Billy Bolt has claimed the win at the first ever running of the Abestone Hard Enduro in Italy as the 2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship officially gets underway.
In a battle of the titans, Bolt led home Manuel Lettenbichler following a race-long duel, while Graham Jarvis cut his way through the field for third.
After a lengthy wait, the inaugural FIM Hard Enduro World Championship finally roared into life at round three, the Abestone Hard Enduro. The new Italian event promised much with big mountain riding, gnarly rocky climbs, and true Hard Enduro terrain, and it delivered on every count. After Saturday’s qualification, competitors got down to the business end of the weekend with the LIQUI MOLY Super Final, where two laps of a world-class Hard Enduro awaited them.
Having topped both Friday’s timed practice and Saturday’s qualification, Bolt sat on pole position for Sunday and started as the rider everyone had to beat. However, with just a 12-second cushion over closest rival Lettenbichler, it was still all to play for.
With Bolt opening the course, Lettenbichler patiently took his time and then gave chase. Knowing the early river section would be tough, he worked it hard and immediately caught up to Bolt’s rear wheel. From there the fight for victory was on. Throughout the two laps, the duo swapped positions. Lettenbichler appeared to have the edge on the rocky climbs up the mountain, while Bolt held the advantage on the way down. Pulling the pin on the final descents, Bolt put his Husqvarna out front and held Lettenbichler off to win.
“It’s awesome to pull off the win – it’s been a dream weekend for me to be honest,” Bolt explained. “I came here wanting to show that my pace at Extreme XL Lagares was no fluke and that I’m ready for the riverbeds and climbs and I got to show that. The race itself was a bit of a blur, it was proper intense. I messed the early river section up and Mani got on my wheel, and we just battled from there. He had me in the Minestrone Rock Garden, but I felt strong in the woods. On the final lap I just went for the pass, made it stick, and hung it out for the win!”
Lettenbichler was a little disappointed not to tuck the win away but overall was happy with the way he rode.
“I’m a little bummed not to have won, but second is definitely a great start to the season and the pace we had over the rest of the field was very strong. I can’t complain with my riding, I gave it everything and it was a good fight with Billy. I caught him early in the river and we rode back and forth together for most of the race. It came down to the wire, but just didn’t go my way. But it’s good to know where my pace is at now and with what we showed today, there’s going to be a lot more tight battles to come.”
Behind the leading duo – over 13 minutes behind, such was the speed of the top two – Jarvis was another man on a mission. Hampered by a starting position of ninth, he had work to do. Building pace as the race progressed, he began to pull back positions. A gamble not to refuel at the end of lap one leapfrogged him further up the running order. And with a strong run over the mountain, the 46-year-old Hard Enduro legend took third.
“My qualification wasn’t too good with ninth, so I had a good bit of traffic in front of me most of the way through,” Jarvis explained. “I rode too tense on the first lap and struggled to find a decent rhythm – especially with those early riverbed sections. Gradually I got the speed up and lap two was much better. We gambled on not refueling and it worked out in our favour. I think my speed and fitness was there to get up with the top two, but the early issues didn’t make it possible. But I’m looking forward now for Red Bull Romaniacs.”
Putting in a strong showing throughout the two laps, Jonny Walker just didn’t have an answer for Jarvis in the closing stages and had to be content with fourth. Shadowing Jarvis off the line, Alfredo Gomez kept close to his teammate during the opening lap. But with Jarvis finding another gear on lap two, the Spaniard wasn’t able to go with him, ending his race fifth.
The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship continues with round four at Red Bull Romaniacs in Romania on July 27-31.
FIM Hard Enduro World Championship Round 3
Results: Abestone Hard Enduro Results:
1 Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 1:44:36
2 Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) +41.686
3 Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) +13:37.827
4 Jonny Walker (Beta) +14:35.019
5 Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna) +15:03.058
6 Taddy Blazusiak (GASGAS) +17:52.934
7 Mario Roman (Sherco) +27:48.692
8 Wade Young (Sherco) + 29:42.319
9 Michael Walkner (GASGAS) +30:15.407
10 Francesc Moret Clota (Rieju) +45:24.961