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Garcia fends off Holcombe for Round 2, Day 1 EnduroGP win – Race Report & Highlights

Garcia fends off Holcombe for Round 2, Day 1 EnduroGP win – Race Report & Highlights

The opening day of racing at round two of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship saw Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia rule supreme. The Spaniard saw off multiple challenges from his rivals to take the overall EnduroGP win in Valpacos, Portugal.

Words and Images by EnduroGP

Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb eased his way to victory in the GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship, while Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Francesca Nocera secured a debut win in the FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship.

  • Riders face long day of racing on day one in Valpacos
  • Josep Garcia tops EnduroGP podium
  • Debut victory for Francesca Nocera in Enduro Women

After the excitement of Friday night’s AKRAPOVIC Super Test, competitors welcomed a slightly later start than normal for the opening day of racing at round two of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Valpacos, Portugal. Despite the first riders rolling off the start ramp at 10am, they still faced a lengthy day.

In total, three and a half laps of the 50-kilometre-long course was on the agenda. Factoring in the hot temperatures and 12 special tests (including Friday’s AKRAPOVIC Super Test), meant day one would be a testing affair.

Garcia holds them off to win EnduroGP

Determined to reel Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia back in following his Friday night triumph, Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Steve Holcombe immediately topped the opening POLISPORT Extreme Test by almost three seconds to put himself into the lead. However, Garcia was not about to lie down and won both the MAXXIS Enduro Test and ACERBIS Cross Test to end lap one with a three-second lead over Holcombe in second.

GASGAS Factory Racing’s Andrea Verona was just a further seven seconds behind in third, while Beta Factory Racing’s Brad Freeman had regrouped well following his Super Test penalty to slot into fourth. But with the Fast Eddy Racing pairing of Mikael Persson and Jamie McCanney hot on Freeman’s heels, the fight for a place inside the top five was truly on.

On lap two, while Garcia maintained his lead, Verona took the fight to Holcombe. Setting the fastest time in the POLISPORT Extreme Test and MAXXIS Enduro Test, before placing second to Garcia on the ACERBIS Cross Test, saw him lie just three tenths of a second behind the Brit with only five tests left to run.

But as quickly as that battle formed, the following POLISPORT Extreme Test put paid to the Italian’s efforts. A major mistake from the GASGAS rider handed Holcombe some much-needed breathing room.

Meanwhile, Garcia continued to have all bases covered. Consistently staying inside the top three, the Spaniard maintained his advantage to bring his KTM home for the EnduroGP class victory on day one. Unable to make gains on Garcia, Holcombe protected his lead over Verona during the final half lap to take second. Naturally frustrated with his costly mistake, Verona had to settle for third. Expect the Italian to make amends for his errors tomorrow.

Not quite matching the fast pace of the leading trio, Freeman brought his Beta home in a lonely fourth. A reshuffle of the leaderboard in the latter stages of the day saw CH Racing Sherco’s Hamish MacDonald finish strongly for fifth, with McCanney seven seconds behind in sixth.

Debut win for Nocera in Enduro Women

The FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship saw the third race winner in as many races emerge on day one in Valpacos. Excelling in the high temperatures and physically demanding conditions, Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Francesca Nocera topped the podium. The Italian was incredibly strong in the final four tests of the day. Topping each one, she worked her way from third overall to an eight-second margin of victory as she exited the final ACERBIS Cross Test of the day.

After leading for the majority of the day, RIEJU Factory Team’s Mireia Badia couldn’t hold off the late charge by Nocera and slipped to an eventual second. Fighting for a place on the podium, Team KBS Sherco’s Rachel Gutish saw her day unravel with a mechanical issue on the penultimate special test. With Gutish losing a lot of time to salvage a result of eighth, it opened the door for Rosie Rowett (RIEJU) to capitalise and take third. Nieve Holmes (Sherco) was fourth, with Beta mounted Justine Martel rounding out the top five.

In Enduro1, Garcia put his KTM on the top step of the podium. Thirteen seconds behind, Holcombe ended his day as runner-up. McCanney could be pleased with his opening day efforts in Valpacos with a strong third place result.

Verona was the undisputed winner of Enduro2 with the Italian winning his class by 73 seconds. Crashing hard on the final MAXXIS Enduro Test, Enduro2 points leader Nathan Watson (Beta) saw his day come to an unfortunate end while sitting second. That opened the door for Samuele Bernardini (Honda) to take the position. Persson completed the podium in third.

After his non-finish on day two at round one due to illness, Freeman showed that he’s back on pace by winning the Enduro3 category. The Brit won the first four tests to build an early lead and despite a late charge by MacDonald, Freeman still had enough in hand to seal the deal. MacDonald will need to hit the ground running tomorrow to topple his close rival. Fantic Racing Team’s Albin Norrbin fended off TM Racing’s Matteo Cavallo by nine seconds to place third.

Semb rules the roost in Enduro Junior

In the GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship, Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb returned to the top step of the podium on day one in Valpacos. After a slow start to his morning in the POLISPORT Extreme Test, the Swede hit his stride during the middle part of the day and built up a lead that wouldn’t be caught.

Behind him and things were much tighter as a four-rider battle developed for the remainder of the podium. Reigning Enduro Youth champ Kevin Cristino (Fantic) is showing that he’s already settled in his move up to Enduro Junior. Racing hard with Max Ahlin (KTM), Team Beta Oxmoto’s Alix Antoine and Manolo Morettini (Honda), the Italian saw off their challenges to make it a Fantic 1-2 on day one.

Despite clocking the fastest time on the final two tests, Ahlin couldn’t overhaul Cristino and will have to try again tomorrow. Alix took fourth. However, only five tenths of a second split him and Morettini in fifth.

Enduro Youth saw Manuel Verzeroli (KTM) improve on his runner-up result from last Sunday in Fafe to win on Saturday in Valpacos. The Italian only won four of the 12 special tests, but by never faltering outside of the top three, proved that consistency is key to success. Romain Dagna (Sherco) was second, with TM Racing’s Alberto Elgari five seconds behind Dagna in third.

Josep Garcia (KTM) – 1st EnduroGP: “It was a long day and very physical. The pace at the top of EnduroGP is super high. I made a mistake on the second enduro test and really had to push to overcome that. In every test we were fighting, there was nowhere to rest out there!”

Axel Semb (Fantic) – 1st Enduro Junior: “I pushed hard from the start and managed to establish a good lead. That helped me a lot on the final lap to control my advantage and take the win. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Francesca Nocera (Honda) – 1st Enduro Women: “To take my first victory in the world championship is an amazing feeling. It was a long, tough day, but I feel like I rode well. I managed to win the final tests and that made the difference. I hope tomorrow I can keep this strong pace and battle again for victory.”

Results: Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship, Round 2 – Day 1
1. Josep Garcia (KTM) 1:11:20.16; 2. Steve Holcombe (Honda) 1:11:34.07; 3. Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 1:11:46.72; 4. Brad Freeman (Beta) 1:12:24.55; 5. Hamish MacDonald (Sherco) 1:12:47.75; 6. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) 1:12:54.80; 7. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) 1:13:00.51; 8. Mikael Persson (Husqvarna) 1:13:27.34; 9. Albin Norrbin (Fantic) 1:13:27.34; 10. Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing) 1:13:36.55…