It has been nine years since Kevin Strijbos won his last GP. In his blog he looks back on his weekend and how something he would never have thought would happen in the rough sand of Lommel, Belgium happened.
Lommel came up and I did not expect too much of that. Other years we always worked so hard for it and it always turned out bad. Now, this year I could not ride in the week before Lommel because of a big problem with painful blisters, so I had no expectations at all when we went there. Maybe that was a good thing for me; that I could do my thing and not think about results and I showed good speed immediately in free practice, maybe not the overall time but I felt great on my bike. But the whole weekend I just felt really good.
Saturday, I was third in the qualifying race and it was a surprise to me because riding went very easy. I did not have to put too much effort-in for that race. In the evening when I went back home to sleep, I thought maybe it was possible to get on the podium, but then everything had to go just right; nothing could go wrong. So I felt good and I had a good night’s sleep.
On Sunday, during warm up, the track was really nice, not so rough like last year and there was some speed here and there. It was more fun for me to ride. In the first moto I had a really good start, I got to second and was after Max Nagl. I started to match his speed, but that was wrong of me, so I had to slow down again, because I was not in my rhythm and I lost some places. In the end I found it again and came back up to third. I was so happy and also the team was so happy with that race. I was tired from that moto but I was still fine.
Then I was sitting in my camper thinking ‘maybe this could be a day that I can be back on the podium.’ I was third, which is good, and anything can happen at Lommel; crashes, changes or mistakes can happen easy. So I went to the line and was thinking ‘okay let’s try to have fun, be in my own flow, and own rhythm.’
My start was not good in the second race, I was 12th I think, but I pushed very hard to get back up-front. Then Clement Desalle crashed in front of me, so I moved up and was behind Nagl again, then Nagl crashed and I was then third. So, I thought ‘yes, this is going to be a podium, because 3-3 normally means podium.’ So I just kept on going-and-going and kept pushing.
On the last lap my mechanic Dave gave me the pit board that I’d won the GP and I could not believe it! I was thinking ‘did I see it right,’ so I looked again. And everyone was cheering, so I knew. And those last corners were one of the longest metres of my life. I did not want to crash, Van Horebeek was right behind me and I did not want to take any risks, I was riding so slow! I even did not jump the big jump in front of the VIP area, I could just not believe that I’d won. When I finally came over the finish-line everyone was cheering and hugging me. It was such a special moment after nine years.
Since Lierop in 2007 it has been an up-and-down rollercoaster. Some people even asked if I still believed in winning, but of course I believed in it. If you don’t believe in a top-three or a top-five, you should retire I think. And then to win on home soil, the first time I have ever won a GP in Belgium. I haven’t won a lot of GP’s, only six, and then on a sand track? Normally a sand track always goes bad for me and now it has gone so good. And with the special 1992-look bike that the team prepared for us all, plus the special gear from Shift and Suomy… everything just fell into a good place and I’m so happy with that.
When they called me onto the podium to stand on the first step, everyone was cheering and went wild. It’s such an amazing feeling. I’m proud of myself, for that I still kept on going, even with all the bad luck we’ve had, and for all the people who were still behind me for all these years. Not so many people thought that it was still possible, but my girlfriend, my Mum and Dad, friends, and especially Sylvain, always stayed behind me. It was such a pity that Sylvain was not there at the weekend though. He spoke with me on Friday before he left for Japan and he said it was my chance and he knew I could still do it.
He’s like my racing father! He’s been with me and believing in me for such a long time. I know he is proud and happy too.
It was just so nice. And with Yentl being pregnant with our baby boy, hopefully we can win some more so he can be there to see it and not just in her tummy! It was a special weekend for sure; a hopefully we can do it again. This is really what I needed for my confidence, knowing that I can still do it, so I’m really looking forward to the next few races.
I just want to say a big thanks to the team, my mechanic Dave; and to everybody who has helped me with everything!
Words: Yoline Cogghe.
Photos: Ray Archer.