The imposing Palau Sant Jordo set high on the hill above the city of Barcelona will provide the perfect stage when Toni Bou – Repsol Montesa goes in search of a third successive win in the 2014 FIM X-Trial World Championship this Sunday. The ex Olympic venue has proved a happy hunting ground for the twenty-seven old Spanish reigning champion with him having not been defeated in this special arena since 2009. Adam Raga – Gas Gas was the last rider, back in 2008, to steal the top step of the podium away from Toni at his home round.
Coincidentally as the series heads back to Barcelona this coming Sunday, it perhaps Raga who once again could pose the biggest threat to Bou, with the Gas Gas teamster having pushed his long standing rival to the very last section at the previous round in Marseille. Bou may have made it two wins from two starts in the French city, but his winning margin was only two marks on the night, which will have boosted Raga’s confidence as they resume battle on home turf this time out.
Far from it being a two-rider fight, Bou will also have to resist the challenge of his other Spanish compatriots in the form of Albert Cabestany – Sherco and Jeroni Fajardo – Beta who will also be looking to produce their best performances in front of their home fans. Cabestany currently sit second in the general standings, thirteen points shy of Bou, but six in front of Raga. The Sherco rider has once gain confirmed his consistency with two podium finishes at the opening pair of events and will know he will need to be back on the box again if he is to keep Bou in check and Raga at bay.
Fajardo will need to re-find the form that put him on the rostrum in Sheffield and at least start to put together a series of consistent results if he is to challenge for a top three ranking come the close of the series. Twice he has been drawn against his team mate James Dabill – Beta in the qualification stage of the first two rounds, with the current record showing one win and one loss respectively in the head to head battles. In Marseille Jeroni made it through to the semi-final as the best loser, but was then knocked out by Bou ahead of the final to end the night in a slightly disappointing fifth spot.
In Fajardo’s absence Dabill was the lone representative for the Italian factory in the four man final and showed why many feel that he has still not realised his full potential in the series as he threatened to dump Cabestany off the podium. In the end Albert just managed to hold on to third spot, but only by a single mark as James delivered one of his best ever showings in the FIM X-Trial World Championship.
With him still riding with the effects of his serious knee injury sustained last year, Takahisa Fujinami – Repsol Montesa had to settle for sixth place in Marseille, but has hopes for better things in what is now classed as his home round in Barcelona. The charismatic Japanese competitor along with Dabill and Jorge Casales – Gas Gas and Loris Gubian – Ossa will be drawn against Bou, Cabestany, Raga and Fajardo, as the lower four permanent riders in the current standings go head to head with the leading four contenders during the initial qualification round. With no wild card entrants at round three, the four qualification winners and two best losers will transfer to the semi-final, before those six riders then become four for the final. Bou may still be the favorite, but as the new format has already shown anything can happen and there will still be much to fight for in Spain this coming Sunday.