It's all on in St Francois Longchamp in France this weekend as the very best international Trials riders go head to head in Round 3 of the 2009 UCI World Cup. Trials (N) - an exciting, dynamic cycling discipline with riders negotiating six different trial zones with extreme natural and man-made obstacles.
After the first two rounds - in Spain and Germany - the rankings have a familiar look to them and it seems very likely that all three categories will go down to the wire at the fifth and final round in Rotorua, New Zealand in mid September. Gilles Coustellier from France is joint leader in the Elite 26" class with Kenny Belaey of Belgium.
Frenchman, Vincent Hermance, is third. Coustellier was World Cup series winner in 2008 and completed the double when he won the World Championship and the UCI rainbow jersey in Val di Sole in Italy. He will thrive on competing in front of a big home crowd this weekend.
Another rider who won it all last year is Benito Ros of Spain - 2008 World Cup winner and World Champion in the Elite 20" category.
Ros and another Spanish rider, Dani Comas, who rode in the Elite 26" class last season, are separated by only 5 points after taking out a round each so far this year. Rafal Kumorowski from Poland fills out the top three. Ros was World Cup series winner in 2008 and completed the double when he won the World Championship and the UCI rainbow jersey, in Val di Sole in Italy.
One of the legends of the sport, Karin Moor of Switzerland, is leading the women. Karin won the 2008 World Cup Series. However her extraordinary run as World Champion - from 2001 to 2007 - ended in Val di Sole where Gemma Abant of Spain, whose twin sister Mireia also competes, won the gold. For Karin, it is payback time in 2009.
Round 4 of the series is in Knokke-Heist in Belgium from July 31 to August 2. Then the riders head south to thrill the crowds at the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships at Mount Stromlo in Canberra, Australia from September 1 to 6. A week later they will be in Rotorua, New Zealand for the fifth and final round from September 11 to 13.
"It's all about who is best in a one-off, head-to-head competition at the World Championships," says Dean Watson, the Event Director in Rotorua. "With the World Cup series it's more about consistency over five rounds and six months." Because the World Champs is just a week before, and riders need to compete in the final round to take out the overall series win, the field in Rotorua will be a big one and will feature the world's very best.
"We've got reports and photos on the first two rounds in Spain and Germany, on our web site, www.ucitrialsrotoruanz.com, continues Watson, "plus video from Ripoli-Catalunya in Spain."
Trials Rotorua also has a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/UCI-TRIAL ... 5880457849
"We thought we'd have a bit of fun with that," says Watson. "People can sign up to be a fan of the event."
• CURRENT STANDINGS UCI TRIALS WORLD CUP 2009