Five-time world champion and Team Belgium manager Joël Smets made his MX of Nations selection public at the weekend at the traditional Keiheuvel International in Balen.
Belgium is traditionally one of the few teams able to challenge for the MXoN outright win and will possibly be one of the few teams fancied to topple the Americans this time around.
Smets, a former motocross world champion and also an MXoN winning team member for Belgium in 1995, 1997 and 2003, has named Clément Desalle (MX1), Steve Ramon (Open) and Jeremy Van Horebeek (MX2) to represent Belgium on September 25-26 in the US (at Lakewood, Denver, Colorado).
The Belgian squad has made the podium each time since Smets took over the management reins from Joël Robert in 2007.
Smets himself calls the trio ‘a logical choice’. However the conditions played an important role. Ramon was in balance with Ken De Dycker before the German GP winner suffered a shoulder injury in Sweden.
“I have been in touch with Ken a couple of times during the last couple of weeks,” said Smets.
“He indicated himself that he can only race full-on for 15 minutes. After that the strength in his shoulder is completely gone. This is a great pity because I would be happy to have De Dycker on the team and I know that he would have been highly motivated.
“Of course there is a possibility that the shoulder has almost recovered by the end of September. But meanwhile his training is also behind schedule and how strong is he mentally after such an injury? For the Nations you have to be at your best both physically and mentally.”
With Steve Ramon the Belgian team manager picked a proven quantity. The Bomb knows the ropes and is almost a guarantee for a top-3 in his class. The selection of Clément Desalle was the only certainty from the start. Desalle has been the only rider this season able to challenge Tony Cairoli on a regular basis.
On top of that the Rockstar-Teka-Suzuki rider has claimed an overall second in his AMA guest appearance in Undadilla this weekend. More difficult was the choice for the MX2 spot between Joël Roelants and Jeremy van Horebeek. “It was a tough call,” Smets said. “Both have had their little problems but in terms of speed Jeremy has an edge. In the MX2 world championship, there is a clear hierarchy with Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen and Jeffery Herling as leaders. Then you have guys like Steven Frossard, Gautier Paulin and Shaun Simpson but Jeremy certainly fits in that list.”
Just as in 2007 (when it was staged at Budd’s Creek, Maryland, in the USA) the MXoN takes place in the US again. Although a US edition provides additional prestige, it also means extra workload in terms of logistics and organisation.
“Still the location was not a determining factor for the selection, only a bonus. For both the Suzuki riders and Van Horebeek we can rely on awesome local support, respectively with the Rockstar-Makita-Suzuki team from Roger De Coster and the Pro Circuit-Kawasaki team of Mitch Payton. Admittedly, motocross is a mechanical sport, but the rider’s performance will always have the upper hand. But, don’t get me wrong we feel fortunate to be working with two great American teams for Thunder Valley especially because it will be quite a challenge to set up our bikes for an altitude of 1.859 metres, “says Smets.
Clément Desalle (Rockstar-Teka-Suzuki): The 21-year-old Desalle from Gouy-lez-Piéton is currently the best Belgian rider in the MX1 class. He is second in the MX1 World Championship standings, won two GP’s and rode to ten podium finishes and. Thunder Valley will be the second MXoN participation for the reigning Belgian champion. Clément claimed a podium spot on his first participation with Team Belgium last year in Franciacorta, Italy.
Steve Ramon (Rockstar Teka-Suzuki): Double world champion Ramon, 30, is gearing up for what will be his ninth MX of Nations. This makes Steve one of the most experienced guys behind the gate in Thunder Valley. Ramon took three GP podium finishes this season. He leads the Belgian MX Pro Series and is fourth in the MX1 World Championship. The Bomb has four individual victories to his name in the MXoN and won twice as a member of the Belgian team.
Jeremy Van Horebeek (CLS Kawasaki Pro Circuit): Van Horebeek was on the team on two previous occasions: Budds Creek (US) in 2007 and Donnington Park (Great-Britain) in 2008. The double Belgian MX2 champion always made the podium on these occasions. The 20-year-old rider from Lot is currently seventh in the World Championship despite an injury in the MX2 GP of Latvia. Last year he won one GP.
The Red Bull Motocross of Nations, or the world teams’ championship, has been the most important motocross event for decades now. More than 30 countries from all continents send their best motocross riders. That’s why the MX of Nations is often called “the Olympics of motocross”. The Belgian team has won the MX of Nations 14 times and with 53 rostrum finishes Belgium has the highest number of podium finishes. This year’s Red Bull Motocross of Nations takes place in the US, Lakewood-Denver (Colorado) on September 25/26.
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com