Bulgaria’s Teodor Kabakchiev has claimed a historic debut stage win, securing victory on the first full day of competition at the Xross Hard Enduro Rally, round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. The Team Bulgaria powered by ECONT rider’s win marks not just a first for Kabakchiev in FIM Hard Enduro, but also a first for a Bulgarian competitor.

The first of three offroad days in the Serbian mountains, Kabakchiev took the Day One win ahead of GASGAS Factory Racing’s Michael Walkner, while KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler placed third. Fourth on thursday, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt maintained his lead in the overall standings by just 58 seconds from Kabakchiev.

After wednesday’s AKRAPOVIC Straight Rhythm prologue was topped by Bolt, the Xross Hard Enduro Rally – round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship – got down to business on thursday with the first of three 100-kilometre long offroad days.

Bolt led the field away, but it was Teodor Kabakchiev who took up an early lead on corrected time as they raced through the opening checkpoint. Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young was just 15 seconds adrift, with Britain’s Will Hoare (GASGAS) third.

Clearly at home in the conditions, Teodor Kabakchiev had steadily increased his lead after the second checkpoint, with Walkner moving up to second. Finding his feet in his return to racing following a knee injury, Manuel Lettenbichler was on pace in third. By the third checkpoint the positions had changed again with Walkner now leading over Kabakchiev, while Bolt was regrouping fast in third.

In the final stretch Teodor nailed his lines to perfection, overhauling Walkner on corrected time to come through for the Day One win. A career-first for the 24-year-old Bulgarian, the opening day of the Xross Hard Enduro Rally would be one to savour.

Also enjoying the best ride of his young career, Walkner ended his day in second to keep the heavy hitters of Lettenbichler and Bolt at bay in third and fourth. A strong ride in the closing stages elevated Graham Jarvis (Jarvis Racing Husqvarna) to fifth.

Teodor Kabakchiev: “Today is unbelievable. It feels incredible to have taken my first major stage win in Hard Enduro. Everything just sort of clicked today and went the right way for me. I was really enjoying the riding, hitting my GPS points, and fighting to catch those in front of me. Tomorrow should be more difficult, but I’ll do my best to keep this rhythm going.”

Michael Walkner: “What a day, that was so good out there! Today I was just trying to catch up to rider after rider. There was a lot of rocks hidden in the grass and I had a few sketchy moments trying to go fast.”

Manuel Lettenbichler: “That was a hard day, harder than expected. I caught up to the guys in front, reaching Billy. But it was tough to keep that pace and then also open the course with navigation. Together we tried our best to stay out front, but it was hard and the other guys were riding fast. But I’m happy to return to racing with a third place today and will look to build on that.”

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photos (c) Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool