A few days ago I rode at Lommel for an International race and it is not the first time I have ridden in the snow and ice, even if it is an unusual situation and a bit of a waste. We were told that the track would be cleared and graded before the meeting but they had a problem with the machinery on Saturday, so it was rock hard and difficult to ride on Sunday because it was so slippery. I did my motos and took it easy.
We usually have a few options for pre-season races every year but obviously the early months mean that these events can be victims of the weather and winter conditions. I have been at races where they have been cancelled at the last moment; in Lommel a decision like that was not made! The internationals are important because they allow you to build up your speed and confidence to be ready for the start of the World Championship.
One week beforehand we were in Italy for the Mantova Starcross and that was the first meeting for me and the team. I travelled to Italy with my dad and used his small camper. I had bought a new one but at the end of 2009 I lost the registration papers and hadn’t received the new version yet, so I needed him to drive me down there.
I was happy with the three motos, even if I did have a lot of arm-pump in the first race and had to slow down. The next two were fine and all of my starts meant I was right up there going for the lead in the first turns. I hadn’t been riding so much in January so I was a little surprised with how easily everything came to me; normally I am not that good in the first few outings of the year! The track was not easy and there were a lot of ruts as well as hard and soft parts of the terrain. It was hard to read sometimes.
Mantova was the start of a pretty heavy schedule of races for me. I had spent part of December in Portugal doing running and cycling and then came home to start riding in January but as the weather was so poor we headed to the south of France for a week. After that I managed a few trips to the sandy circuit of Dunkirk because most of the tracks in Belgium were still closed. So I came to Italy with not a great deal of track-time but it worked out OK.
The GPs are of course the most important races during the year but I like the Belgian Championship and will continue to do it. It means that I have a busy calendar but I think it gives my fans an extra chance to see me compete and I value the title.
I have a new mechanic, Bo, who worked with me a few years, again and is a good friend. With Frank taking a step back from his position, there was the chance for Bo to come into the team after previously working with the MX2 guys. I am happy he is with us and we get on well together. The RM-Z450 we used at Mantova is more or less my 2010 factory bike and there are no major differences, just some refinements here-and-there like a new silencer.
On Friday we will go to Valence for the next International and then stay in France for several days to do some testing. In two weeks we will be in the UK for Hawkstone. Before long Bulgaria and the first Grand Prix will be here!