2011 Trial des Nations
This coming weekend will celebrate the twenty-eighth edition of the FIM Trial des Nations, as the longstanding annual event arrives in the northern town of Tolmezzo, Italy. Backed by home support and with the advantage of familiar terrain underneath them, the Italian World Championship team will look to record a strong result on their own patch.
The Italian quartet of Matteo Grattarola – Gas Gas, Francesco Iolitta – Beta, Fabio Lenzi – HM Future and Daniele Maurino – Beta will be trying to replicate the kind of performance that witnessed Italy claim its first and only Trial des Nations victory in 1987 in the host country of Finland. Back then Diego Bosis, Carlo Franco, Renato Chiaberto and Donato Miglio took that famous win, with France and Spain finishing second and third respectively. In the twenty-seven year history of this event, Italy remain in an elite group as one of only four countries to have won this esteemed team Trial.
This year marks the sixth occasion that Italy have had the honour of hosting this prestigious competition. Whilst they may have since failed to recreate their success of twenty-four years ago, Italy continues to regularly feature on the rostrum. First welcoming the Trial des Nations on to Italian soil in 1985 and then again in 1998, the host nation recorded third place finishes at both attempts. Then hosting the team based competition again in 2003 and 2005, Italy finished just off the podium in fourth spot on both occasions, before returning to the top three in 2009. Remarkably throughout the history of the contest, the Italian flag has consistently featured inside the top five of the results, reinforcing the nation's passion for this event.
Although it is perhaps reigning champions Spain who remain favourites to once again clinch the title, this year's Italian four-man squad pose a serious threat to the rostrum. Each member of the team has scored points in the 2011 SPEA FIM Trial World Championship and will look to deliver a suitable performance in front of their home fans. Whilst Maurino and Lenzi only contested in their home GP this season, Grattarola and Iolitta are regular Grand Prix runners and finished tenth and eleventh respectively in this year's final standings.
This time around it is possibly twenty-nine year old Maurino who be looked upon to lead his Italian team-mates into battle, having competed in the last six editions of the Trial des Nations. Recently finishing runner-up in the highly competitive 2011 UEM European Trial Championship and having competed on the World stage since 2000, the committed rider possesses both the experience and maturity required to prevail within this unique contest.
Despite being one of the more seasoned campaigners at thirty-five years of age, Lenzi remains an invaluable member of the Italian team. After competing in an incredible thirteen previous editions of the Trial des Nations, the veteran rider has masses of knowledge with regard to this specialist team event. Meanwhile the young duo of twenty-five year old Iolitta and twenty-three year old Grattarola bring new talent to complete a well-rounded, comprehensive World Championship level squad.
It remains to be seen whether the Italian team can live up to the expectations set by their previous endeavours, however irrespective of the final outcome, the 2011 Trial des Nations promises to be another colourful and exciting occasion.