It was actually in 1995 that Joël Smets made his debut in the MxoN. The Belgian team won the event ending an American dominance of 15 years. Last year Smets shared his role as team manager with the legendary Joël Robert, but ‘Smetske’ will make his solo debut in the role this year. For the first time ever the Belgian MXoN team will also be supported by a proper team-promoter. Marketing and promotion duties will be catered for by 2CMX, the sports marketing agency of Christian Burnham and Carlo Vandekerkhof, who also run the Belgian motocross championship. The Belgian Motorcycle Federation has struck a five year deal for the promotion of the Belgian MXoN team with 2CMX earlier this year.
Team Belgium surely has big boots to fill with the legacy left by MX heroes like Stefan Everts and Smets. Luckily there’s a talented line-up of young riders looking to make a name for themselves. Smets will announce the final Belgian threesome at the GP in Namur, on the 5th of August , but the pre-selection includes nine riders:
Steve Ramon (Suzuki racing, MX1 WC) Kevin Strijbos (Suzuki racing, MX1 WC) Ken De Dijcker (CAS Honda, MX1 WC) Manuel Priem (TM Racing, MX1 WC) Clément Desalle (Inotec-Ortema-Suzuki, MX1 WC) Sven Breugelmans (KTM JM Racing, MX3 WC) Dennis Verbruggen (Van Beers-Yamaha, MX2 WC) Jeremy Van Horebeek (Van De Ven-KTM, MX2 WC) Joël Roelants (KTM JM Racing, MX2 EC)
Joël Smets on his selection: “Clearly we have to rebuild the Belgian team, although we don’t have to start from scratch either! Both Ramon and Strijbos have a couple of MxoN’s under their belt and they know what it takes. Still I didn’t want to exclude anyone at this stage. Take Sven Breugelmans for instance. Of course he’s not as much in the limelight, but he is currently leading the MX3 World Championship. At this moment MX2 is our weakest link because we don’t have a top rider in that class. On the other hand, young riders can make progress rapidly and that’s why I feel it’s important to keep an eye on guys like Verbruggen, Roelants and Van Horebeek. And let’s not forget Clément Desalle (18). Clément was a fulltime student until this week, but he already managed to put in some promising rides in MX1 both this season and last season. In order to fire up the unique MxoN spirit we will have a riding session together, with this group of nine riders, next Wednesday in Genk. I’m sure I will be pleasantly surprised, because it’s such an honor for a motocross rider to take part in the MXoN. You just want to be there. It’s the Olympics of motorcycling, ín the United States! How cool is that?”