There is a reason why so many of the best Enduro riders are from here.
This is not so much because of the terrain the tyres’ studs have to grip here, but mainly because of the sky above which unloads more rainwater than anywhere else in Europe.
It’s in these places, where mud is more well-known than dust, that riders grow up who love motorcycling and follow a dream.
Sometimes this dream becomes reality.
Steve HOLCOMBE was born in Barnstaple, a city in Devon, England, and from the very beginning he dreamt about what later became true: make a living from what he loves most. Riding his bike and winning.
We could mention the four World Championship titles, two EnduroGP and two Enduro3, that Steve won in the last three years, but this would be limiting for a 24-year-old guy who found himself realising a lifetime’s dream from one moment to the next.
“Racing has always been my absolute priority. Sometimes I put myself down because nobody in school and not even in college supported me. It was very difficult at times.”
He often spent his weekends at the race venues. Many Saturdays and Sundays spent with the family at venues all across the United Kingdom, where Steve and his older brother raced both in Motocross and Enduro, honing their craft in one of the toughest local championships.
For six years he divided his time between both discipline until, at the age of twelve, Steve decided to dedicate himself exclusively to the latter. Never has a decision been more right.
Don’t imagine a typical wunderkind destined for success. Steve isn’t one at all.
“I am a normal guy from a normal family. If I made it, everyone can.”
Everyone knows that he isn’t normal rider. A normal rider doesn’t win and doesn’t ride a bike the way he does; however, there’s a hidden truth behind this statement that every Enduro lover can identify with.
Even the world’s best riders are willing to deal with the pain – and to face those risks – because they are crazy about what they do.
Steve still sees himself as one of those who are the true heart and soul of regularity. This isn’t an empty claim because he himself admits that he started riding just to have fun. The path to becoming World Champion was a gradual one, made up of small steps towards a goal which he has always dreamt about ever since his school days.
Today he is aiming for more great results and a chronometer is activated most of the times he gets on a bike, even during training sessions. Steve, unlike other riders, continues riding his bike in the offseason. Then, the hill-climbs and motocross days are pure fun and he enjoys them without the anxiety of the stopwatch.
First and foremost, however, the life of an Enduro rider is a great responsibility.
“Our sport is actually very individual. Yes, there are teams that support us but, in the end, you as rider are the one responsible for the setup of the motorcycle, for the technical choices when driving, and for accidents which can happen. The rider is at the centre of it all and remains more important than the vehicle.”
An Enduro rider needs to be able to adapt to different phases: not only training, but also those moments before or during a competition. Steve is convinced that consistency makes the difference during a World Championship. He tells us that he has always been a careful rider.
“I prefer being second to not crossing the finish line at all”, he adds.
It really is the mind that makes the difference in this sport. It needs to be completely empty at the start line, and this is exactly why all riders have an organisational team behind them that enables them to think only about the race.
“Good memory is crucial. For example, good preparatory reconnaissance can set you apart: you really need to remember every single detail of the route in order to be able to give your all from the very beginning. However, experience also helps you a lot, for example when having to adapt to all the different types of terrain we riders have to tackle. In the end, all competitions are similar in this aspect so the more you have raced, the better it is.”
Steve’s head has never betrayed him not even during this season which has been a constant battle due to various physical problems.
“I won the first GP but then I didn’t feel so well physically so it was tough getting through the four successive competitions. Psychologically Spain was by far the most difficult because I realised I had to accept being amongst the first ten only as my body would not let me push harder. Greece was very tricky because it was the hottest race of the season even if at first I thought I had recovered. It became a question of pure survival in order to make it to the finish.
Thankfully, the title race is still open and I feel much better going into the two competitions ahead. You have to take your own physique to the very limit during the training sessions. Then it’s easier to go too far. This is something I learned this year!”
Talking to him you really understand that Steve doesn’t spare himself during training.
He is living his dream but he also admits that sometimes it is very difficult to deal with the fatigue that anyone who chooses to become a professional athlete has to live with.
It’s easy: you have to accept feeling exhausted for about 80% of your time.
Nothing happens by chance.