Rene Baeten of Herlentals, Belgium won the second-ever Federation Internationale de Motocyclsime 500cc Motocross World Championship in 1957. Since then, in 63 years, 48 titles have been claimed by Belgian riders across a multitude of classes. Based on that alone it could be argued that the nation of 11 million people is one of the greatest in the history of professional motocross.
Imaging the roar from the paddock and the grandstands then when 19 year-old Jago Geerts – from Balen, Belgium – won the MXGP of Great Britain, at Matterley Basin – Winchester. A week later over in sandy Holland, it was again Geerts racing to the podium – with third at the MXGP of The Netherlands. A dream start to the season. Almost.
Now, like the rest of us, Geerts is at home, in lockdown, and wondering what to do with himself. With a little help from Jago’s manager Stefan Geukens, we rang up the 19 year-old Belgian to see what he has going on.
Jago, how are you and what are you up to during your lockdown in Belgium?
Jago: “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. We have been working in the garden of my grandpa for a couple of days now. Now I can feel that we have a good life as professional Motocross riders. Every day we go out and walk the dog and most of the days I am the one cooking the food. As far as being on the motorcycle, I rode my bike two times the week after Valkenswaard but then it 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.”
Have you been close communication with the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX 2 team and have you guys been able to plan anything at all in advance?
Jago: “Yes, my team is also following the situation with the Covid-19 virus closely. So we already made a plan together for the next weeks.”
You came out totally 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…
Jago: “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 fifteen 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 tenth 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 thirty 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.”
Although you guys only got two rounds of the World Championship in, how did you size up your competition?
Jago: “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 seven June 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.”
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?
Jago: “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 good so I hope we can make Motocross more popular again. Also, now I start 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.
I have you ask you this: Do you know Stefan Everts? That guy was a pretty good racer in his day, eh?
Jago: “Yes, he still is the most successful Belgian Motocross rider ever and arguably the best Motocross rider ever. I don’t know him really well personally but I was a fan during his Motocross career. He had such a nice riding style and was always so smooth. I think a lot of riders are jealous of his style.”
Editorial: Monster Energy / Eric Johnson
Photography: Monster Energy / Ray Archer