UCI Urban Cycling World Championships: return of trials alongside BMX Freestyle

After a preview of the BMX Freestyle competitions, we now look at the main contenders in the trials competitions at the upcoming 2022 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).

Trials return to the UCI Urban Cycling World Championships – alongside BMX Freestyle Park and BMX Freestyle Flatland - after being held as a standalone event in 2021 and cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the coming days, rainbow jerseys will be awarded in the 20in and 26in for Men Junior and Men Elite, as well as in the Women’s category.

2021 saw Spanish domination, led by the irrepressible Vera Barón, who beat Germany’s four-time UCI World Champion Nina Reichenbach. “I've worked hard this year and achieved some really good results in competition. Now all I think about is reaching my biggest objective of the season – winning the UCI World Championships, again!” says Baron.

In 2021, a Spanish clean sweep was only avoided by Great Britain’s Jack Carthy who took his fourth UCI World title, regaining the crown he had lost to Spain’s Sergi Llongueras in 2019.

Spain will undoubtedly be the strongest nation in the trials competitions this year, but with the growth and internationalisation of the sport, everything is up for grabs in Abu Dhabi.

The UCI Urban Cycling World Championships kick off on Wednesday 9 November, with the first medals awarded for trials: in the team event.

Team event gets ball rolling

The maximum number of riders in a trials national team competition is five, with one per category: Men Junior 20in; Men Junior 26in; Men Elite 20in; Men Elite 26in; and Women Elite. However, a national team may enter a minimum number of three riders as long as they are from different categories.

Spain dominated proceedings last year and have a strong pool of talent in 2022, with many of their athletes among the favourites in the individual competitions.

Men 20in: Spain looking strong

Spain’s pre-tournament favourite mantle stems from a Men 20in squad that includes Borja Conejos, Alejandro Montalvo and Eloi Palau. Conejos won this year’s UCI Trials World Cup – with victories in both Vic (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark) -, adding to the gold he won at the 2021 UCI Trials World Championships. Montalvo’s shown he’s in form, finishing third in Copenhagen, while Palau won bronze at last year’s UCI Trials World Championships.

They won’t have it all their own way, though, as Great Britain’s Charlie Rolls has made the trip to Abu Dhabi. Rolls split Conejos and Montalvo in Copenhagen with a superb performance. The Brit is a three-time UCI Trials World Champion at Junior level and will be in the mix this week. Also look out for Austria’s Thomas Pechhacker, who won this title back in 2018.

Men 26in: Carthy looking for 10th rainbow jersey

In the Men 26in, Great Britain’s Jack Carthy will look to defend the title he won in Vic last year. Incredibly, Carthy will be seeking his 10th UCI World title at Junior and Elite level combined. His hunger for success never seems satiated with Carthy recently winning the UCI Trials World Cup after his 20th UCI Trials World Cup win in Copenhagen.

On paper, his closest rival looks to be Spain’s Sergi Llongueras, though the Men 26in field is packed with talent that could stir up a memorable competition. 2020 French Champion Noah Cardona will be there or thereabouts. As will Spain’s Marti Vayreda and Julen Sáenz de Ormijana.

And don’t forget France’s Vincent Hermance. The 38-year-old is still in competitive condition despite winning his first trials UCI World title (Junior 26in) all the way back in 2001. His first Elite crown arrived in 2007 followed by two more in 2013 and 2015. Can Hermance rewind the clock and win his fourth title?

Women Elite: numbers and level constantly on the rise

The quality of the Women Elite competition rises every year. As does the quantity, with a 60% increase in participation seen in the last 10 years. It bodes well for the future. But the current crop of riders is extremely strong, too. As Barón commented earlier, her major ambition for the 2022 season is to retain the title she won so gloriously in 2021. And if recent form is anything to go by, she’ll be hard to beat after winning the 2022 UCI Trials World Cup a few months back.

In Copenhagen, once again she beat Nina Reichenbach. But never rule out the German who’s the ultimate competitor. Also keep an eye on Swedish sensation Hilda Andersson, who finished third in Denmark. The youngster could well surprise a few and climb higher on the podium in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, the next generation of trials stars will do battle in the Men Junior 20in and Men Junior 26in categories, which have produced some of the current best in the world.

Look out too for the delegation of nine Iranian Men Elite and Men Junior riders, who will be competing in the trials at the 2022 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships in Abu Dhabi. They don’t always get the opportunity to showcase their talent on the world stage, so it’ll be interesting to see how they get on in Abu Dhabi.