17 May 2013

South Africa: Trials on Show at SA MTB World Champs

When the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships get under way in Pietermaritzburg in August, eager cycling fans, as well as South Africa's general public, will get a glimpse of trials, a discipline previously largely ignored on the African continent, which demands extreme levels of skills from its participants.

Although a relatively unknown entity in the host region, trials is popular throughout Europe, America and even the East and will be a source of great entertainment for those at the Cascades MTB Park between 27 and 31 August.

"Trials is a hugely skilful, highly intense type of a sport, which takes place in a very small, compact space, making it incredibly spectator friendly," explained Kim Phillips, Trials Manager for the event.


"The things that these guys are able to do on a bicycle and the skills that they have is just absolutely unbelievable and I have no doubt that it will captivate people who come to Cascades (MTB Park) to watch the event in August!

"The riders almost seem to regard their bikes as pogo sticks with two wheels because they don't ride over the obstacles but hop and bounce their way over them instead," he added.

Born out of the popularity of its motorized predecessor in Europe in the 1970s, trials is a cycling discipline which requires riders to get themselves and their bike over obstacles, grouped into sections or zones, without their foot or any part of their bike - other than the wheels - touching the ground.

Should a rider be forced to put their foot down or any part of their bike touches the ground or an obstacle the rider incurs penalty points and the rider at the end of the various zones with the least number of points to his/her name is declared the winner.


"There are also different categories for bikes with different wheel sizes and those taking part in the Trials at this year's World Champs will do so in either the 20-inch or 26-inch class, depending on their age and gender," Phillips explained.

"All riders start off in the qualification round before approximately the top half move through to the finals and then the top four riders battle it out for the spoils in the Super Final.

"Each zone doesn't take terribly long to complete and riders are required to complete all of the course's zones within the two-and-a-half-hour time limit," he added.

Adding to the spectacle is the element of the unknown as rules do not permit participants to practice on the various obstacles before the competition commences.

Extremely technical

"Some of the obstacles across the various zones are extremely technical and can be approached in a variety of directions. As the competition goes on the officials will change the direction from which the obstacle has to be approached and completed, making it more and more difficult.

"Therefore the whole course becomes this ever-challenging, dynamic environment and, with riders only able to walk, not ride, through the course beforehand and walk past the obstacles once everything is underway, it really is a tricky test of their concentration, skills and stability," Phillips said.

The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at The Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 to 25 August.

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