This article expresses the author’s personal opinions.
My name is Karol Serwin (35) and I’m from Poland. I’ve been riding trials since 1995 and I’m 20 times Polish trials champion. I once became vice world champion in the junior category, and in 2008 I was fifth overall in the UCI trials world cup. I’m now an average competitor. I have a master degree in sports, I’ve been a S&C coach since 2013, and a trials coach since 2015. I work mainly with trial riders, few of them are top ten elite riders in both 20″ and 26″. I also work with kids, especially in Poland, and I’ve been organizing competitions in Poland since 2007. I’m regularly building or setting sections for all categories in Poland. I supervised this year’s world cup in Denmark, and I built all sections for the UCI youth games in Poland. I also built a few trials parks in Poland. I’m boasting here just because I want to show my perspective.
– Abu Dhabi makes me feel sad and irate, again
The 2022 UCI Urban Cycling World championships (hereafter WCH) in Abu Dhabi makes me feel sad and irate, again. I used the word “again“, because these feelings have been with me every year since the 2017 edition in Chengdu, China. I still don’t understand how it’s all working with the WCH. Why is there no official competition for section builders? Why does the same team build the WCH sections every year? Who is doing supervision in UCI? Is there any report? Why has no one ever asked riders what they officially think about competition? Who decides about it? What is the budget for the trials sections? Is it already sure who will build sections in 2023 and 2024? There are more questions, we just have to start asking them.
Trials is a very complicated sport
Trials is very complicated sport, you have a very big variation of techniques and possibilities to go through obstacles or solve problems. As a rider you want to become as versatile as possible, master every technique – in all variations. We can divide all trials skills into two groups: technical skills and jumping skills.
The technical skills involves balance and precision, and this group does not require big amounts of strength and power. But, it’s essential to the sport – it’s what we are learning from the beginning.
The second group is jumping skills. You can divide them into two main groups: Jumps where you use speed, and jumps where you go from static positions. Beside great technique you have to use strength and power to jump. The higher you’re able to jump, the more likely you are to make an obstacle.
Every rider that competes understand that you have to achieve absolute maximum in both groups to get to the highest level in this sport, and that is how all the best riders train.
– The people that set the sections don’t understand what this versatility is
Now why am I sad and irate? Because since 2017 sections at the WCH are not executing this versatility. Probably because the people that set the sections don’t understand what this versatility is. So I will try to explain how I understand it. But, first I have to admit that this has nothing to do with results from these competitions, the best riders on these particular days have always won. The complaining isn’t just mine, it’s the collection of hundreds of conversations with riders, coaches and team managers. It’s always the same that we, the trials community, just want to have an appropriate level and interesting sections that are pushing our limits. And not favorising any riders or any specific skills, like we have seen the last years, with mostly static hooks.
About versatility: Let’s say that we have to go over a concrete box which is 120 cm high. Just quickly counting I have 15 options of different techniques to jump on to this cube.
– It’s about being so versatile that you can solve every problem, but not all the time the same problem
If you set a section, you should execute “something” by putting a certain demand on the riders at every obstacle. If not we can just have six boxes for six gates where every box progressively gets higher, and that’s it. Then everyone can choose their favorite technique. That is nonsense right? But why? It will be very easy to understand for the audience and every rider can feel free to just do whatever he or she wants to do.
But, it’s not trials anymore, because trials is about solving problems, it’s about being so versatile that you can solve every problem, but not all the time the same problem. That’s why we train pedal-ups to rear, to front, sidehops to the good side, bad side, gaps to front using front brake, without front brake, dynamic hooks, static hooks, turning on tiny rocks, or we do run-ups from narrow balance beams. We are learning the feeling on sharp rocks, round rocks, wooden beams, and I could go on forever with this list.
– The people that set the sections have to be fully aware of the variety of techniques
The sections at the WCH should take into consideration all of these already mentioned aspects, with a variety in skills, techniques, obstacles and take-offs. And yes, I know that it’s impossible to regulate with rules, but there has to be a solution that makes it better, and the solution is simple. The people that set the sections have to be fully aware of the variety of techniques and of the level that is possible. For example, don’t create too easy gates in the middle of the sections at the WCH, impossible jumps that no one can even try, or such long sections that no one is able to finish them.
I’ll now list up my thoughts both about what I think was wrong in the sections and in general at the 2022 WCH.
2022 WCH breakdown of sections and the general conditions
- The sections were poorly layed out, with no progressively increasing difficulty from gate one to gate six. The hardest gate could be in the middle of the section, the easiest could be gate number six.
- By forcing the riders to ride into water, and then the next section is on sand, makes a really bad combination, which is both dangerous for the riders and unhealthy for the bikes.
- The quality of the obstacles were terrible. Obstacles were moving and even breaking. That is completely unacceptable at a WCH.
- By painting the concrete pipes you potentially create extremely slippery surfaces, which increase the risk of injury for no good reason.
- Limiting the amount of tape inside the sections creates the problem mentioned earlier in this text: It doesn’t force the riders to try a certain technique, they can just choose their favorite technique every time. Less tape might look less “busy” for the spectators, but it can’t go to a degree where it influences the actual execution of the sport.
- There was no proper warm-up area until they opened up the team section for riding, which is humiliating. Nothing to ride on from Monday to Wednesday. And the warm-up area did not have sufficient lighting.
- National judges: You can’t have national judges at a WCH which have never had any prior experience in judging a trials competition. There were a lot of judging mistakes during the WCH.
- The finals sections should be completely different to the semi finals. Not one gate should be the same. That’s because the level has to go up from the semi finals level, if not it means that the semi finals were too hard.
Riders are the most important part of every competition. The competitions are for the riders, not for the UCI, nor the spectators. By having this perspective, more riders will enjoy the sport, and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of anything. Both the specators and the UCI are dependent on having as many riders at the elite level as possible.
General breakdown of the current standing
We are in February and there is still no world cup calendar published. We are a really small sport, most of us are just passionate about it. How can we plan our season? Book flights, plan trips, trainings, look for sponsors, sign contracts, book shows, etc. How? And national federations can’t plan their season either. Trials will be much better recognized if the management is better, because you can’t be professional inside of an unprofessional environment.
There is obviously a big problem with world cup organisers, so maybe this is a hint that something should be changed in the UCI? Maybe the world cup format or the terms for the organisers have to change. You can’t just wait until next year and suddenly something will change. People that work in the UCI should understand that after covid-19 the world is different, and to rebuild the situation we have to make changes to let the sport grow.
What should we do now?
This is a real test of all the competition riders out there. We should show our honor and pride, and demand change!
That’s why you should share this if you agree.
Don’t be scared, because there is nothing to be scared of. Don’t be too loyal if you know the organiser personally, because you are acting against your own interest. We spent too many years on waiting.
I try to prepare an official petition to the UCI, that everyone can sign electronically. But first, we had to share this.
If you have more ideas to add, comment below, or just let me know through a DM on Instagram or Messenger. Or just send an email to Bashguardian.
Thank you for reading.
Edit: While writing this article, UCI have in all silence published two world cup dates in their calendar.