Fresh off the AMA Racing/NATC Observed Trials National Championship, Team USA is ready to take on the world at the 2009 Trial des Nations (TdN) in Darfo Boario Terme, Italy, this weekend on Sept. 19-20, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
"With a history and heritage as impressive as any in two-wheeled motorsports, trials is one of the world’s premier competitive motorcycle disciplines," said AMA Director of Racing Joe Bromley. "The Trial des Nations represents the pinnacle of the sport and is a big part of our international racing effort. Team USA will face a world-class challenge in Italy this year, but we’re sending a world-class team that will make America proud."
The 2009 men’s team — the ’08 team finished seventh at the TdN in Andorra last year — will feature Will Ibsen, Patrick Smage, Cody Webb and Keith Wineland. This was the same lineup slated to represent the United States in 2008 before conflicts and injuries prevented Ibsen and Smage from joining the effort. (Chris Florin and Ronnie Commo replaced the two riders.) The men’s team will compete in the premier World Class at this year’s event.
The Women’s Team welcomes back the talents of Louise Forsley, Sarah Duke and Caroline Allen. Like the men’s team, they also rode to a seventh-place finish last year.
Smage, from Elkhorn, Wisc., is a three-time AMA/NATC National Trials Champion and is fresh off winning the ’09 national title. He will be returning for his third trip to the TdN.
"I feel pretty good," Smage said. "I’ve been riding as much as I can to get my balance back. Since my back injury last year, I really haven’t felt like my balance was where I wanted it to be. I’ve been really practicing some technical stuff, and I’m getting better."
Since he missed the ’08 TdN, this will be Smage’s first time competing on a big bike at the event. In 2007, he had to ride a 125 because he was still 17.
"It will be a lot better this year to have that extra power," Smage said of his Sherco 290. "That year, I would ride well and go for it and give it everything I had, but there’s a limit to what a 125 can climb. I know this year will be different, but the last one included some of the hardest sections I’ve ridden. There was some scary stuff, but as long as I’m on the 290, I like riding that stuff. This will be a good experience and help all of us become better riders."
Smage said the team hopes to come home with its best finish at the international event.
"Fifth place would be really awesome," Smage said. "There were a few teams that we were somewhat close to last time. The best we’ve done is sixth, so it would be awesome to go one better. I think if we ride well, we can be right there with those guys and beat them."
Webb, from Watsonville, Calif., finished second in the national points race behind Smage. He will ride a Sherco 320 four-stroke in Italy. Wineland is from Fountain, Colo. He finished third in the national series and will ride a Beta 290cc two-stroke at the TdN. Ibsen, from Roswell, Ga., will ride a Gas Gas 300cc two-stroke at the TdN. Ibsen finished fourth in the national championship.
On the Women’s Team, Forsley, from Hillburn, N.Y., will make her seventh trip to the event. Duke, from Colorado Springs, Colo., is returning for her sixth TdN, and Allen, from Norton, Mass., will make her third trip to the event.
"It’s always a fun event to close up the end of the year," Forsley said. "We get to go back and see all the old faces from the other times, and it’s great to go and compete as a team. It’s the only team event that trials riders get to ride," said Forsley, who will ride a Gas Gas 250 in Italy. "I’m hoping that we’re going to go well. My two teammates have improved this year, and I feel I’ve improved this year. We’re just going to go over there and have fun. The three of us ride the best when we have fun, and I think we’re going to do really well."
The sport of trials involves riders navigating their motorcycles over seemingly impossible terrain. The Trial des Nations began in Europe in 1983 as a way to bring the best trials riders from each country together to compete as teams, and it has evolved into one of the most anticipated trials events of the year. Each competing country fields two teams: a men’s team consisting of four riders and a women’s team consisting of three riders.