Team Australia has produced a tenacious performance in the 2023 Trial des Nations (TdN), which was held in challenging conditions at the French ski resort of Auron on Sunday, September 10.
In the 18-country International Trophy division, the Australian men’s trio of Kyle Middleton (TRRS), Connor Hogan (Gas Gas) and Chris Bayles (TRRS) finished fifth for the second year in succession.
Meanwhile, Lillie Yiatrou (Vertigo) and Kaitlyn Cummins (TRRS) recovered from a slow start in the women’s open category to complete the two-lap 30-section TdN in eighth position – a result even more meritorious considering that Australia was one of only two teams to compete with a minimum two-rider roster. The balance of the 11 countries had three riders, with only the best two scores counted in every section.
Led by world champion Emma Bristow (Sherco), Great Britain showed massive resilience against a persistent Spain to win the women’s category, while Norway jumped two positions on the run home to lock in the final spot on the podium.
Auron, located 1700 metres above sea level, was not only stifling – a continuation of a brutal European summer – but the sections were heavily characterised by huge rocks and steep, loose climbs.
The conditions placed a premium on composure and millimetre-precision, and in the International Trophy Australia lost 16 marks on the first lap to be in a tie for fifth position with Austria. But on lap two the Aussies made that position their own, finishing the TdN on 36 marks, behind the near-perfect Japan (one), Germany (seven), 2022 winner the Czech Republic (15), and America (29).
It was Australia’s 27th top-10 finish in the International Trophy, which included a stirring victory in 2017.
“The preparation wasn’t what we hoped for as I got a cold and then a stomach issue which meant I was laid up for a couple of days,” said multiple Aussie champion Middleton, who was competing in his 13th TdN.
“During the event, Connor (Hogan) was also suffering from stomach sickness. Nevertheless, we geared up on Sunday and gave it our all. I’m proud of what we did. Despite some mistakes and a few things not being in our favour, we kept our heads down and showed what we’re made of.
“Our girls also did an awesome job – you can’t underestimate how much harder it is with only two riders.”
The top-tier men’s division saw the all-conquering Spain – unsurprisingly – continue its reign, with the incomparable Toni Bou (Montesa) anchoring the team to its 19th successive TdN victory. Bou got the job done alongside Jaime Busto (GasGas) and his factory teammate, Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) – the top three in the 2023 individual world title. Fellow trial powerhouses France and Italy completed the podium.