Toni Bou Interview | Indoor Trial Champion
Last Saturday in Palma de Mallorca, Toni Bou won his fourth round of the season, a win that allowed him to take his fourth indoor world championship title.
Virtually champion when he classified for the final of the round, Repsol rider Toni Bou clearly dominated a championship that was exciting up until the final round. The changes to the regulations imposed by the FIM at the beginning of the year have allowed the best of Toni Bou to shine round after round.
With four wins and one second place, could it be said that the world championship title was an easy win and that it wasn’t actually decided until the last round? How did the championship go?
Toni Bou: "It’s been complicated because the new regulations are really tough, especially for me, because they are very demanding on the rider who is defending the title. They’re regulations that leave no room for mistakes and demand maximum concentration at all times, always putting your place in the next round on the line. There are three phases: qualifiers, semi-final and final, where just one mistake can knock you out before the final, if you find one particularly difficult. It’s been very hard, with a lot of pressure and the psychological aspect has also been very important".
And on Saturday you finally finished it off with a last win. Happy?
Toni Bou: "Very happy, because I think that it’s been one of my best world championships. Always with a fast pace; feeling good on the bike; very confident. I tackled the complicated zones really well, marking the difference in the zones I could. There are always two zones in an indoor trial, or sometimes just one, where you can stand out from the rest. It’s always very difficult to do because it’s a unique opportunity".
As reigning champion, which means that last year you were the rider who made the fewest mistakes, don’t these regulations, which as you said, don’t allow for mistakes, adapt to your characteristics?
Toni Bou: "I’m convinced that they don’t, because you can always make a mistake in any zone. You can make a riding mistake or have a mechanical problem, something can always go wrong and in the first race, I was about to get knocked out of the semi-final for a silly thing and I qualified by four seconds. They’re really tough regulations that don’t allow any mistakes".
So, how should the regulations be focused, why have they received so much criticism from the first day?
Toni Bou: "I think it’s very obvious. We used to have regulations that worked and they wanted to change them to make it more attractive for television but that’s just what they have failed to do. If you talk to anyone who has seen it, they don’t like it because they’ve made it so complicated that people don’t understand what’s going on. A simple change is needed: go back to the previous regulations, with eight riders battling in a qualification phase and the best three or four going through to the final, very dynamic, where people enjoy trial and don’t get bored, like they did this year".
You often say that the trials are very easy. How can the zones be made more difficult so that from the outside they seem impossible?
Toni Bou: "The organisation needs someone who understands the level well and marks the technical zones, without them needing to be dangerous. They can set up spectacular zones that the audience could enjoy but closely following our level, because we are getting better every year, it is an extremely professional sport and they must perfectly understand the limits. They have to be professional in all aspect because if we have teams behind us, we train every day and we are constantly improving and developing to the maximum level, the International Motorcycling Federation, which sets out the trials, must be just as professional as us, fight to improve together and help make this sport bigger".
What is the key to maintaining this level for four years running?
Toni Bou: "The motivation of always wanting to win; because it’s very difficult to stay up front. It might seem easy because after winning the second, third and now the fourth title, it could appear easy but it’s not at all easy because behind the scenes there is a lot of hard work that you don’t see".
In other years, in the last round in Madrid, you were already celebrating the title, this time however, in spite of good results; it wasn’t decided until the last race…
Toni Bou: "Yes, it’s been a very tough world championship. There’s been more pressure and there was a chance that the title would slip away in Majorca. I did a good first round, avoiding the tie-break and getting through directly to the semi-final. There were another three areas of which one was more complicated and if you didn’t pass it you risked having to play for a place in the final in the parallel race. The trial could become very complicated, it happened to Adam [Raga] for example, who was fighting for third place and a rider of his level didn’t get through to the final".
What did you think of your rivals, especially Albert Cabestany, who at the last minute was in a position to fight for the title?
Toni Bou: "This year, Albert [Cabestany] has clearly been the strongest. He had a new bike, which worked really well and was very motivated. He stood his ground, always riding very well, very consistently and managed to win or always come in second, except in Madrid, where he was third. He’s been a very tough and above all, consistent rival, which allows you to put on the pressure".
You always say that you prefer indoor trial to outdoor, because you are closer to the audience and the zones are more attractive. Is this speciality more difficult?
Toni Bou: "I think it’s more explosive and you have to be in top form both physically and mentally. It’s very demanding because in outdoor, you can have a poorer day or feel more tired and still correct many more mistakes to stay in the fight for victory. In indoor you have to be one hundred percent, explosive, focused and fight hard because they are different type of races and it’s always very difficult to win".
Seeing how difficult it has been to win this world championship, what do you expect the outdoor championship to be like?
Toni Bou: "I’m sure that Albert Cabestany will be fighting very hard again because he’s proved that he’s very consistent and he’ll be battling for victory in every race. I think that Adam [Raga], who is recovering from an injury, will improve a lot day-to-day. Fujinami is also picking up a good pace and Fajardo is standing his ground better than in previous years. Even Dabill has surprised, so the Outdoor World Championship will be more closely-fought than the indoor. What’s more, the one who won the previous race will have to go out first and in the first race, last year’s leader, who in this case will be me. Opening the zones is more complicated because you can’t see them beforehand and there’ll be less time, so expect a difficult world championship. We’ll have to wait until the first race to see how it goes".