Manuel Lettenbichler in thrilling form at Hard Enduro championship opener
Germany's Manuel Lettenbichler finishes second at Abestone, scoring vital points in the opening round of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship.
While Italians were enjoying sporting success in London, one Englishman – Billy Bolt – was celebrating a dominant display in Italy, winning at Abestone, the newest Hard Enduro in the World Championship. Watch the race recap above.
Manuel Lettenbichler’s biggest rival won the first competitive round of the newly created world championship following a race-long duel, while hard enduro legend Graham Jarvis cut his way through the field for third.
It was the first-ever running of the Abestone Hard Enduro and the new event – held in the Appennine mountains 80km north of Florence – delivered big mountain riding, technical rocky climbs and challenging terrain. The top 50 riders came through a difficult 10km time trial course on Saturday to take on two laps of a world-class Hard Enduro course on Sunday.
Bolt had set the pace all weekend to take pole position, holding a 12-second cushion over Lettenbichler, but the reigning WESS champion quickly closed the gap. Showing his skills in the early technical river section, the two stars swapped the lead throughout the two laps. Lettenbichler edged the climbs up the rocky mountain, but Bolt held the advantage on the way down. In the final descent, the Brit nudged in front of the KTM rider and held the lead to the flag.
“I’m a little bummed not to have won, but second is definitely a great start to the season and the pace we had over the rest of the field was very strong,” said Lettenbichler. “I can’t complain about my riding, I gave it everything and it was a good fight with Billy. I caught him early in the river and we rode back and forth together for most of the race. It came down to the wire but just didn’t go my way. But it’s good to know where my pace is at now and with what we showed today, there’s going to be a lot more tight battles to come.”
See the race from Paul Bolton's POV:
Paul Bolton's POV at Abestone Hard Enduro
“It’s been a dream weekend for me to be honest. I came here wanting to show that my pace at Extreme XL Lagares was no fluke and that I’m ready for the riverbeds and climbs,” said Bolt. “The race itself was a bit of a blur, it was proper intense. I messed the early river section up and Mani got on my wheel, and we just battled from there. He had me in the Minestrone Rock Garden, but I felt strong in the woods. On the final lap, I just went for the pass, made it stick and hung it out for the win!”
The two were the class of the field, holding a 13-minute lead over the next rider, the evergreen Graham Jarvis who had himself blitzed the field to finish third. This was despite starting in ninth place after gambling on running light by not refuelling.
“I really enjoyed today – I was in the fight for the podium early on and heading through the river section I made a mistake that cost me some time,” said Blasuziak. “The event here in Italy has been great, the fans have been amazing, too. The race is really intense, the terrain is perfect for Hard Enduro – I hope it stays on the calendar for a long time to come.”
The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship continues with round four at Red Bull Romaniacs on July 27-31.
Hard Enduro World Championship standings
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