A ‘home’ GP is special for all riders but for EnduroGP World Championship points leader Steve Holcombe the GP of Great Britain at Hawkstone Park is every bit as important as it will be special.
With just the British GP and the final round in Germany remaining Steve holds a 37-point advantage at the top of the series.
Opting not to represent team GB at the recent ISDE in France, Steve – like many of the British riders hopeful of a strong result on September 23/24 – has been quietly working away in readiness of the mixed sprint / cross-country event format.
TMX: Steve, we’ve just days away from the first EnduroGP event in the UK for nearly 10 years, how are you feeling going into the event?
Steve Holcombe: “I’m really excited to race a round of the world championship at home in front of the British fans. I went to watch the world championships the last time they were held in the UK back in 2008, in Wales. I was about 14 at the time and was in awe of all these top names racing in the UK. I seem to remember the event was quite difficult, I hope Hawkstone proves to be as tough – it should suit the Brits.”
TMX: You’re leading the EnduroGP World Championship by 37 points from Loic Larrieu – the guy who just won the ISDE – do you feel under much pressure going into your home round?
Holcombe: “I don’t feel under much pressure, certainly not from my team or anyone else. There is a certain amount of pressure from myself – I want to win the championship more than anything and to do it in front of the British fans would be amazing. I’m just focused on dong the best I can.”
TMX: Any worries that come the event that desire to perform in front of your friends and fans might put you off your stride a little?
Holcombe: “No, probably the opposite in fact. I always do well when there is a crowd cheering me on. When my friends have travelled with me to support me at other EnduroGP rounds it has only increased my will to win. It gives me a little adrenalin boost when you can hear the crowd are behind you and waving you on.”
TMX: Do you think the track at Hawkstone will suit you? It almost certainly won’t be dry and dusty.
Holcombe: “Yeah, that will be a welcome change. I have been looking forward to some cooler, possibly wetter conditions this year. When I was looking at the calendar for this season, I was actually quite worried about the hot and dry rounds of the championship. I never go that well on the fast, dusty, terrain and with the exception of round one in Finland, every event has been dry and dusty.
Hopefully Hawkstone and the final round in Germany should suit me.Hawkstone is a motocross track, but how much of that they will use we won’t know until we get there and actually walk the course.”
TMX: Hawkstone won’t be a motocross though, with a sprint enduro on Saturday and then a three-hour cross-country on Sunday. As something completely different to the ‘normal’ EnduroGP race, how will the format suit you?
Holcombe: “If I’m honest, I’m not too keen on the format itself but if that’s what it takes to get an EnduroGP round in the UK then I’m definitely behind the idea. I don’t think a lot of the riders know just how tough it will be. Saturday’s sprint will be hard but might suit some of the riders with motocross backgrounds.
“The three-hour cross-country race will be difficult too. I quite enjoy the three-hour races and I’d like to think I’m pretty well prepared for it. Obviously, I decided not to race at the ISDE so that I could focus on preparing for the cross-country race. I feel like that was the right decision, even if it wasn’t an easy one to make.”
TMX: Jamie McCanney and Brad Freeman are second in Enduro 2 and Enduro Junior classes respectively. Do you think the Hawkstone Park round will suit them?
Holcombe: “That would be great. I have been training with Jamie and Brad over the last couple of weeks and we’ve been able to push each other in the right direction and work on fitness and technique for the different format at Hawkstone. To have Brits on top of every podium would be awesome though.”
TMX: Have you been doing any special type of training in particular?
Holcombe: “Probably no different than any of the other top riders. I’ve been working on my fitness and concentration for the cross-country race – putting in multiple hour-long sessions on the bike. The sprint race will be fast tests of maybe six or seven minutes. So hopefully the course will be quite technical because that will suit me better.”
TMX: What about tactics for the cross-country race, what’s your plan?
Holcombe: “Oh, I’ve got a few ideas. I can’t say too much right now because it might devalue them but I have a good idea of what I want to achieve. The most important thing for me is to finish in front of Larrieu. I do have an advantage straight away in that he has just ridden the six-days, so that means I have had a lot longer to prepare. It’s been good training with Brad recently because you get to know what your pace is like when you can compare it to other riders. I know I am right up there, so we’ll just have to see.”
TMX: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the British fans on the run up to the EnduroGP at Hawkstone?
Holcombe: “Get down there and cheer on the local riders, you will love it. The crazier the atmosphere and support the better in my opinion. Make some noise and we won’t disappoint you.”