Of all the cycling subgroups out there, trials riders are truly a unique bunch. While other riders might focus on speed or style, trials is all about control, navigating obstacle-strewn courses on two wheels that it would be challenging to follow on two feet.
Each rider has a time limit to clean a course and gets points for every fall or dab on the way to the finish. The rider with the fewest number of points at the end of a contest - usually six different courses for elite and expert riders - wins.
To make it even more difficult the riders don't get a chance to pre-ride any of the courses, all they can do is watch other riders and do an inspection to plan their routes in advance.
Trialsworx, taking place this Saturday in the village, is in its fourth year with the Crankworx freeride mountain bike festival. While the top Canadian and American riders have competed in the past, the field will be joined this year by a handful of elite riders from around the world.
"There is an elite class of riders in trials, only 20 in the world and you have to qualify to become an elite rider," explained Jason Baia, who competes in the expert class. "This year we have one of the top Japanese riders out who is doing shows with us (the Baia Bros) all week, and a couple more from overseas. This will be the biggest expert and elite class we've ever had."
The Japanese rider is Yasutaka Shibata, who recently edged out Canadian John Webster - the Trialsworx defending champion, and one of the top trials riders in the world - at a Canadian Pacific Bike Trials Association event in Port Moody. Webster will also be in the field this weekend, looking for the win after a timing controversy in the last event.
Also joining the contest this year are Stephan Pcola from Slovakia, Xavi Casas of Andorra, and Andrei Burton from the U.K., as well as top Canadians Jeff Anderson and Steve Dickin.
All will be heading to China following Trialsworx to take part in the world championships, along with 11-year-old Canadian rider Mitchell Wong.
According to Michael Baia, who manages his sons Steve and Jason and organizes events like Trialsworx, the Whistler event has the potential to be the biggest in the world with some additional support from sponsors. The number of elite and expert riders increases every year, even as the courses themselves get a little more difficult.
"We're going to have some really cool stuff this year," said Michael. "On Monday we got to go shopping at the municipal works yard and pick out what we wanted, and they delivered it to us to add a few extra features to the course. It's going to be just spectacular."
The venues are the same as last year. There are two courses in the village - one at the water feature opposite the movie theatre and another by the gazebo in Town Plaza, as well as four courses in the dry creek bed beside Rebagliati Park.
"The viewing is great, you can see every rider from start to finish from the bridge or from the shore. It's really the best spectator sport going," he said.
"Every single competition it seems I make it harder and harder, and the riders just keep doing and doing. There are four levels, beginner, sport, expert and elite, and everything just keeps going up. Some of the sport sections this year are what the expert sections might have been two years ago."
Trialsworx gets underway on Friday, Aug. 14 this year with Kidsworx, a trials contest aimed at kids aged 6 to 10. This is a fun event - no experience necessary - as well as a chance to learn some techniques from professional trials riders like the Baia brothers. The event takes place from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Town Plaza.
The main event runs on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting with the beginner and sport riders. The experts and elites will start around noon.
Weather is no obstacle. Some of the more challenging lines may be toned down for safety if it's raining, but otherwise riders always find a way to cope.
"Nobody complains, these guys just adapt to whatever the conditions are, and whatever happens they just figure it out. It's part of the sport," said Michael.
In total Michael Baia is creating 16 unique lines at six venues, including six beginner and sport lines, six expert and elite lines and four lines for Kidsworx, all while putting on four shows a day during Crankworx with the Baia Bros. It's a lot of work, but at the end of the day he says it's worth it to showcase a sport that gets little mainstream attention but never fails to draw a crowd.
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