The remaining rounds of the World Indoor Trials Championship could be at risk if the threat of a riders’ revolt materialises.
That was the shock revelation late on Saturday night when the top men, including Toni Bou, Takahisa Fujinami and Jeroni Fajardo declared that if the format was not changed prior to the second round later this month in Marseille, they would not ride.
Fujinami said that the new system was disliked by everybody: “Toni does not like it, Caba is not happy, Jeroni says it is ****” – and judging by the remarks made by the majority of people to whom we spoke at Sheffield on Saturday night, the format went down like a lead balloon.
The details of the system are explained elsewhere on this site, but briefly the trial starts with ten riders then through a series of eliminations the number is whittled down to four via normal indoor sections, lane races and when ties are involved, timed sections, the system having been introduced by the FIM with the presumed aim of spicing up the show. And whilst a number of spectators declared it a success, the difficulty of understanding the system and keeping up with what’s happening on the night is undoubtedly very difficult.
In the Press Room following the show, Fajardo was vehement in his dislike of the format to FIM Trial Commission Vice President Anders Minken and Commission Member Dave Willoughby. However, they were not in a position to make comment and Fajardo’s views could not be discussed.
A prominent member of the organisers said words to the effect, what was wrong with everybody doing a lap in one direction followed by a lap in the opposite direction with the lowest score the winner? – just like it was in the early days of the indoor series.
FIM Press Officer Jake Miller felt that whilst the new format had been handled very well at Sheffield, - the first time it had been tried out -he was unsure how well it would be managed at other venues. “Sheffield is well organised, how well other organisers will manage remains to be seen.”
And that’s assuming they have riders available to take part!
The problems can probably be narrowed down to three areas. Ultimately, the paying spectators want to see the best riders in action and it’s very easy to lose a star man fairly early in the proceedings. Imagine the uproar if Toni Bou had been one of the first riders to be eliminated. Arguably, the FIM could counter with the comment that the system will keep riders on their toes and possibly even produce a shock result.
Secondly, each event will need a clued up on-the-floor organiser to ensure that the commentator is up to speed with what is happening. Certainly in Martin Crosswaite and Wayne Kershaw, Sheffield had two knowledgeable guys who did their best to explain to the 7,000 crowd what was happening at each stage of the action. But at the end Crosswaite in particular was ready to explode at the difficulty of it all and the effort required to keep the audience informed and involved. Promotor Neil Crosswaite was concerned at one stage that the audience had lost interest, and he felt that if they went away disillusioned they might not return another year.
And thirdly, speaking with spectators themselves, the trials enthusiasts enjoyed the riding and the spectacle but acknowledged that through much of the evening they had no idea who was about to go out, why they were about to go out and how they were going to be eliminated.
Expecting spectators to keep their concentration at peak levels for nearly four hours is not what indoor trials are about. It should be down to straight-forward entertainment and an easy to understand system that requires the minimum level of concentration and event knowledge.
Quite what will happen in the intervening two weeks between Sheffield and Marseille can’t be foretold – quite likely nothing – but then comes the decision by the riders, do they stick together and refuse to ride, or do they accept the inevitable?
At the end of the night on Saturday, the best man won but it could so very easily have gone a different way, and if it had, would the best rider have won?
Anyway, despite the furore, it was another great night’s entertainment and so good to see James Dabill and Jeroni Fajardo have upped their game considerably in the intervening twelve months between Sheffield 2009 and Sheffield 2010. Avondale Management, Neil Crosswaite and Martin Lampkin have produced their 15th Sheffield Indoor, and their standard was as high as ever. They are to be congratulated on another fine evening of entertainment.
It will be in interesting to see how Marseille pans out later this month.