejos set the early pace, closely followed by the German Dominik Oswald. But a big fall from Conejos handed Oswald the lead, which he never relinquished, claiming Germany’s first World title in this category since 2006, when Marco Hösel won in Rotorua, New Zealand. Conejos recovered for second just ahead of his compatriot Ion Areitio.

Men Elite 26”

Damp conditions helped make the 26” finals a tense affair. Early slips and mistakes saw favourite Carthy trailing 2018 runner-up Sergi Llongueras (Spain) and 2017 runner-up Nicolas Vallée. First the Spaniard thought he’d put in a perfect run and then the Briton thought he’d done the same for an amazing comeback, but was judged to have infringed. Llongueras took his first rainbow jersey – and Spain’s first in 15 years when the title went to Daniel Comas in Les Gets (France). Vallée claimed silver and Carthy bronze.

Men Elite 20”: Oswald 1074 points, Montalvo 970, Conejos 890.

Men Elite 26”: Vallée 1090 points, Carthy 900, Hermance 858.

Women Elite: Reichenbach 1116 points, Barón 985, Basseville 960.