With his dream of an unbeaten season in tatters, reigning FIM Trial World Champion Toni Bou - Repsol Honda heads into this weekend's TrialGP France, round four of the 2017 FIM Trial World Championship, knowing that victory could be vital. After slumping to third last time out at TrialGP Andorra behind fellow Spaniards Adam Raga - TRRS and Jaime Busto - Repsol Honda, Bou has seen his championship lead slashed from fifteen points to just ten. A similar result in the hills above the spiritual town of Lourdes would put him on the back foot and potentially hand an advantage to his fierce rival Raga as the series passes the halfway mark. The thirty-year-old, bidding for a record eleventh consecutive title, is hoping for much harder sections in France than we saw in Andorra. "In trial, especially in the easier trial, anything can happen and what happened last Sunday in Andorra could happen again," says Bou. "What we have to do is turn the page and continue to fight in the remaining trials, taking it race by race to try to achieve our final goal."
Raga's confidence is running high having worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve both his physical conditioning and the set-up of his TRRS and after ending Bou's 2017 unbeaten run he will not be satisfied with anything less than victory in France. That is not to say he's the only rider who could mount a serious challenge. Already this season we have seen Britain's James Dabill - Gas Gas and Busto finish on the second step of the podium and the nineteen-year-old Spaniard in particular, after posting a career-best result at TrialGP Andorra, will be determined to go one better. Currently third in the championship thanks to a string of consistent results, Spain's Jeroni Fajardo - Vertigo sole TrialGP win came in 2009 and he must surely feel that a second victory is long overdue.
Other than Raga, Japanese fan favourite Takahisa Fujinami - Repsol Honda is perhaps Bou's most likely challenger at TrialGP France. Lying fourth in the title chase, his most recent victory came on day two at Lourdes in 2016 and with just one podium finish so far this season you can guarantee that Fujigas will be totally focussed on taking his total of TrialGP wins to thirty-four.
The newly introduced qualification process to determine starting order has certainly shaken things up this season and Spanish veteran Albert Cabestany - Sherco has up to now struggled to combine speed with precision. Sitting fifth in the standings, one place ahead of Busto, if he can put together a good qualification run could he take his first TrialGP win of 2017?
In Trial2 Gael Chatagno - Gas Gas will start as home favourite, but despite taking two wins so far this season his inconsistency sees him trail Britain's Iwan Roberts - Beta by six points. Spain's Francesc Moret - Honda is a further three points adrift.
Trial125 has become a two-man battle with Italian Lorenzo Gandola - Scorpa and Britain's Billy Green - Beta pulling comfortably clear of third-placed Eric Miquel - TRRS from Spain. Gandola's three wins and a second to Green's three seconds and a win give him a six-point lead with just two rounds left in the shorter season schedule for Trial125 that climaxes at the next event in Great Britain.
Visitors to Lourdes will also see history made with the first ever FIM TrialE Cup for electric motorcycles contested by thirteen riders from five countries including Spain's 1996 FIM Trial World Champion Marc Colomer.