KicXstart Column #5 - August 2018

English version below!

My comeback at Imatra, nearly a full month after missing IRRC at Terlicko, was rather disappointing. The trip there was amazing: driving for days by myself, enjoying the summer weather and mainly beautiful Sweden. Early Thursday morning I picked up crew chief Stefan from the Helsinki airport, after which we were greeted in Imatra by rain, rain, and more rain. We even had to move our van and awning, because about two hours after unpacking our little spot in the paddock turned into a small lake. On the bright side: we happened to end up very close to one of my Finnish Instagram friends, Carl-Johan Kallman, who instantly dropped by to say hi, helped us move, and to top it off we had some fun battles on track. The racing itself conjured mixed feelings. My leg influenced riding a lot more than we anticipated, but considering the circumstances the results were very good. I even scored 12 points for the championship, and rose from a shared last place up to 15th.

Sadly the horrible news of William Dunlop’s passing made its way to us in Finland on Saturday evening. William was one of the few riders of who everyone assumed he’d simply grow old with his family. He was the ‘sensible brother’. That made the news hit extra hard. I’m incredibly happy I got to know him and his family at least a little bit during the North West 200. The flipside of this is that after reading the news my heart shattered for Janine, their daughter, and their unborn child. I literally dropped my phone in disbelief, and wasn’t able to explain to Stefan what had happened until a few minutes later. We proceeded to get together with a group, drank too much, and exchanged stories, ha. Luckily the track was damp for warmup on Sunday morning which was an excellent excuse to skip the session and sleep a bit longer. The drive home was less enjoyable, by myself again – but with memories of William, and somewhere in the back of my mind the thought that the Ulster Grand Prix was not going to work with my leg in its current state. After arriving home and some half successful attempts at accepting William’s death, the next bit of bad news hit… James Cowton passed after a group crash at the Southern 100. My rescue from all of this was a last-minute trip to some new IRRC friends in Austria, including a weekend at a circuit close to Rijeka (Croatia). Who ever said drinking at a race meeting isn’t good for anything?!

While in Vienna I of course kept working out, all the while hoping that the loss of strength I experienced after two laps on track at Imatra was due to sitting still for that long. In the Rijeka paddock I mainly worked on my German, did a lot of smiling and waving while pretending I knew what the conversation was about, and outdrank among others the boss of Suzuki Austria. My time in BSB when I favoured the company of the True Heroes team, consisting of veterans, is forever to blame for how fast of a drinker I now am among ‘normal’ people. I also got to ride two sessions on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 training bike of IRRC Supersport colleague Jochen Rotter… and very much enjoyed it! The bike is great, though mainly the circuit is beautiful. Wide, high grip, perfect camber in most turns, and up and down hills. Highly recommend it for a visit, I’m going back with my own bike as soon as possible!

After a delayed flight I arrived home late Monday night, and realized it was already race week for IRRC Chimay. Softly put not the favourite race of myself and my team, we did our best to enjoy it all anyway. The drive there was horrible, the paddock a bit disappointing, it was 38 degrees in the shade, no one with the organization spoke English, the toilets cost 50 cents for a row of portable toilets, showering cost 2 euros for a useless sauna… For a second there we thought we’d ended up in hell. True redemption for the weekend were our awesome neighbours, and a good start with 11th in free practice. The first qualifying session on Saturday was an eyeopener. Now pushing for a better laptime, it took about 3-4 laps before my leg was so weak I’d have no control over the bike in the case of any movement of the rear wheel. Not a great realization when you’re racing a road with no room for error. I continued on and qualified in 17th position, but called off the Ulster Grand Prix that evening after some deliberation with my team. The speeds at that circuit are so high, with my leg I’d either end up in the back of the field or off the track. Neither are an option. Even more heartbreak, which I’ll be using to fuel my two-week long training boot camp ahead of the next IRRC race at Horice. Our ‘home race’ in the Czech Republic, where I want to finish a good few spots ahead of the 14th and 13th I managed at Chimay.