It had to come. Kevin Strijbos has been a model of consistency in the MX1 motocross world championships this year, scoring points in the double figures on all but one occasion. Whilst the bulk of media attention has been focused on the battles up front, the reserved Belgian was plugging away, always in the mix, keeping the score clicking. Those that know, had to consider him a candidate for a podium finish. His undeniable talent and speed are still there, he is consistent like Swiss clockwork, and in 2012, there is a hunger and drive and new intensity about him. He wants to impress his bootprint in the history of the season, one of the best riders out there.
His opportunity came at the fifth GP of the season at Beto Carrero in Brazil. Brazil is not unfamiliar with the phenomenon of motocross GP’s, but on this occasion the organizers really went to town. And what a town it was. Beto Carrero features a massive theme- and amusement park, and the track that the organizers prepared at the back of it, really fitted in with the fantasy theme. It’s hard to wax too lyrical about this beautiful track, but suffice it to say that it looked good enough to eat.
Hardcore motocross racers harbour no such poetic thoughts, though – when they see a track the only region of the brain that experiences stimulation is the race region. Kevin posted the 9th fastest qualifying time, but a bad start in the qualifying race kept the HM Plant rider caged in for a while, and from there he could only recover to a relatively modest 13th position.
The heavens opened up overnight, and rivers of rain pelted down on the track, turning the pristine circuit into a complete mud bath. One can imagine the exasperation of the organizers, but the Brazilian fans were not to be dissuaded by something as insignificant as a rainstorm, and they packed the available stands till there was no room for the proverbial mouse.
Such were the challenges of the track that only two riders braved the conditions to go out for the morning warm up. The MX1 field raised a seemingly impenetrable spray of mud as they charged down the start straight for the first time. Kevin was buried in the dark depths of the pack in 18th position. With thick, gooey mud reducing visibility to near zero, passing was extremely difficult, and the race turned into a battle of survival for most riders. Kevin’s experience in such conditions stood him in good stead (he won a junior world title in conditions such as these, after all), and he rode a patient and steady race , moving ever forward. Where others floundered, he flourished, and as the track got rougher and more rutted out, he reveled, posting some of the fastest lap times. He finally worked his way up to fifth position, a magnificent result given his problems off the start.
Although the rain had subsided and the mud covering was less prominent in race two, the track was rutted like a newly-plowed field, posing a new set of challenges. Kevin launched his KTM off the line with much more authority this time, and joined the fray in fourth position. Again he rode wisely and patiently, whilst still maintaining a searing pace, considering the conditions. When first race winner Christophe Pourcel bobbled, he was ready to pounce, and he brought his bike home in third position, a touch over seven seconds behind debut winner Xavier Boog.
With 36 new points in the world championship bag, Kevin was all smiles as he got called up to the podium for third place overall. The trophy looked like it weighed a ton, but such was his joy that he would have hoisted one twice the size. He holds steady in seventh position in the world standings, and has again underlined the fact that he has lost none of his world championship-level riding skills.
Reporting by Tinus Nel
Image Ray Archer