Interview: Calvin Vlaanderen
One rookie that went under the radar in 2016 was HSF Logistics KTM rider, Calvin Vlaanderen. Calvin picked up some injuries which clearly hindered him throughout the season but he had some good races showing great speed. Vlaanderen actually finished twelfth in the MX2 World Championship as a rookie – a pretty good season under the circumstances.
With Herlings moving out of the MX2 class it leaves the door open for new riders to run at the front of the class and grab some race wins. Calvin should be a lot stronger in 2017 with another winter behind him, he is certainly one rider to keep an eye out of throughout the season.
We decided to catch up with Vlaanderen before he takes part in the second round of the Italian Championship taking place this Sunday.
Gatedrop: Calvin, it doesn’t feel like that long ago the 2016 season ended. Where you happy with your speed/results last year?
Calvin Vlaanderen: I showed some good speed and had some pretty good races last season. Looking back at 2016 I am quite satisfied with how it all went. Obviously some small injuries took me out of having a good overall result but finishing 12th overall for my first full season is nothing to be bummed about.
Gatedrop: You picked up a few injuries throughout the season, which must have been frustrating because without them you could have ended up top ten in the series!
Calvin Vlaanderen: Yes that’s true, I had quite a few injuries. I’ll be honest, I was never really fit. It felt like I was always on my back foot just trying to get back to 100%. In the winter I had an ankle injury so going into Qatar I was not ready. It was just starting to get better when I suffered a broken shoulder blade. After that I just tried to finish off 2016 strong, trying to build into 2017. Which was going well until the last race of the season in Glen Helen when another rider took me out and I tore my ACL. So, I needed to start from 0 again.
Gatedrop: Since moving up from the EMX250 series what have you learnt racing in the MX2 World Championship and how does the level compare?
Calvin Vlaanderen: There is a big step from EMX250 to MX2. The speed is not really a big difference. The difference is you need to hold that speed for 30+2 because you are fighting each lap. There’s 20 guys your speed and they all want to win. The season is also a lot longer which is a lot tougher on our bodies.
Gatedrop: You are very strong in the sand, would you say hard pack is an area you need to improve?
Calvin Vlaanderen: Its funny that everyone says that. I don’t really feel a difference with my riding in the sand or hard pack. I did all my best results last season on hard pack. I’m just working hard to be a better rider on the hard pack as well as in the sand.
Gatedrop: Frank Grollman (Coldenhoff’s ex mechanic) is now working with the team, has he helped improve the bikes or is he only working with Bogers within the team?
Calvin Vlaanderen: It has been a big step for the team as well as myself having Frank in the team. Having a guy like Franky in the team is huge. The experience and knowledge he brings with him makes an improvement in the team. We can all learn from him. He is working together with Vollenberg to make our engines. Not only are the bikes like rockets now but the team is also a lot more structured.
Gatedrop: In the winter is there anything specific you have been working on in order to improve this year?
Calvin Vlaanderen: I haven’t been working on anything specific to be honest. I’m just focusing on myself, putting in the work and trusting in my program.
Gatedrop: Davy Pootjes has joined the team and along with Brian Bogers, it must be good to have two fast team mates to push you on? How’s your speed currently compare to them?
Calvin Vlaanderen: Having Davy join the team has been cool, we have been friends since we were small so we know each other quite well. It’s good to have two teammates like Brian and Davy who work hard and push you. We all have our good days and our bad days at the track but I would say we are all on similar speeds.
Gatedrop: What are your goals for the 2017 season?
Calvin Vlaanderen: I have my goals set for the season. I know myself and I know where I should be. I’ll let you know at the end of the season if I have achieved them.
Gatedrop: Obviously Herlings is moving to MXGP, does this winter feel different knowing that he won’t be racing and there could potentially be a lot of race winners?
Calvin Vlaanderen: It doesn’t really make a difference to me now that Jeffrey is out of MX2. As I said before I’m just focusing on myself and doing my work.
Gatedrop: With no Herlings who do you see being the favourite heading into the 2017 season?
Calvin Vlaanderen: (laughs) I don’t even know. I see myself being a bit of an underdog and I like that.
Interview: Andy McKinstry