Stenvall, Sirén & Autioniemi crowned Finnish champions

Finland has what seems to be a growing trials community, and they did just organize their national trials championship with a total of 28 participants, with elite (20″ and 26″ combined) the most popular category.

Only one Men Elite rider got crowned champion in Finland, but, Mikko Sirén was the best 26″ rider, even though he got last place in the elite category. He is thus the 26″ men elite champion according to UCI’s system, and receives 50 UCI points.

Our Finnish correspondent, Antti Stenvall has written a summary from the race:

Finnish riders open national championships of 2020 in the trials community
Finnish national championships were organized in 15th of August in Jyväskylä, Finland. 28 riders from five different clubs came to compete in seven different skill level categories. For the first time ever the national championship title was nominated in Women Elite. Adenka Autioniemi (17) won this historical title. Niilo Stenvall (15) won Men Elite and his first title. Both riders represent Tampereen Pyörä-Pojat, the dominating trials club in Finland winning five of the seven categories.

The Finnish trials season continued with national championships in Jyväskylä on Saturday 15th of August organized by Jyväskylän Pyöräilyseura. This was the third competition of this covid-19 ruined season. Two Finnish cups were organised earlier, one in June in Tampere and one in July in Parainen. In Finland, riders can select freely their category. Categories are from the most difficult to the easiest: Elite, A, B, C-Super, C-Yleinen and C-Vapaa. The best riders, who started around the age of seven in C-Vapaa, have advanced one category per year until they reached A, and then they stay there until they have the skills and power to ride in Elite. In this season we have been following bonus point rules in the Elite, A and B. C categories have been using penalty point rules. For Elite, this is the second season with the bonus point rules Finland.

Niilo Stenvall had won both of the Finnish cup competitions of 2020 in Elite and was the front runner for the championship. Aleksi Sulkanen, from Tampereen Pyörä-Pojat, had won the six previous championships, but this year a couple riders have passed in him competitions, namely, in addition to Stenvall, Antti Rekilä from the organizing club.

The semi final was organized in the morning and four top riders qualified to finals. Seven riders participated to Men Elite. In the semi final, riders rode five sections and three laps. In the final, five sections an one lap were ridden. Only one rider was riding at a time in the final, while about 70 spectators were watching. The best rider in the semi final received 30 base points to the final, the second 20, the third 10 and the fourth 0 points.

Niilo Stenvall won the semifinal with 100 point margin to Eemeli Kanervo, from Jyväskylän Pyöräilyseura. Third was Antti Rekilä and fourth Antti Jukarainen from Tampereen Pyöräilyseura. Reigning champion Aleksi Sulkanen was kicked out of the final this year. Then, it was clear that there will be new champion.

Finland has four active girls/women athletes. They have been competing since 2015 and all have advanced to the level that it was time to organize the first women national championships in the Elite category. Unfortunately only two of them could participate to the national championships, Adenka Autioniemi and Nenna Stenvall, both representing Tampereen Pyörä-Pojat. Women Elite had similar system as Men Elite for the semi final and final. However, the semi final was for the women only about getting the ten points advantage to the final, because both qualified automatically. The level in Women Elite was between B and C-Super, and they used the bonus points rules. All the Finnish women riders are quite equal, and in the semi final Autioniemi had only 30 points more than Stenvall (550 vs. 520, 900 maximum points).

The Women’s final was a tight battle, but Adenka Autioniemi took the win, and thus the first Finnish trials championship title ever in trials Women Elite. She got only ten points more than Nenna Stenvall (170 vs. 160, 300 maximum points), and with the help of ten base points, she won the championship by 20 points.

The Men Elite final was a really tight battle too. There were three gates that Niilo Stenvall knew he needed to dab – i.e. perfect lap would be 270. Antti Rekilä said that his perfect lap would be 290 points. These two had a 20 points difference before the final. Stenvall lost his balance in the first obstacle of the first section and took a unnecessary dab. Rekilä and Kanervo both cleared the section i.e. received 60 points. Thus, Kanervo was in the lead after the first section. In the second section, Stenvall took the two dabs he needed. Rekilä got 10 points more and moved to the first position when Kanervo also lost two gates. In the third section Stenvall needed to dab again, but nobody cleared the section. Rekilä made a mistake (got 40 points) and Kanervo moved to the first position with the help of 50 points. The two last sections were the most challenging technically: Difficult hook ups to the logs, long front wheel moves high on the logs, peculiar sidehops and run-ups – nothing easy. This was a clear advantage for Stenvall, but he was riding with full pressure. At the end, Stenvall cleared sections four and five without any answer from the other riders and won his first championship in Elite at the age of 15. Final results including the base points (bonus points in round brackets) were Stenvall 290 (260), Rekilä 260 (250), Kanervo 250 (230), Jukarainen 200 (200).

“I had the pressure to win. It was the home park of my biggest rivals and us top Finnish riders are quite even, but I had done well in the previous races this year. I wanted to win and I knew that I’ll do better the last two sections than the other riders, so I was not worried even though I wasn’t leading before section 4”, says Stenvall who hadn’t won any Elite competition in Finland before this year. “The final word isn’t said and in September I will show to Niilo who has the highest bounce”, commented powerful rider Rekilä, referring to the upcoming Finnish cup competitions where big gaps in natural sections are typical.

Finnish national championships as a single race have been organized since 2014. Before that championships consisted of a cup of a few competitions – typically four. The first time the Finnish championship title was nominated was back in 2001. Mika Mäkinen won the first four championships. Only six riders have won the championship in the history over 20 years. Most wins have Aleksi Sulkanen and Olli Sinivaara – six. Since 2016, indoor championships have been organized as well. Aleksi Sulkanen has won three of these and Antti Jukarainen one. This year’s indoor championships were planned for April but due to covid-19 they have been postponed to December. Indoor championships will be organized in Tampere.

On Sunday 16th of August the third leg of Finnish cup was organized, also in Jyväskylä. Niilo Stenvall won again Men Elite, now with the margin of 290 points (maximum 1080 points) – clearly no more pressure on his shoulders. He leads the Finnish cup and Finnish ranking now with a clear margin to Antti Rekilä, Aleksi Sulkanen and others. The last two competitions of the Finnish cup will be organized on the 5th and the 6th of September in Kirkkonummi, another top trials location in Finland, in addition to Jyväskylä, Parainen and Tampere.

Photos by Antti Stenvall:

I'm a father of two young trials riders. In addition to being the treasurer of the local trials club, I like to take my children to competitions anywhere and building trials live score web applications.

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