Yesterday in Nice, the Repsol Honda Team rider scooped yet another title in a long and wide-ranging list of honours. After a perfect start to the year, winning every event that he has participated in, Toni Bou has now acquired eleven Indoor/X-Trial crowns… and there’s no stopping him.
What went through your head when you achieved the new title?
I’m really happy as it has been a title with a lot of pressure. Even after having won the first three trials, I was obliged to get through to the final and not make any mistakes as the qualifying was really easy and it would have been hard to come back after making a mistake. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we made it, so I want to thank everyone in the team for all they have done, which has been fantastic.
Looking at the results of the final, with four wins out of four, people might say that it was easy…
Yes, that’s the way that it looks from outside, but being only four trials, we still arrived at the final round needing to get through to the final. In Marseille we had a very tightly-fought victory, won by just a point, and if Adam [Raga] had won, we would have been forced to battle out the title in the final trial, which we all knew would be too easy. Every championship has its particularities and I’m very pleased to have won each round – something which I haven’t done for two years.
Did you think that you could win them?
We knew that it would be difficult but I try to take it one race at a time. For me it was very hard to get the victory in Barcelona. Things were a bit more relaxed in Vienna because I knew that it would be a complicated trial. These are the ones that I like, where we usually triumph. The nerves kicked in for the Marseille round as it is difficult to know that you have to win and you don’t want to have to leave it until the final round to have to fight for the victory. I think that I knew how to deal with it and I rode a good race. I had to suffer a bit in Nice, but we got the job done well.
Has your style of riding changed?
We have improved in small things. We’ve always had a high level in indoor trial, making very few mistakes. We have had some incredible seasons and to keep improving is really hard but we keep trying. At trials like the one in Nice, which are really nerve-wracking, we try to take the bike to the highest level and make as few mistakes as possible in qualifying. This has helped us to mature and improve.
In such a short world championship with just four trials, do you feel more pressure and tension in each of the dates?
Obviously, I’m sure all the riders would prefer a championship with ten events, or a minimum of six or seven. With four races it’s different. If I hadn’t won in Marseille, which played out in the last moment, I would not have won, the winner of the final event would have taken the title and the pressure would have been at the maximum. There are a lot of nerves, like last year, when I lost the first race. It takes you to the limit, but it also makes you better.
Which has been the most technical or difficult race of the championship?
Without doubt, the most difficult race was the one of Vienna. It was also where I felt more comfortable and where I won with a margin of more points. I made some mistakes and it was not my best race as far as riding went, but it was where I rode more calmly. I think more trials like that are needed because it’s a great show where people get great entertainment.
What is the key to maintaining such a high level for so long?
The key is very difficult to say, and if I knew I would not tell you anyway! I think I enjoy what I do every day, I love to improve and I am very demanding with the bike and myself as an athlete. This has allowed me to reach 30 years of age in fine form and I can still continue to improve.
Do your opponents force you to improve?
Yes, because Adam made a great finish in Nice and forced me to ride without making a single mistake to get the victory. He made a mistake in the final section, but I was opening and didn’t know what would happen. Rivals like him make you better and force you to get the best out of yourself.
Does indoor trial have to evolve to get to your level?
There will be some new changes for the coming year, because there is a promoter who wants to change the system around a lot. I think there is a positive part and a dangerous part to this, because I think that a change is needed, but you have to make sure that it is a great show where the spectators have a really good time.
After the shoulder injury of 2016, what level are you at?
The level is the same. It is true that I have lost some mobility, but on the bike I can ride at 100%. When I jump or I’m on some descents, I have minor annoyances, or even when playing some sport like tennis. But I have been fortunate enough that I get by so well in my sport and I am at 100%, which is very positive, because it almost certainly means that I will not have to undergo any type of surgery for this injury.
How have you seen your team-mates Fujinami and Busto?
I have seen that Busto has improved in leaps and bounds. He has had very few opportunities to do indoor events, but has got into a final and nearly achieved it in another. As for Fujinami, we all know that he is an outdoor rider, who last year surprised everyone by taking third place. I think he has done nothing wrong in the X-Trial World Championship. He has given a good performance and that means that we will be as strong as ever in the outdoor.
Are we looking of the best Toni Bou?
I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We have had very good years, although it is true that this year we have done a lot of races and we have won all of them. I am very happy and I feel very good. The work we are doing is very good, but we have had very good years before, so it is very difficult to say something like that.
How will you tackle the outdoor world championship?
I will start thinking about it today, because so far we have trained a lot for indoor. For me the X-Trial championship is very important, it is psychologically important to have the confidence to get to the events at the highest level, and I have specifically trained for that. Right now I’m not out-of-practice with the outdoor, but let’s start training. This year, luckily with the new promoter the world championship starts a bit later and we will have time to train.
We saw you on the social networks watching the MotoGP race. How do you see the World Championship?
It looks very exciting. Now we have some races that I think are good for Honda, especially Austin, where Marc [Marquez] is always very fast. Viñales and Rossi were going very well, also Dovizioso will be in the running. There were even surprises, such as Aleix Espargaró or my friend Rins, who did better than expected in his first race. I think it will be a very tight championship, although Marc always pulls something out, so the rest will have to have their wits about them.