In-depth interview: EMX250 winner Rick Elzinga – This day will stay with me forever!

What a weekend it was for Rick Elzinga at Oss in front of his home fans as he won the second round of the EMX250 championship. It’s the first time for Elzinga winning at this level and after a few tough years battling through injury it’s really nice to see him show his true potential.

The 19-year-old has also been battling with illness which has seen him only being able to train normally for the two weeks prior to Oss so he will be hoping to put that behind him and push on the for the rest of the season.

We caught up with Elzinga to discuss his special day in front of his amazing home support at Oss and plans for the future – this could be his last year racing at this level!

GateDrop: Rick, let’s start with your weekend at Oss – wow! What an amazing day for you, can you just talk me through your day?

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Elzinga: The day started off okay. I woke up feeling good. In free practice I felt really good on the bike and we made some changes to the bike that were also really good and I went fastest by quite a bit so it felt really good. Timed practice went pretty good as well, I couldn’t do a fast lap in the first couple of laps so I came out second fastest. This was good for me, I’m usually not so good at qualifying and I’m much better in the races.

In the first moto I got an okay jump out of the gate but then I did a wheelie so I lost a bit of drive and was tenth. I quickly worked my way up to first but then with my sickness that I told you about in the UK, my fitness wasn’t the best so after eighteen minutes I was quite tired. I’ve only been able to train like normal for the past two weeks. With two laps to go, I slowed down a little bit and then Lapucci used a line that I thought was going to cut behind me so I braked a bit. In reality he just went around the outside so breaking had a counter effect and he passed me really easily actually. From there on I just couldn’t get back to him and I finished second.

The second moto my start was even worse, I got pinched right away after the start by Fredriksen and then I was about fifteenth. I worked my way up to eighth after the first lap which was pretty good. Again I was just behind Lapucci and then I got into second about five seconds behind Liam (Everts). I couldn’t get close to him because I was getting tired again but then at one point Lapucci got close to me so I wanted to keep him behind me as long as I could. The last three laps we went faster and then caught Liam, he then made a mistake and we were on his ass. I passed him, I think if I didn’t then Lapucci would have passed me so it was necessary to pass him and with that I got the overall as well so it was a really great day.

GateDrop: In that second moto – what was it like with the Dutch fans behind you? Where you aware that you needed to pass Everts for the overall?

Elzinga: I was aware of the overall but I was tired and of course I always really want to win but a podium would be magic for me as well. Second place would have been fine for me and if I didn’t have Lapucci behind me I don’t think I would have caught Liam.

In the second moto I was quite on the edge with my fitness, I was absolutely pushing myself out there. The Dutch fans were really helping me a lot with the adrenaline – they were cheering so hard for me I got some extra adrenaline so I could go faster. Without them it would have been impossible I think.

GateDrop: Crossing the finish line when you realised what you’d done, what where the emotions like and how did it feel?

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Elzinga: When I crossed the finish line, the first thing was I could hardly breathe. When you stop you get the hit from the air so I was quite dizzy. After I did the interview just before I went on the podium, I was so happy. The team boss came and we had a hug – we were happy and everyone was happy.

When I went back to the team that was when it hit me because my friends were there and the sponsors as well as the happy team. It felt so good and the team photo with the first place trophy was something really cool to do as well. I think this day will stay with me for the rest of my life.

GateDrop: Obviously we are used to the Dutch MXGP being at Valkenswaard but what was your thoughts on Oss as a replacement? It got gnarly!

Elzinga: Yeah, the GP was at Oss this year and I’ve been there twice before I think which isn’t a lot and you can’t train there either. At Valkenswaard you can train but I just never went there and I’ve only raced there around three times as well. So for me, it was kind of similar. I think I actually liked this track more, I liked the elevation and it’s quite a special track going up and down. Valkenswaard too but Oss has more steep hills. I liked it and it was really cool to race here.

GateDrop: Coming into the season, what where your expectations this year? Did you really expect to win a round or did you maybe surprise yourself a little in Oss?

Elzinga: Coming into the season I wasn’t expecting anything really. I’ve just been pushing and pushing and making changes to the bike. I’ve been training with Max Nagl as well. It was quite a surprise that I won but just before I got sick something had changed and it clicked. I was riding really good so it was really frustrating that I got sick because then I was riding really bad every time.

It was really cool to ride like I usually can and to do it every time at the track was a really good feeling. I always think a little less of myself than maybe I should, I was surprised that I could win at Oss and it was a really special feeling.

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GateDrop: I know coming into the season you were sick and the past few years you’ve been getting injured, how frustrating has that been for you? It’s important for you to stay injury free this year, I feel…

Elzinga: It has been frustrating. When you train really hard for something then you get injured, it is like this. I’m happy I’m not injured at the moment but it’s frustrating when you want to work hard and do things but you can’t because of the sickness I had.  I actually did some races with it and the riding wasn’t good at all. The UK was very frustrating because the mind set drops as well and everything gets worse. I didn’t enjoy the riding that much either which I always have to if I want to go fast.

GateDrop: At Matterley Basin you were also fast but starts didn’t help you, that seems to be your weak point at the moment, is that something you’re working on?

Elzinga: Eleventh in race one at UK was okay, my riding was okay but the starts and first couple of laps weren’t that good, the finish of the race wasn’t either because of my fitness. In the second moto I had a technical problem which wasn’t ideal but I don’t think I’d have improved on an eleventh. It was frustrating but it makes the win now feel even better. To be able to show myself that I can do it is a big deal for me. I hope I can keep this going now.

I’ve been working on my starts a lot now, you are right about that. I actually don’t know why my starts and have been bad, it seems to be something I always do (laughs). I am quite good during the first two laps passing guys when the crazy stuff is happening so it helps me get to the front fairly quickly. It isn’t that big of a deal but it means you use a lot of energy, if you start in the top five it’s a lot easier. I always have to push hard at the beginning and the risk of someone crashing in front of you or something happening is pretty big as well. I would love to start up at the front and see how we can do then.

GateDrop: How does it feel to have the TBS-Conversions team behind you? After all the injuries and not stuff I guess you wouldn’t have had many offers from teams etc?

Elzinga: It feels really good. I am lucky with MXTwente as well. I have a lot of sponsors that help me and especially MXTwente. Somehow last year I got Tom’s (Steensels) attention so I am happy to be here and stay here. They are helping me to improve my riding and my speed. I was really happy I could give back to him that I could win at Oss. I was really happy for him because he is really passionate about the sport. He’s a busy man and has to do a lot of work at TBS and building stuff as well.

I didn’t have many offers from teams, when I broke my arm and leg. We were waiting on a team but coming into Valkenswaard at 2020 I didn’t have a team but after that I got a deal with TBS-Conversions but my riding that year was really bad. I still had a plate and pin inside and the pin in my leg was bothering me so much I had to take it out. Having that many surgeries wasn’t good for the body. I was trying to adjust to the bike but I was always having arm pump and stuff, I don’t know why that was but over winter it went away. The riding then went better and better but after 2020 it was normal I didn’t have an offers, I was like a fifteenth place guy or something. The results weren’t ideal.

GateDrop: Looking ahead to the rest of the season, what’s your goals?

Elzinga: Now when I look ahead to the rest of the season, I would love to do some more podiums because I’m now fifth in the championship and only five points behind third place. It is doable so I will just keep working hard and try to get podiums and even some more wins every moto and I hope better starts too. We will see what we can do from there, after a couple more races I will see where I am at with the championship. For now I will just focus on the races.

GateDrop: When you think about 2022 have you a preference of class you’d like to compete – EMX250 or MX2? Is there any chance you might do any MX2 wild cards this year?

Elzinga: Well this is important. This is the year I want to try and get into MX2 and a team that is paying me to ride. Right now we have to pay for some stuff and you know, it’s quite expensive. I am at school as well for the meantime which means I am quite busy with everything going on. I really want to get into a team to race MX2 that will pay me to race, this is my dream. If it doesn’t happen, I think I will stop racing at this level and just go to school like I am now. With school and stuff I’m not too busy it’s just I have really limited time.

I hope I will get into a good team and one that pays me to race otherwise the dream will finish for me after this year. It would be quite hard to swallow if this would happen and especially with all the injuries I have had. I haven’t been able to show my real speed and even now I am not at 100% because I have school and stuff so I can’t train all day. With the sickness I had I am at around 80% because after 18 minutes I will be tired. I am working really hard on this and working to improve.

I would love to do some MX2 wildcards but only if I can do a 30 minute moto. You know, if I do some and can’t compete at the moment, there’s no point. We will see what happens but I am working hard to get back to being 100%.

GateDrop: Anything you’d like to add?

Elzinga: Yes, just that I am still at school and racing and this is the last year for teams to get me. With school and stuff I’m not too busy it’s just I have really limited time – maybe I don’t have enough to do both so I have a busy life. If I can get into a team I will stop school immediately and then work with the team to make Motocross my job. It if doesn’t happen I will race at this level and it will be more of a hobby. I am quite good learning stuff at school so I will be able to get a good job with some good money. It is a difficult decision but I said to myself before this season that it is the last year to make it. It makes it frustrating when you can’t do your best like at the UK because I was sick. If I keep going like I am now in the EMX250 races I am certain there will be a future for me in Motocross and that’s why I’m fighting every day to make it a reality.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Gino Maes