Five minute interview: From Junior to E1 World Champion in consecutive seasons – Bradley Freeman hit the senior ranks like a mallet in 2018.
Beta Boano Racing rider, Brad Freeman pitched into the 2018 season as World Junior Champion and with little to prove. Like most people including Bradley himself, we expected 2018 to be a learning year for the British rider. Who knew then that he’d jump straight into the seniors as a title contender?
It took Brad three rounds to bag his first senior win after which point he never looked back and took 10 straight wins in E1. On day one in Estonia, round four, he also added his first overall GP victory to ever-growing CV. In taking the E1 title he also amassed more world championship points in class (286) than any other rider.
The biggest step for any sports person is becoming a professional and to move forward as an athlete. As Freeman tells us, 2018 has been as much about improving as a person as it has been about improving as a rider. Moving to Italy, living and working with the Boano team, training with his team-mates daily and “growing up” are the key says Bradley.
The icing on the cake came at the final round where Freeman added second overall in the EnduroGP championship, behind friend and compatriot, Steve Holcombe.
By any measure that is some rookie season. We had to ask, how the hell did you do that Brad?!
Did you expect to win this season, your first year in the senior ranks?
Brad Freeman: “I didn’t expect anything, if I’m honest. I didn’t expect to win anything at the start of the year. Honestly. When I made the contract with the Boano team normally you get bonuses for podium places but I actually asked for fourth and fifth positions to be in the contract because I didn’t think I’d be on the podium even.
“We laugh about it now but it is quite funny to think that’s how we were seeing the season ahead.”
“Obviously I trained harder and I’m riding a bit faster but literally I think it is just growing up.”
From winning the Enduro Junior world title to moving up to E1 and competing with the big boys is a BIG step but you pulled it of big time, what do you put that down to. It seems like you took three steps forward not just one?
“I don’t really know what it is down to. I think last year I had some of the pieces but didn’t really put them together. I think part of that was just growing up and maturing.
“A lot of it is mindset, that’s what I’d put it down to really. Last year I’d have a fast test but then I’d crash in one or make a mistake and lose my head a bit and it just snowballs in those situations.
“This year I’ve just learnt to hold it together more even if I’m having some problems. Like in Arco (round five) when I lost my chain in the special test, you have to understand that these things happen and you’ve got to just deal with it. Obviously I trained harder and I’m riding a bit faster but literally I think it is just growing up.”
Your relationship with the Boano team must play a role too. How does it work? Did you create a strong relationship last year and build on that this year?
“Yeah, last year I started with everything new: new team, new bike, I’d never even been to Italy before! All of that was new and I was travelling to and from Italy to home, because I didn’t feel that comfortable there yet and didn’t know everybody.
“This year I’ve integrated more with the team, I live with or near the team, I see them every day. I go training with the other guys, on the bike, off the bike, I go eat in Jarno’s house (Boano team manager) a couple of days a week – it’s almost like it isn’t a team anymore, when we come to the race it’s a bit like being at home. I think I’ve been to my actual home in the UK for about two weeks this year.
“It’s one thing having a really good bike but it is another thing to have a good team. When I looked at the results last year, my good results where I went 1-1 were the ones where I’d been with the team for two weeks or whatever training and living with them. It was just easier.
“So this winter I spoke with Jarno to see if I could just try it, because I’d never done it before, last year was my first professional year as a rider, before that I was working five days a week. I knew if I wanted to take that next step I needed to stay with the Boano guys and be part of that family.”
“I’ve started to speak the language a bit and it has worked. I’m looking forward to a couple more years with the team.”
So you’re signed for two years with the Boano team?
“Yeah, that’s the plan to see if we can go one more step next year. I’ll be honest before I signed with the team I thought you needed to be in a factory team to win the world championship. But I understand now it’s not really true.
“People say it but until you do it you don’t believe it. It’s one thing having a really good bike but it is another thing to have a good team. Maybe some teams in the paddock have good bikes but maybe the team structure isn’t quite so perfect but this team is amazing. I haven’t had to ask for anything, everything I’ve needed I’ve got and I’m stood here now having ridden for two years and we’ve got two world championships.”
If you could pick out a highlight from the year what would it be?
“Estonia was obviously a highlight with my first win in EnduroGP but I think I’d go Portugal. Last year I finished fourth and first and I was so uncomfortable, I had nothing for the guys in the Junior class there.
“This year we went to exactly the same tests, exactly the same transfers and I finished first and second in class and fourth overall. It was kind of building: in Finland (round one) I had some good rides, in Spain (round two) I was kind of there or thereabouts, but I was aiming for that class win and it finally came in Portugal.”
“In a whole year of racing I’ve not only won the world championship but I have learnt so much.”
What are the things you have learnt this year, good or bad?
“It’s not really one thing to be fare. It is all those things we’ve been talking about, growing up as professional and working with the team.
“One thing that does change this year is the condition of the track in the tests. When you’re in the Juniors there’s already a line, it’s already bedded-in. But in the seniors it’s not. In Spain I was one of the first there for example and there wasn’t a line or anything at all in some places. It’s really weird to get used to as a rider being first or nearly first on the track.
“It’s a bit crazy still to be racing and beating the guys that two years ago I was aiming to be like as a pro rider. People like Steve [Holcombe], Remes, Larrieu and Salvini. In a whole year of racing I’ve not only won the world championship but I have learnt so, so much. It has been an invaluable year.
“The main thing also it to keep it going next year and keep having fun.”
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org