Josep Garcia claimed victory on day one at the 2023 FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Skovde, Sweden.
Going head-to-head with Brad Freeman, Garcia narrowly beat his rival for the win by just eight seconds after almost one hour and 30 minutes of timed racing. Yet again proving just how tight the top three are in EnduroGP, Steve Holcombe closed out the podium 19 seconds behind his teammate Freeman.
Max Ahlin carried over his stunning form from last night’s AKRAPOVIC Super Test to win the GALFER Junior Enduro World Championship class. Jane Daniels was the runaway winner of the FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship with victory on day one in Skovde.
There was an excited atmosphere in the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship paddock as competitors rolled out for day one’s racing at round four in Skovde, Sweden. A big day at the office was on the cards for all with 11 special tests dishing out a super-sized one hour and 30 minutes of timed racing for the front runners. The big talking point for competitors as they left the Parc Ferme was the back-to-back enduro tests. With a nine-minute Cross Pro Enduro Test added to the nine-minute JUST1 Enduro Test, the day was set to favour those most comfortable between the trees.
Straight off the bat, Brad Freeman kept his lead from the Super Test alive by winning the opening Extreme Test and then going quickest in the Enduro Test to open a three-second advantage over Josep Garcia, with Steve Holcombe a further nine seconds back in third. The CH Racing Sherco duo of Hamish MacDonald and Zach Pichon were jointly five seconds behind to remain in the hunt.
While Freeman topped the opening Enduro Test it was by a minuscule three hundredths of a second, meaning it wasn’t like the killer blow he had landed last week in Finland. Garcia was quick to sense that and won the following Cross Pro Enduro Test to halve Freeman’s lead. And with the pair virtually tying on time in the ACERBIS Cross Test, it was game on as they headed into lap two of three.
For the rest of the day the pair went toe-to-toe, with Holcombe sneaking in a Cross Pro Enduro Test win too. On the final Cross Pro Enduro Test it was Freeman who cracked. A crash handed Garcia the breathing room he needed, and with time running out, victory went the Spaniard’s way.
“I felt good on the bike the whole day, which was important because the fight at the top is so tight. I had a one crash, but luckily it wasn’t too major. I’m enjoying the battle now, everything is feeling good and I’m ready for more tomorrow,” Garcia said.
With Freeman forced to concede defeat today, it was Holcombe who followed him home for third. While the battle for victory grabbed the majority of the limelight, there was little to separate the gap to fourth, fifth and sixth. Putting in his best ride of the season, Nathan Watson won the final Cross test to take fourth. Andrea Verona was super consistent all day for fifth, with MacDonald placing an eventual sixth.
“It’s been good results all round, but I feel like I let that win slip away if I’m honest about it,” runnerup Freeman said. “Josep and myself were battling every test and in the final enduro test I lost nine seconds and that was it.”
Steve Holcombe was happy to be on the podium again, “Finishing on the podium again is brilliant,” the Brit said.”” But I wasn’t quite able to get to Josep and Brad today. After walking all the tests they didn’t cut in how I expected them too and I think that caught me off guard a bit. I’ll do some homework tonight and see if I can close the gap tomorrow.”
The Enduro1 category saw another victory for Josep Garica. Zach Pichon fended off Theo Espinasse for second. Steve Holcombe appears to have the measure of Enduro2 and won again. Nathan Watson kept in front of Andrea Verona for second. Brad Freeman was best of the Enduro3 class for the seventh consecutive time. Morgan Lesiardo and Matteo Cavallo rounded out the podium.
From an Australian perspective, Daniel Milner finished 5th in E2 and 17th outright while Wil Ruprecht finished 9th in E2 and 27th Outright.
In the Magnorange FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship, Jane Daniels once again put in a winning ride. After Rosie Rowett won the Super Test, Daniels didn’t waste any time restoring order by going on a lap one winning spree. Winning three tests she put herself in the lead and didn’t falter for the remainder of the day.
For Rowett, it was a very strong ride for second. Along with many top-two special test times, she also took a Cross Test win. Australian Jessica Gardiner was third.
“What a day! The Swedish test terrain was awkward. I rode just as awkward, couldn’t get my mojo on out there although still proud to land third considering!” Gardiner said. “Massive day with 11 specials, starting the second test with a massive smack by the horribly big stacks marking the track (slid into it), making every pull-in of the clutch very uncomfortable all day! No excuses, top girls were moving and we get to try again tomorrow.”
Linnes Akesson finished fourth on home soil, with Nieve Holmes rounding out the top five.
The GALFER Junior Enduro World Championship was all about the battle of the Swedes Max Ahlin and Albin Norrbin, with Jed Etchells in tow. While Ahlin enjoyed a stunning ride in the Super Test, Norrbin did not. Ending it 39th and 23 seconds behind Ahlin, he would spend his day trying to race back into contention.
Doing exactly that he went on a winning run midday, setting the quickest time in five consecutive tests. However, Ahlin was never too far behind, and with that gap only gradually closing, Ahlin did everything right to win. Despite his best efforts, Norrbin will have to try again tomorrow if he wants to stand on the top step of the podium on home soil. Coming on strong on the final lap, Etchells topped two special tests for third overall and may just have a little more in the tank for the Swedes tomorrow.
Class rookie Jeremy Sydow was much more confident in the Scandinavian terrain this race and was a competitive fourth. Always a stronger rider on day two, he could be someone the leaders will need to watch out for. Axel Semb took fifth to ensure three Swedes placed inside the top five.
In Youth Enduro, Kevin Cristino remains on top. However, the Italian only just got it across the line. Sherco’s Thibault Giraudon was back on song today and finished just three seconds behind as runner-up. Leo Joyon completed the podium.
Racing continues tomorrow.