Kevin Strijbos wore the red, yellow and black of Belgium for the fifth time in his career, and at the age of 28, guided his works Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP RM-Z450 to a first chequered flag at the Motocross of Nations today.
The 2014 edition of this prestigious international ‘tournament’ with a 68-year history took place in the grey, cold and sandy confines of Kegums in Latvia but the vibrant atmosphere generated by 63,000 fans supporting more than 30 countries created a special vibe that belongs only to this special event.
Selected as one of the best three riders from his land and after an MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship year; in which he excelled to finish third, Strijbos joined with Jeremy Van Horebeek and Julien Lieber to push the Belgians to their 23rd podium from the last 25 incarnations of the ‘Nations as the ‘Red Devils’ were runners-up overall.
Strijbos’ victory ahead of Steven Frossard in the second of the three motos on the day was the undoubted highlight, and even though he struggled with some arm-pump, had the speed and stamina to stay ahead of the Frenchman. But the MX Open Class Pole Position-holder from Saturday did not enjoy the best of luck in the second moto: An engine stall and a slow-speed crash - where he lost a mound of positions as he was briefly trapped under his bike - then instigated a ruthless-attack through the pack where he made his way back up to ninth. His 1-9 scorecard was not enough to help the Belgians supersede the French but Strijbos enjoyed his champagne spray nonetheless to close a positive year of racing.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe had Glenn Coldenhoff and Jeremy Seewer in action for the Netherlands and Switzerland respectively. Both riders took turns to lead their MX2 qualification heat on Saturday and finished second and third behind MXGP World Champion Antonio Cairoli. Coldenhoff was nimble in the sand. He was the best MX2 racer of the whole pack in the first moto against the bigger 450s and finished an excellent seventh. At the second time of asking he was eighth and only defeated in the category by Tommy Searle. It was a similar predicament in the overall ranking whereby the Briton nudged the Suzuki man into second place for the 250cc brigade. Coldenhoff was the leading racer from the Dutch trio and signed-off his MX2 career in some style and only days before he starts testing on the RM-Z450 for 2015.
Seewer had an incident-packed day: He crashed chasing Chad Reed in the first moto and registered a 19th. In the second outing for the MX2 field he was 17th as the Swiss crew left Latvia with seventh in the Nations table.
Suzuki also had some important representation from Yoshitaka Atsuta for Japan and Matt Moss flying the colours for Australia as national champion. ‘Yoshi’ could not help the Japanese crew advance further than the B-Final on Sunday morning while Moss suffered a crash on the first corner of his qualification heat on Saturday. On Sunday he took a best finish of 15th before DNF-ing the second sprint for the MX Open division.
As is tradition, the Motocross of Nations drew the international motocross campaign to a close. Several high profile European Supercross events will take place in the winter; otherwise the Rockstar Suzuki athletes will test for 2015 and build-up their conditioning for pre-season international events in the first weeks and months of the New Year.
“The first race felt pretty easy. I pushed in the beginning but then had some arm-pump and had to slow but I was still ahead of Frossard. It felt like being at the front of a GP but the fans were amazing. It was a great feeling actually. I didn't have a great start in the second moto and came back to eighth but then stalled the bike, then crashed! My leg was stuck under the bike and I lost many positions. To come back to ninth was really good and I was happy with my speed and my ride…just not with the second place!”
“I’m pretty happy. It was a good day and my speed was pretty good all day-long. A shame about my starts. I won the first moto in the MX2 class and Tommy had a good start in the second. I could see him ahead and gave everything I could but it wasn’t enough. It was nice to catch [Eli] Tomac and I was charging-hard but he passed Leok and overtaking him is not so easy! In the end 7-8 and second in MX2…it is not a bad way to finish my MX2 career.”
Race 1: 1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 35:13.245; 2. Ryan Dungey (USA, KTM), +0:03.732; 3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), +0:04.814; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:13.464; 5. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +0:15.220; 6. Filip Bengtsson (SWE, KTM), +0:32.340; 7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:36.143; 8. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:40.866; 9. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:46.237; 10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), +0:47.836.
‘Nations top 10: France, USA, Belgium, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden.
Race 2: 1. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 35:28.584; 2. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:03.329; 3. Dean Wilson (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:21.875; 4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:23.377; 5. Fredrik Noren (SWE, Honda), +0:25.580; 6. Eli Tomac (USA, Honda), +0:26.102; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, TM), +0:26.726; 8. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:27.713; 9. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:43.243; 10. Marc de Reuver (NED, Honda), +0:45.552.
‘Nations top 10: France, Great Britain, Belgium, USA, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, Germany, Russia.
Race 3: 1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 34:03.950; 2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:02.146; 3. Eli Tomac (USA, Honda), +0:04.436; 4. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:21.369; 5. Dean Wilson (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:24.872; 6. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +0:26.519; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, TM), +0:27.657; 8. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Kawasaki), +0:29.083; 9. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:31.589; 10. Rui Goncalves (POR, Yamaha), +0:47.533.
Final ‘Nations top 10: France, Belgium, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Estonia, The Netherlands.
2014 MXoN Image Gallery (Ray Archer & Juan Pablo Acevedo): CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS