Brad Freeman: EnduroGP World Champ
Brad Freeman has claimed his fourth EnduroGP World Championship title over the weekend in at the GP of Ambert in France. The route went in and out of the forests that surround the small town as 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.
The guys from EnduroGP sat down with the Englishmen to give us insight into the life of an Enduro Champion. Here’s the official PR from EnduroGP…
“I 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.” These are the words of a World Champion, Brad Freeman.
It’s 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.
Brad Freeman: “It was really natural in how I started riding, my dad raced mx, and my grandfather also, and so the natural progression was for me to get on a 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. Three years later, the first motocross competitions came along and they were super fun times. Going to the MX races with the whole family is what every kid dreams of.”
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.
“I 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.”
Brad Freeman’s career that we all know today started 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 unique chemistry exists in that team.
“I think it’s 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. I’m 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 it’s incredible what we have done together but it’s 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 just the reward. I owe my career to this team for what they have done for me and that’s 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.”
You might falsely assume that everything goes perfectly well during a season which ends with a world title. Brad’s 2019 has been anything but easy, but it’s 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.
“The 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.”
“Win the World Championship”. 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.
“It 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 four-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 that’s 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 year 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 I’ll never forget. Really special.”
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.
“You 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 – and together you feel as one. It’s an awesome feeling but also so hard to describe. I don’t think 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 I’m talking about. It’s an insane feeling. You feel like you can do anything! And that’s 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!”
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.
“Work hard. There is no substitute for it and it’s so obvious who has done the work and who hasn’t, you can’t hide it at the races. In EnduroGP we race for over 7 hours and if you want to be the fastest in the world you’ve got to work really hard. You’ve got to train hard, on and off the bike, in the gym, running, cycling, swimming. You’ve got to revolve your life around getting faster on the motorbike. That’s 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: he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have excuses. If you want to win you’ve got to work hard. I learnt a lot from him.”
This is the life that Brad dreamed of. So, once you’re 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. It’s not only physical but also mental: during the races, sometimes you have to accept that you have to take that extra risk if it’s necessary.
“If you want to win in EnduroGP you’ve got to go fast and you’ve got to stay on your bike. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in order to win at this level is that you have to be willing to risk it a little sometimes when it’s needed. The last special, fighting for the day’s win… sometimes you just have to take a few risks to get the result you want. That’s why this sport is so dangerous but also so fun, it’s 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.”
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 you’re doing.
“It’s crazy… I have gone so far past my initial dreams that it’s 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. It’s crazy, but I’m so blessed and just trying to take it all in. Honestly, I don’t 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 that’s important. Stay humble… and see how far I can go in this sport. That’s my next goal.”
In the end, there’s 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 fulfill a dream or simply to reach the finish line, you do it because you can’t live without that sport which asks a lot of you, but gives even more back.
“Traditional Enduros will never die because Enduro is not a sport, it’s 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. It’s awesome… it’s 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 there’s 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 don’t finish a race you can’t 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. I’m 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 here’s to the future!”