Rene Baeten of Herlentals, Belgium won the second-ever Federation Internationale de Motocyclsime 500cc Motocross World Championship in 1957, starting a long tale of Belgian two-wheeled success that had a new chapter added at England’s Matterley Basin at the start of March when 19 year-old Jago Geerts won the MXGP of Great Britain. And he didn’t stop there. A week later over in Holland, he raced to third at the MXGP of The Netherlands. But like the rest of us, Geerts is now at home, in lockdown, and wondering what to do with himself.
Q: What are you up to during your lockdown in Belgium?
JAGO GEERTS: I’m also pretty bored at the moment. I can’t do much physical training because I have two weeks of rest on my schedule. I rode my bike two times the week after Valkenswaard, but then things became worse with the COVID-19 virus so we decided with the team that it was best to stop riding for a while. I have been doing some cycling and running to keep myself busy. I don’t like to stop completely with training when I have rest, so I keep training a little bit. It is more about having fun than really training.
Q: You came out swinging in 2020, winning the season opening MXGP of Great Britain at Matterley Basin. You backed that up with an opening moto win at the MXGP of The Netherlands in Holland. You guys really came in prepared, huh?
JG: Yes, I was feeling very good on the bike at the start of the season. We made a big step with the bike during the winter break. I also made a small step, both physically and riding-wise. So the whole package is better than last season. Yes, Matterley Basin was a weird race for everyone, I think. We had only one practice session on Saturday because of the bad weather, so it was difficult to adapt to the track. But I felt good on Sunday. The first race, I didn’t have the best start, but I passed a lot of riders in the first laps and after 15 minutes I was in second place. The leader crashed, and suddenly I was in the lead and I won the first moto of the year. The second heat, I got the holeshot and the second lap I was battling for the lead and crashed pretty hard. I rejoined the race in 10th place I think, and came back to fourth, which was enough for the overall win.
I was happy with a win in the first round, I didn’t expect that. Valkenswaard is only 30 minutes from home, so a lot of fans and friends came to support me. I won the first heat after a late pass for the lead with four laps to go. The second heat my start was very good, but I crashed hard in the second corner. I restarted in last place and the leader almost lapped me. I rode consistent lap times and felt good on the track. I finished in seventh place and I was happy about that, because I was so far behind on the first lap and this result was enough for my second podium of the year. The start of the season was good, and I hope to do the same when the season restarts again.
Q: Although you guys only got two rounds in, how did you size up your competition?
JG: That’s a difficult question for me. I just want to focus on myself, so I don’t look too much at my competitors. I ride the best when I focus on myself and I don’t know how my competitors deal with that. According to the updated calendar the season will start again on June 7 in Russia. Nobody knows how the situation will evolve with the COVID-19 virus. So we will need to wait and see. I hope we can start again in Russia, because otherwise the season will be so long that it will be difficult to stay in good shape the whole time.
Q: You’re the first Belgian racer to score a world championship win since 2012. A lot of people love motocross in that nation. Have you sensed Belgian fans and media getting behind you?
JG: Yes, of course. Belgium has had so many good riders and world champions in the past. But at the moment there are not so many good riders anymore. The government closed a lot of tracks. We only have around six tracks in whole Belgium. I hope that I can achieve good results the next years so that motocross gets more popular again over here. There are some good talents coming up the next years. For example, Liam Everts is riding very well. Also, now I’m starting to get some media attention from the Belgian media. My manager, Stefan Geukens, is doing a good job with that. He knows a lot of journalists and media companies, so it is going in the right direction. It is important to get motocross in the news as much as possible to get it more popular again.
Q: You’re still very early in your career, but would you ever consider racing supercross and motocross in the USA?
JG: I like the motocross and supercross in the USA, but it is a gamble to go from the MXGP to the AMA. The supercross is so different to normal motocross tracks so it is difficult to adapt for us. It takes a couple of years of training because the Americans grew up with these sort of tracks. So I would rather stay here in MXGP and try to be as successful as possible.