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BRAD: BECOMING WORLD CHAMPION

ďI am so glad I was able to get into this world and live this life. It is what I dreamed of as I watched my heroes when I was young...and now I'm doing the same! I'm so blessed.Ē

These are the words of a World Champion.

Only a few days have passed since that Sunday in France. The route went in and out of the forests that surround the town of Ambert, thousands of people watched the riders race by in pursuit of their goals: out of all of them, one was about to have his dreams come true.

Itís very easy to go back to the beginnings: Bradley FREEMAN, a young three-year-old child from Staffordshire, got on his first motorbike twenty years ago.

ďIt was really natural in how I started riding... my dad raced mx... and my grandfather also, and so the natural progression was to get me to bike! I loved the freedom of it! A young kid with a motorbike is a recipe for fun... and, hell, did we have a lot of it!Ē

Three years later, the first motocross competitions.

ďThey were super fun times. Going to the mx races with the whole family is what every kid dreams of.Ē

If there is something that Brad really appreciates it is how important it is to have the right family, a family that supports you no matter what. A healthy environment which also brought him to think that nothing is impossible.

ďI grew up in a really happy and positive environment where they helped me believe that anything was possible, and I think that this had a massive impact!Ē

Brad Freemanís career that we all know today starts in 2017, when the Beta Boano Racing Team decides to bet on a young rider who just won the European Championships, but whose 2015 was characterised by injuries.
He has a very special relationship with his team. Walking around the paddock when the riders are not racing, one realises immediately what a unique chemistry exists in that team.

ďI think itís no secret that my team and I have a special relationship! And it goes much further than just the team. We are all really good friends... and it shows! The atmosphere in our pits is the best in the paddock and what we've done this year is a great story for Enduro! Three years ago they took a risk on me to race the World Championship.
I had never even done a full season before but they believed in me and gave me a platform to perform. Iím proud of the fact that I took the opportunity with both hands and open eyes. I learnt everything I could from them and believed in their work 100%, which I also think is a very important part!
I never doubted anything they said and now we have 4 World Championship titles in 3 years. I think itís incredible what we have done together but itís nothing less than what we deserve after the work we have put in! They are some of the most hard-working people I know and winning the EnduroGP World Championship is the just reward! I owe my career to this team for what they have done for me and thatís why our relationship is so strong. Even if I moved to another team in the future nothing would change... they are my family for life!Ē

You might falsely assume that everything goes perfectly well during a season which ends with a world title. Bradís 2019 has been anything but easy, but itís exactly that obstacle, that shoulder injury which made him suffer so much, which gave him the mental strength and the awareness to turn his dream into an actual objective to aim for.
ďThe first moment I realised I could win this EnduroGP Championship was after day 1 at the Italian GP. The week before in Greece I broke my collarbone and all week we were wondering whether racing was the right thing to do or not. After racing Saturday with a broken collarbone in the hardest GP of the season, I surprised a lot of people and even myself. I surprised myself because I realised just how much I wanted to win the Championship and how much I was willing to do anything in order to achieve my goal. Before Greece I had won a few races but was only hoping I could win the Championship... after the Italian GP I knew I could win the championship, I knew that it was mine to win and I just had to execute the final races perfectly.

ďWin the World ChampionshipĒ. This is something a child on a mini-bike might say, watching their heroes and dreaming about being just like them one day. You continue racing and, day-by-day, that bike becomes bigger and bigger, and the routes longer and more arduous. Then, suddenly, the day arrives when you realise that, unlike the vast majority of the other riders you have raced in your life, that apparently infantile thought has become reality.

ďIt was a weird feeling, so I had to wind down a bit after the Italian GP where I raced with a broken collarbone. I had a 4-point lead in the EnduroGP Championship over Steve! So I could go for it all... I got my shoulder fixed and worked so hard, the hardest in my career, to get back to my level from before the injury. I think I won the Championship during this time away from the races. We went to the Czech Republic and I won both days surprising a lot of people again... Leaving me a 10-points lead going into the last round. I won day 1 overall meaning a top 10 finish on day 2 would do it! Day 2 in France was hard because I just had to make sure nothing went wrong but thatís when stuff always does go wrong, but we managed it pretty well anyway... and the moment I crossed the line on the last test of the yeas was an indescribable feeling! I immediately felt just a massive weight lifted off my shoulders: we had done it, we were the best in the world!! What a feeling... a moment Iíll never forget. Really special.Ē

Enduro races are a team sport. The best team could never achieve good results without a good rider, but no rider could ever aim for victory without a team. Brad knows this well and he thinks about his bike, about how every single aspect has been taken care of by the members of the team throughout these years, about the attention and dedication they gave to the bike which brought him to the top of the world.

ďYou spend over 7 hours a day with it at the races and so you need to have a special relationship with your bike! In 2019, I found a feeling with my bike that I have never felt before. A sort of togetherness in which everything just feels right Ė and together you feel as one! Itís an awesome feeling but also so hard to describe. I think not many people will be able to relate to it but let me just say that, if or when you have the same feeling, you will know what Iím talking about. Itís an insane feeling. You feel like you can do anything! And thatís all thanks to my team because over the past 3 years they have moulded this bike around me in such a way that we have achieved incredible success with it!Ē

At the same time, a rider who wants to win also knows very well that there are rules to follow. Rules that are easily said but very difficult to respect.

ďWork hard! There is no substitute for it and itís so obvious who has done the work and who hasnít, you canít hide it at the races. In EnduroGP we race for over 7 hours and if you want to be the fastest in the world youíve got to work really hard. Youíve got to train hard, on and off the bike in the gym, running, cycling, swimming. Youíve got to revolve your life around getting faster on the motorbike. Thatís how I have developed over the past few years. Earlier in my career I stayed with a good friend of mine, Chris Hockey (Dr Shox Suspension), for a while and he taught me what it means to train: heís the kind of guy who doesnít have excuses. If you want to win youíve got to work hard! I learnt a lot from him.Ē

This is the life that Brad dreamed of. So, once youíre at a certain level and you want to be the best, you have to accept that most of the things you do are aimed at becoming faster and faster on your bike. Itís not only physical, but also mental: during the races, sometimes you have to accept that you have to take that extra risk if itís necessary.

ďIf you want to win in EnduroGP youíve got to go fast and youíve got to stay on your bike! One of the biggest things Iíve learned in order to win at this level in the past few years is that you have to be willing to risk it a little sometimes, when itís needed. The last special, fighting for the dayís win... sometimes you just have to take a few risks to get the result you want. Thatís why this sport is so dangerous but also so fun, itís an awesome feeling when it goes right of course! But working hard and having the endurance to go fast for the full day is one of the biggest factors, because we race for over 7 hours; but also having your mental game sorted is maybe most important of all.Ē

It might be difficult to ask a 23-year-old kid who has one four World Championships what is future goals might be. Answering this question is even more difficult. Being able still to be motivated once you have arrived in the Olympus of your sport is what differentiates the Champions from Great Athletes. Your thoughts need to stay simple, you always have to remember where you came from and what you did to get the results, and how much you actually care about what youíre doing.

ďIt's crazy...I have gone so far past my initial dreams that itís hard to take it all in! I dreamed of being a World Champion... and now we are the best in the world with 4 world titles! Itís crazy, but Iím so blessed and just trying to take it all in. Honestly, I donít know what is next... try and defend my EnduroGP World Championship I guess!! But I am not the type of person just to count these titles... I appreciate every one as if it was the first and thatís important! Stay humble... and see how far I can go in this sport! That's my next goal.Ē

In the end, thereís little difference whether you are a World Champion or an amateur. You get on that bike because you enjoy doing it. It will always be your passion. Every single time you spend those long hours in that saddle, whether it is to fulfil a dream or simply to reach the finish line, you do it because you canít live without that sport which asks a lot of you, but gives even more back.

ďTraditional Enduros will never die because Enduro is not a sport, itís a way of life! And you see that spirit when we go to the races in France and Germany and places like that. It is alive and well!
I love the challenge! Itís awesome... itís not like motocross in that you are just racing other riders, there are so many other factors! In Enduro you are racing the clock primarily... but also the other riders. Then thereís the different types of specials and terrain, and the weather because that can have a massive impact over the space of a 7-hour day. Then you have to think about the mechanics and looking after the bike because if you donít finish a race you canít have a good result! I think Enduro is very hard physically but for me even more so mentally, and I love that challenge. Being able to overcome situations in a race is an amazing feeling. I love Enduro, everything about it. Iím so glad I was able to find this sport at a young age and get into it! A massive thanks to everybody that helped me get here and hereís to the future!Ē

Ladies and Gentleman, the EnduroGP 2019 World Champion.

Thank you very much to Bradley Freeman and the Beta Boano Team.