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Steve Holcombe: Focused On Winning

As the defending EnduroGP World Champion, Beta Factory Racing's Steve Holcombe starts next weekend's opening round of the 2019 FIM Enduro World Championship as the rider to beat. Racing to his fourth consecutive world crown last October, the 24-year-old Brit has worked tirelessly during the off-season to ensure he's fully prepared for the start of the new series.

Fresh off an intensive six-week boot camp in Italy, and having claimed victory at the opening round of the Italian Enduro Championship, Holcombe is showing all the signs of an incredibly productive off-season and with no intention of slowing down…

How do you approach a new season - do you wipe the slate clean and start fresh or try to continue on from where you left off?

Steve Holcombe: "Personally, I like to forget about the previous season when entering a new one. Of course, it's important to reflect on what went well and what went bad. I look at the positive and negative aspects of how I was physically and mentally and work on the negatives during the off season. After last year I needed to reflect on what I achieved because it was way more than I'd ever planned or dreamed of doing in my racing career. Now coming into 2019 I'm ready to wipe the slate clean and go at it again. We're in a new season so the goal is about winning this year and not resting on what we've won before."

With four consecutive world titles now do you feel any added pressure to claim a fifth or possibly a sixth in 2019?

"If you go with the mentality of trying to remain unbeaten then it adds extra pressure. It becomes a do or die scenario, so if you don't succeed you view it as a bigger failure when it's not really like that at all. My goal as a rider is to keep building and progressing. I'm someone who doesn't want to lose. I hate losing. That's ultimately what makes me try so much harder during training and push much harder during a race."

What have you learned over the years, which makes entering a new season that little bit easier?

"I don't think it ever becomes easier. This is really only my fourth season as a pro rider, so I'm still finding out a lot about myself and what I can do. When you come off a winning year you can point to the reasons why it happened. Because of X, Y and Z. You go to them as your starting point for the new year try to implement what works, allowing you to cancel out what didn't. I've a lot of confidence in my program and the people around me, which helps make things that bit easier too. Also being based in Italy around the team during preseason keeps the focused on training and testing."

You've just completed a rigorous six-week training camp in Italy - why does something like that work for you?

"With an intense six-week training camp the improvements I make across that time instead of, say, two weeks in Spain is huge. At the beginning of the process you struggle with certain elements but come the end of it you're on it. I base myself at the Beta race shop in Italy to knuckle down and get ready. I owe it to myself and I owe it to the team to do so because it's my job to perform at my best. Staying in Italy for those six weeks ensures that there isn't a lot else to do but eat, sleep, train and be ready for the new season. I did a summer camp last year and managed to win both titles off the back of it, so that's added motivation to repeat the process."

It sounds physical, but it must also be something you enjoy?

"There's a weird sense of freedom when training and pushing yourself like that. I get a lot of satisfaction from it - sometimes I feel like I enjoy the process more than the outcome. To be honest I enjoy every aspect of my job. It's not just about the track or the top of the podium, it's the behind-the-scenes stuff that's not seen so much. I like to push my own personal limits of what I can do."

It's a long season of enduro - seven rounds and 14 days of racing - do you try to win from the off or build into the year ahead?

"I feel what I'm good at doing is to understand the situation I'm in. Some days someone else maybe faster than me, so on that day settling for second is ok. Often what happens is that people are faster but not consistently fast throughout the entire year. I can take that as confidence going in to Germany that I don't have to beat everyone at round one. As long as I'm getting solid points on the board, I can ease my way into a championship. I feel like I've got a wiser head now from winning those four titles and I'm excited for what lies ahead in 2019."

What are your thoughts on the 2019 EnduroGP calendar, are there any standout venues you're excited about?

"I feel it's good, traditional and the direction the championship needs to go. It makes you excited to jump in the camper van, travel Europe and hopefully get some results out of it. I'm looking forward to the Czech Republic. I raced a European round there in 2014 and it's such a good enduro location. Also, Rovetta in Italy is a venue I raced in 2015 and enjoyed a lot. Germany is a country I've had a lot of success in, so that adds confidence to start the year there. Portugal and Spain should be good too. To be honest the entire calendar looks great and I'm excited to go to them all - overall there's a lot to like about this year's series."

You've enjoyed a good off-season by claiming a win at the opening round of the Italian Enduro Championship, did that come as a surprise?

"It did a little because I hadn't purposefully prepared for that specific race. I used it as part of my training towards the EnduroGP opener and was already a little fatigued starting out on Saturday. On day one we gambled on the wrong rear tyre and struggled for grip early on. But towards the end of the day the times came back to me. I knew my pace was good and so Sunday I cracked on with things. It felt great to win knowing that I still had more to give and wasn't at my limit."

With round one of EnduroGP in Germany now firmly on the horizon is the objective to come out swinging and win?

"The season is so long and separated that I don't think you can come into round one operating at 100 per cent and still expect to be 100 per cent at the end of the season, nearly eight months later. For me round one in Germany is about getting the ball rolling, seeing where everyone is at and get good points on the board. Then we can push on for the rest of the season to come. Of course, I'd like to win, but I understand that with the way my training plan works it looks to have me at 100 per cent for Portugal and round two. However, if I do go to Germany and win, well, that's a hell of a bonus and confidence boost for me too."

The 2019 FIM Enduro World Championship begins in Dahlen, Germany on March 22-24.