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Steve Holcombe edges out Andrea Verona for EnduroGP Day Two victory in Valpacos – Race Report & Highlights

Steve Holcombe edges out Andrea Verona for EnduroGP Day Two victory in Valpacos – Race Report & Highlights

Day two at round two of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship delivered an incredible battle for victory with Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Steve Holcombe taking the win. Going head-to-head with GASGAS Factory Racing’s Andrea Verona, Holcombe secured the top step of the EnduroGP podium by just one second. Day one winner Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia was third.

Words and Images by EnduroGP – Future7Media 

Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb made it two wins in Valpacos in the GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship, while RIEJU Factory Team’s Mireia Badia topped the FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship.

  • Intense battle sees Steve Holcombe win EnduroGP on day two in Valpacos
  • Holcombe beats runner-up Andrea Verona by just one second
  • Mireia Badia races to victory in Enduro Women

The racing was about as close as it gets on day two of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Valpacos, Portugal. Despite the punishing special tests and hot temperatures, the world’s best enduro riders put on an incredible display, with close battles the order of the day throughout all classes.

In the EnduroGP class, all eyes were on day one winner Josep Garcia to see if he could put his KTM on the top step of the podium again. However, on the first POLISPORT Extreme Test, Steve Holcombe came out swinging and set the fastest time. Unlike the previous day, Garcia didn’t answer back straight away. Holcombe won the following MAXXIS Enduro Test to build up a nine-second lead over Beta Factory Racing’s Nathan Watson, with Verona four tenths of a second behind in third.

Lying sixth overall, Garcia had work to do. He finally hit his stride by winning the ACERBIS Cross Test to move up to third overall at the end of lap one of three. But Holcombe was in control with a 10-second lead over Verona in second place. Throughout lap two, Holcombe continued to hold firm in front as Verona and Garcia shared test wins between them. His advantage had lessened though, and as they began the third and final lap, only 10 seconds separated the top three. Enduro fans were in for a grandstand finish.

Holcombe started out strong by winning the final POLISPORT Extreme Test. Verona had the measure of everyone on the final MAXXIS Enduro Test and topped the time sheets. With back-to-back ACERBIS Cross Tests set to close out the day, Holcombe hoped his six-second lead would hold out.

Fending off attacks from both Verona and Garcia, Holcombe kept his cool, like he had the previous Sunday. Shadowing his rivals in both tests, he did just enough to take victory by only one second after over one hour of timed special test racing. Despite putting everything he had into winning the final test, Verona couldn’t get the better of the Honda rider and had to settle for second. Admitting to going ‘all-in’ on the final test for the win, Garcia pushed the limit that little bit too far and hit the dirt. With his chance of taking a double victory in Valpacos slipping away, the Spaniard had to be content with third.

After shaking off his crash on day one, Watson put in a strong ride for fourth. The Beta rider was still feeling the effects of yesterday’s tumble and wasn’t able to get into the mix with the top three riders. Continuing to put in solid rides, Fast Eddy Racing’s Jamie McCanney claimed fifth overall. The Manxman rode well on day two, enjoying a big battle with Brad Freeman (Beta) and Samuele Bernardini (Honda) to secure his first EnduroGP top-five of the season.

Badia tops Enduro Women on day two

The FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship saw Mireia Badia take her second victory of the season for RIEJU Factory Team. Taking the opening POLISPORT Extreme Test win, Badia went on to win another five special tests to top the podium by 32 seconds. Day one winner Francesca Nocera put up the biggest challenge to Badia, but the Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team rider wasn’t able to consistently stay on pace with Badia and ultimately took second. Team KBS Sherco’s Rachel Gutish completed the top three, with Rosie Rowett (RIEJU) and Justine Martel (Beta) rounding out the top five.

With his EnduroGP victory in one hand, Steve Holcombe held the Enduro1 class win in the other at the end of day two in Portugal. Garcia, disappointed with his mistakes, finished in second, while McCanney took third in Enduro1 for the third race in a row.

Although narrowly missing out on the EnduroGP win, Andrea Verona was the clear winner of Enduro2. His double win in Valpacos, while benefiting from Watson’s non-finish yesterday, sees him lead the championship by 15 points at the end of round two. Watson placed second today, with Bernardini completing the top three.

The Enduro3 class saw Brad Freeman top the podium for the second time this weekend. He won by 23 seconds over Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing), with JET Zanardo Husqvarna’s Morgan Lesiardo in third. There was drama for championship leader, and race leader, Hamish MacDonald, when the CH Racing Sherco rider crashed heavily on the final test. The New Zealander limped home to salvage ninth, but suffering a suspected shoulder injury now puts him in a race to be fit for round three next month in Romania.

Semb takes closely fought Enduro Junior win

In the GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb was once again the rider to beat. The Swede raced to his second victory of the weekend. However, today he didn’t have things all his own way. Fellow countryman Max Ahlin (KTM) applied the pressure all day and didn’t allow Semb to break away. In the end, Semb won by only eight seconds over Ahlin.

As the day progressed, eyes were also fixed on the battle for the third step of the podium. Italians Manolo Morettini (Honda) and Kevin Cristino (Fantic) were fighting hard. In the end, Morettini took third by just two tenths of a second over Cristino. Albert Fontova (GASGAS) completed the top five.

The Enduro Youth class saw Manuel Verzeroli (KTM) record his second victory of the weekend. In a closely stacked field of riders, the top five were separated by just 32 seconds on day two in Valpacos. TM Racing’s Alberto Elgari placed as runner-up, with Pietro Scardina (Fantic) ensuring an all-Italian podium in third. Romain Dagna (Sherco) and Maxime Clauzier (Beta) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

After an exciting start to the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Portugal for rounds one and two, the championship heads to Bacau in Romania for round three on May 10-12.

Steve Holcombe (Honda) – 1st EnduroGP: “The fight for the win today was incredible. I love to race like this, but yeah, the pressure coming into that final test was pretty wild. It felt good to keep it together and take the victory. I changed my style up a bit today and tried to stay as smooth as possible. I think that helped throughout the course of the day. I’m tied for the championship lead now, so let’s see how Romania goes next month!”

Andrea Verona (GASGAS) – 2nd EnduroGP: “The battle today with Steve and Josep was incredible. Of course I wanted to win, but I can’t be too upset about finishing second because I gave it everything. The times were so tight, and it could have gone either way. I’m super happy with my speed, fitness and riding. I’m excited for round three.”

Josep Garcia (KTM) – 3rd EnduroGP: “I crashed early this morning and lost some time. With the pace as fast as it is, you can’t make mistakes like that. I regrouped well and was right there entering the final test. I went all-in on it, but another crash ruled me out of the win today.”

Mireia Badia (RIEJU) – 1st Enduro Women: “I’m super happy with the win today. I didn’t make many mistakes and opened up a nice lead. This win puts me into the championship lead!”

Results: Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship, Round 2 – Day 2

1. Steve Holcombe (Honda) 1:01:24.91; 2. Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 1:01:25.99; 3. Josep Garcia (KTM) 1:01:45.15; 4. Nathan Watson (Beta) 1:02:11.91; 5. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) 1:02:35.29; 6. Brad Freeman (Beta) 1:02:39.28; 7. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) 1:02:43.54; 8. Zach Pichon (Sherco) 1:02:53.60; 9. Jeremy Sydow (Sherco) 1:03:00.29; 10. Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing) 1:03:03.15…

Championship Standings (After round 2)

1. Steve Holcombe (Honda) 72pts; 2. Josep Garcia (KTM) 72pts; 3. Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 62pts; 4. Nathan Watson (Beta) 41pts; 5. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) 38pts; 6. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) 35pts; 7. Brad Freeman (Beta) 34pts; 8. Hamish MacDonald (Sherco) 30pts; 9. Mikael Persson (Husqvarna) 26pts; 10. Zach Pichon (Sherco) 25pts…