I came from a very mod­est en­vi­ron­ment, where both my par­ents worked very hard to bring me and my elder brother up in the world. My fa­ther, Ron, was a mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­ast but, for me most im­por­tantly, he loved and com­peted in tri­als. Sup­ported by my mother, Joyce, I started to com­pete way be­fore the youth move­ment in the tri­als world. My fa­ther worked Sun­day nights in a fac­tory, and my mother in a lo­cal mill in­be­tween run­ning the fam­ily, to fi­nan­cially sup­port my tri­als rid­ing. I achieved some suc­cess and with it some sup­port from the in­dus­try, for which we were very grate­ful as a fam­ily. Wind the clock for­ward nearly 40 years on and I see this sit­u­a­tion repli­cated time af­ter time in mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als. Sport in gen­eral has moved on and I use just as an ex­am­ple the cy­cling pro­fes­sion. From hav­ing mod­er­ate suc­cess glob­ally we are now a na­tion that stands very proud of its achieve­ments, sup­ported by fund­ing from var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions and the cy­cling fed­er­a­tion. Mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als is, on the scale of many other sports, a mi­nor­ity one – fact. That does not mean it does not de­serve sup­port as we have demon­strated in the past and present that Great Bri­tain can and does pro­duce world cham­pi­ons in the var­i­ous classes. This suc­cess is usu­ally funded by the bank of mum and dad as their chil­dren pass through the youth tri­als be­fore they dip their toes into the big sea of the world cham­pi­onship. The for­tu­nate ones can of­ten find some fi­nan­cial sup­port off the back of mum and dad’s busi­ness friends, who are usu­ally tri­als en­thu­si­asts any­way. Spain has pro­duced Toni Bou, the undis­puted king of world tri­als, along with many other win­ners in the other mo­tor­cy­cle dis­ci­plines where they can com­pete. Here we take a look at the Span­ish Fed­er­a­tion’s tri­als team and how they sup­port their world cham­pi­onship ef­forts, which in many cases are the envy of the rest of the tri­als world.

Jordi, you should be very proud of what you have achieved with the team.

Yes, I am very proud. I started in 1992 and it has changed a lot since then. If I make a list of all the riders who have passed through the Na­tional team you will soon re­alise that al­most all the Span­ish riders who have par­tic­i­pated in the world cham­pi­onships have be­longed to the team. At that time we were trav­el­ling with six riders in a van, but that did not mat­ter. The riders just wanted to train and im­prove their level of rid­ing ev­ery day and get the con­fi­dence of a man­u­fac­turer to sup­port them. It was a case of prac­tice and train­ing for the world cham­pi­onship, but get­ting the sup­port of a fac­tory was the most im­por­tant thing of all. At that time the fac­to­ries helped the riders with ma­chines and parts at a very good price. The goal was to have a con­tract that would bring free mo­tor­cy­cles and some fi­nan­cial sup­port.

At present it is quite sim­i­lar but the costs are much higher than be­fore. The men­tal­ity of the riders is also very sim­i­lar al­though it seems that the young peo­ple of to­day are not so ac­cus­tomed to hard work! I can still re­mem­ber Joan Pons trav­el­ling, cross­ing Europe with a small Re­nault Ex­press van and a car­a­van at 70kph! This is not imag­in­able to­day but the youngsters still sac­ri­fice them­selves to get on the team and the times have changed. The sup­port of the man­u­fac­tur­ers is now some­what mi­nor, but gen­er­ally when a rider is in the Na­tional Team ev­ery­one makes ef­forts so that he has the best we can of­fer.

This year you have six riders in the Trial World Cham­pi­onship: Ar­nau Far­rer in Tri­alGP and Francesc Moret, Gabriel Mar­celli, Marc Riba, Aniol Ge­labert and Sa­muel Obrado in Trial2. How are the riders se­lected for the team?

Rider se­lec­tion is a nat­u­ral process. We have known all the riders since they started par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Span­ish Cham­pi­onship from the ages of twelve and thir­teen. From that mo­ment we are ob­serv­ing the evo­lu­tion of each rider and com­pare that evo­lu­tion with the riders who have gone through it be­fore. There is no magic for­mula, just step by step moves.

We do not have riders in the 125cc class, just be­cause it is a cylin­der ca­pac­ity that we are not in­ter­ested in. We think that be­ing on 125cc for a long time is wast­ing time and slows your evo­lu­tion as a rider. The 125cc has made us lose a gen­er­a­tion of good riders like Dani Oliv­eras, Dani Gib­ert and — al­most — Toni Bou! For­tu­nately Toni had al­ready par­tic­i­pated that year in the World Cham­pi­onship and knew what he wanted. Imag­ine what would have hap­pened if Toni Bou had stayed two full sea­sons with a 125cc? As soon as you are ready you must move on to a mo­tor­cy­cle with higher en­gine ca­pac­ity and start to prac­tice on the big­ger ob­sta­cles, and this should start no later than at four­teen or fif­teen years old.

If the riders are so young do they still have to go through the ed­u­ca­tion process or are al­lowances made for them?

Un­for­tu­nately the process is not per­fect and we have many prob­lems try­ing to com­bine the two things. The higher the level of rid­ing you achieve the more time you need to train, and that takes up the school time. If you can go to a pri­vate school it may be eas­ier but it is still the big­gest prob­lem. It takes time for a rider to de­cide whether to go to the tri­als ca­reer or stay in school un­til they are 18 years old. Some choose to stay with tri­als for a year and then de­cide whether to work or study. It is not easy and I want to em­pha­sise that the riders make great ef­forts to com­bine the two things.

Do the riders get paid an al­lowance or wage?

Not from the RFME. If a rider has a con­tract with a fac­tory he or she may re­ceive a wage. Get­ting the sup­port from the par­ents is the first goal. Mak­ing money is al­ready much more com­pli­cated than it may ap­pear. It is the par­ents who pay the ex­penses un­til they ar­rive at the Na­tional team. For the World Cham­pi­onship the RFME pays all ex­penses but ev­ery­thing re­lated to the mo­tor­cy­cle is still de­pen­dent on the riders and in most cases means them re­ceiv­ing the help of the man­u­fac­tur­ers.

How many per­son­nel are in the team?

Apart from the six riders and six min­ders it is only Al­bert Sole and my­self. We have to adapt our­selves to many sit­u­a­tions. Al­bert takes care of the truck and the struc­ture of the team but can also be a minder. It is his re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure the riders have ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, but also in the Span­ish cham­pi­onship he is re­spon­si­ble for the re­sults. It re­ally is a great team spirit. I do the rest; minder if nec­es­sary, del­e­gate to the jury etc. It is not a big struc­ture but I think we are ef­fi­cient. Who­ever works in the RFME-SPEA has to know how to do ev­ery­thing!

Where does the fund­ing come from for the team?

Part of the bud­get comes from Fed­er­a­tion and another vi­tal part is thanks to our friend and spon­sor Lu­ciano Bonaria, Pres­i­dent of SPEA. The Fed­er­a­tion’s bud­get comes ba­si­cally from the Higher Coun­cil of Sports, The Span­ish Govern­ment, and from the RFME’s own re­sources, such as li­censes etc. A li­cense for a Span­ish rider can cost around €300 for the na­tional li­cense and be­tween €500 and €1000 for the world cham­pi­onship. The in­sur­ance cover takes a sig­nif­i­cant part of this in­come as the law in Spain re­quires max­i­mum cov­er­age.

Lu­ciano Bonaria is pas­sion­ate about tri­als and we were lucky that he likes our project. The work we do with the young riders is con­sis­tent with his phi­los­o­phy and we re­ally have a great re­la­tion­ship. His sup­port is fun­da­men­tal to be able to con­tinue com­pet­ing at world level with a team with so many riders. With SPEA we have the nec­es­sary sup­port for the Na­tional Team and also for the Span­ish Cham­pi­onship. In ad­di­tion we have a project called ‘La Pri­mav­era del Trial’ (Trial Spring) where we do a work­shop with young riders do­ing well in the Span­ish Cham­pi­onship. The Na­tional Team riders are their men­tors.

Do the man­u­fac­tur­ers sup­port the team?

The sup­port of the man­u­fac­tur­ers to the Na­tional Team project is im­por­tant. For a rider it is very dif­fi­cult to do a full sea­son if you do not have some help from the fac­tory. The sea­son is very long with so much test­ing and train­ing, which plays its part in the wear and tear of the ma­chines, but the man­u­fac­tur­ers un­der­stand this and are very sup­port­ive. They un­der­stand that the team is a part of a much big­ger pic­ture. With­out their help it is very dif­fi­cult to do a full sea­son. In fact, if a rider does not have the help of the man­u­fac­turer it is very likely that he is not part of the team. It is an as­so­ci­a­tion that comes from the be­gin­ning of the na­tional team and has al­ways been main­tained, so that the help goes di­rectly to the rider.

At what point is a rider re­leased from the team if his ca­reer is not work­ing out?

We usu­ally make th­ese de­ci­sions af­ter each sea­son. Riders are al­ways aware of whether they are well-de­vel­oped or not as they have the other team mem­bers to com­pare with. If they see that they are lag­ging be­hind in their evo­lu­tion they know that they are los­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for the fu­ture. It is a part of the process, not ag­gres­sive de­ci­sions, and usu­ally the rider is very aware of the sit­u­a­tion.

There is no es­tab­lished du­ra­tion on the team. It de­pends on the pos­si­bil­i­ties of each rider, the help they re­ceive and whether they re­ally want to be part of it. Once this process is fin­ished some con­tinue as me­chan­ics, min­ders or just con­tinue study­ing or work­ing.

What does a typ­i­cal work­ing week con­sist for the riders in-be­tween the Trial World Cham­pi­onship?

The lives of the riders are pretty tough. Nor­mally they all go to school so they al­ready have an im­por­tant part of the day oc­cu­pied. As soon as they fin­ish school they take ad­van­tage of the time they have to ride a mo­tor­cy­cle or go to the gym. Some may have a day or two on weekdays to train but that de­pends on the treat­ment they re­ceive at school.

For those who do not go to school their life is spent be­tween the work­outs, gym and the work­shop to re­pair the mo­tor­cy­cle. Pro­fes­sional life with­out pro­fes­sional money, but the be­gin­nings are al­ways hard in any sport. The team riders try to train with each other but usu­ally pre­fer to ride with a higher stan­dard of rider. They all get on with one another, which is a vi­tal part of the team and also makes it more fun.

How do you see the World Cham­pi­onship with all the changes that are hap­pen­ing?

The ar­rival of a pro­moter opens a pos­si­bil­ity for us to change if we re­ally get the sup­port we need. At the mo­ment the in­tro­duc­tion of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion and the new scor­ing sys­tem, with the app that al­lows you to fol­low the live re­sults, are an ex­am­ple of which things seem to be chang­ing in a pos­i­tive way. A greater un­der­stand­ing of our sport is im­por­tant for it to con­tinue ex­ist­ing. Some say that we lose the pu­rity of tri­als and that it is more of a cir­cus. I com­pletely dis­agree. Tri­als is just as pure now as it was in the ‘60s.

The Trial World Cham­pi­onship riders of 2017 were born in the 21st cen­tury around the year 2000, and like ev­ery­thing in life it has evolved. For them what they do is the same trial, ex­actly the same as it was for us in the ‘80s. Five years ago we were train­ing in Italy with the first ‘SPEA’ trial spring project, with riders try­ing to do some­thing sim­i­lar to a guy called Toni Bou. Some of th­ese riders have al­ready ar­rived; Jaime Busto, Miquel Ge­labert and Ar­nau Farre to name a few. They knew they were ca­pa­ble of join­ing the ‘cir­cus’. The evo­lu­tion of the mo­tor­cy­cles and train­ing tech­niques has led to a level of per­fec­tion on the part of the riders, noth­ing less. It is im­por­tant that the rules are adapted to th­ese rid­ing lev­els and do not force the riders to ar­gue the judges’ de­ci­sions. The nos­top rule does not seem to me to be a proper reg­u­la­tion suited to our times, but it re­mains, for the mo­ment.

Gabriel Mar­celli (Mon­tesa) – Trial2 Class Francesc Moret (Mon­tesa) – Trial2 Class Sa­muel Obrado (TRRS) – Trial2 Class Marc Riba (TRRS) – Trial2 Class

Team work is es­sen­tial Ev­ery­one has to join in with the team and carry out many of their own tasks in­clud­ing ma­chine prepa­ra­tion A happy team is a good team! Ar­nau Farre is in the Tri­alGP class, hav­ing moved up from Trial2

SPEA play a very im­por­tant part in the team The liv­ing quar­ters are in the trailer of the ar­tic­u­lated truck for the riders and min­ders Work­shop fa­cil­i­ties can be used in the rear of the ar­tic­u­lated trailer Lunch time with the team in An­dorra

TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE Jordi Prat Al­bert Sole The RFME team stands proud in the Trial World Cham­pi­onship pad­dock

Aniol Ge­labert (Scorpa) – Trial2 Class is the younger brother of the Tri­alGP rider Miquel Ar­nau stands proud in his yel­low rid­ing kit car­ry­ing the team SPEA logo with Toni Bou. Jordi Prat cel­e­brates with Trial2 win­ner Gabriel Mar­celli in France

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