Enduro

Brad Freeman Tops EnduroGP With Victory On Day One At Italian Opener

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Photo of FIM EnduroGP World Championship enduro rider Brad Freeman at the 2023 GP of Italy
Brad Freeman got back to winning ways in EnduroGP.

The opening day of competition at round one of the 2023 Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship saw Brad Freeman back to his winning ways, claiming EnduroGP class victory at the ACERBIS GP of Italy.

Putting an injury-plagued 2022 season firmly behind him, Brad Freeman returned to the top step of the EnduroGP podium for the first time since winning the title in 2021. After a fierce, day-long battle, Andrea Verona took the runner-up overall result, with Steve Holcombe third. The FIM Enduro Junior World Championship saw Jed Etchells secure a debut victory, while home favourite Kevin Cristino won the Enduro Youth category.

Hitting the ground running in the defense of her Magnorange FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship, Jane Daniels topped the classification on day one ahead of Australian Jessica Gardiner.

After Friday’s Super Test excitement, competitors settled in for a full day of racing today in Arma di Taggia/San Remo to truly get the 2023 FIM EnduroGP World Championship underway. Three different special tests were on the menu each lap, each offering a variety of challenges. The ACERBIS Cross Test weaved its way across the sandy beach in Arma di Taggia, while the POLISPORT Extreme Test and JUST1 Enduro Test, situated in the surrounding mountains, both featured dry, hard pack, rocky terrain.

Quick to make his mark, Brad Freeman topped the opening Cross Test of the day to put himself into an early lead. Steve Holcombe was just one second behind, with Italian Matteo Cavallo in close contention. Into the mountains and Freeman opened up a seven second lead by winning the Just1 Enduro Test. A shakeup in the order saw defending EnduroGP champ Andrea Verona jump up to second, while Kiwi Hamish MacDonald moved to third.

Photo of FIM EnduroGP World Championship enduro rider Zach Pichon at the 2023 GP of Italy
2022 Enduro Junior champ Zach Pichon finished a highly impressive fourth overall

With the Extreme Test bringing lap one to a close, Freeman held station out front. But as the day progressed, behind the Beta rider positions were continually changing with mistakes proving costly for some. With all riders keen to start the new season with a strong result, the final two steps of the podium continued to be fought over between Holcombe and Verona, while Freeman gradually edged clear to a 24-second margin of victory. With it all to play for on the final lap, Verona kept his cool to take second, denying Beta a 1-2 start to the year.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself coming into round one to hit the ground running,” Freeman explained. “After a tough 2022, I wanted to show I’ve still got it. I worked super hard this winter to be ready and was able to come out swinging and win. My nerves were so high all day, it’s been more than 12 months since I won in EnduroGP, so I’m stoked to top the podium. Hopefully, tomorrow can be just as good.”

Immediately up to speed in the senior ranks, 2022 Enduro Junior champ Zach Pichon finished a highly impressive fourth overall, with his teammate Hamish MacDonald completing the top five. Australian Daniel Milner, making his debut with TM, finished 14th overall and 5th in E2. Wil Ruprecht was classed as 27th in the overall result and 7th in E2.

The FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship saw defending champion Jane Daniels fight back from a crash on the second JUST1 Enduro Test to secure victory. Losing almost one minute when she fell, Daniels did well to regroup and end her day with the class win. Jessica Gardiner made it a successful return to the world championship competition, putting in a strong ride to finish second. Francesca Nocera took the final step of the podium in third.

Gardiner’s effort was all the more impressive considering she is suffering a head cold.

“It’s been a minute or a few years between world rounds and it was bittersweet!’ Gardiner said. “Second in the opening round of the world championships, only 17 secs from our amazing Jane Daniels. I fought hard all day, crashed in the first test, and then found my rhythm again. Unfortunately disadvantaged a little due to not racing here in a while, I’m starting at the back of the ladies’ class and passing a couple of times in several tests. It’s dusty, it’s fast and sketchy in the rocky terrain.”

The Enduro1 class saw Zach Pichon claim his debut senior class victory. The Frenchman was on flying form in Arma di Taggia/San Remo and delivered one of the day’s most impressive rides. Not quite up to speed on the opening lap following a big crash in the enduro test, Josep Garcia came good on the final lap, winning the three special tests to place behind Pichon in second. Theo Espinasse joined Zach and Josep on the podium in third, having fended off local favourite Thomas Oldrati by two seconds.

Photo of FIM EnduroGP World Championship enduro rider Andrea Verona at the 2023 GP of Italy
Andrea Verona finished second in the EnduroGP class and won the E2 class.

At the top of the Enduro2 ranks it was a battle of attrition between Andrea Verona and Holcombe. Determined to get his first Enduro2 win in his first attempt, Italian Verona held off Holcombe by three seconds to get the job done. Making his eagerly awaited return to racing following injury, Hamish MacDonald took a well-deserved third.

“Second overall and first in the Enduro2 class is a good way to start the year. I had a crash in the cross test, which cost me some time, but overall I’m happy with my first race on the 350F,” Verona said.

The Enduro3 category was dominated by Brad Freeman on his way to winning the EnduroGP overall. Behind him, Sweden’s Mikael Persson enjoyed a solid start to his year in second, while Matteo Cavallo took third.

The GALFER FIM Enduro Junior World Championship saw Fantic’s Jed Etchells claim the top step of the podium on day one in Italy. The British rider was fastest in the first three tests and opened up a seven-second lead. Although admitting to struggling with the roughening conditions midway through the day, he regrouped on the final lap to pull clear and win. Chasing Etchells all day, Sweden’s Max Ahlin placed second with Jeremy Sydow third.

“It’s a great way to start the championship with a win,” Etchells said. “I managed to win every test on the first lap and that put me in a great position early on. I struggled a bit in the middle of the day with the bumps

The Enduro Youth category saw Italy’s Kevin Cristino take the first win of the season. The Italian was looking very comfortable in Arma di Taggia/San Remo, winning nine of the day’s 13 special tests. Thibault Giraudon and Leo Joyon completed the podium.

Full Results can be found here:

Photo of FIM EnduroGP World Championship enduro rider Kevin Cristino at the 2023 GP of Italy
The Enduro Youth category saw Italy’s Kevin Cristino take the first win of the season.

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