Interview: Patrice Assendelft – Dutch MXoN team manager

It’s a huge weekend for the Dutch as the Motocross Des Nations heads to their backyard at Assen. Last year, after Vlaanderen was ruled out of the main races on medical grounds, they still finished second overall with two riders – Herlings and Coldenhoff, what a performance!

With the event being in their home country this year it brings added pressure and being clear favourites doesn’t help in that respect either.

We decided to give the Dutch team manager, Patrice Assendelft a call to get his thoughts on the event.

Gatedrop: Patrice, there’s plenty of anticipation in the air with Assen taking place next weekend. Is everyone ready for the biggest race of the year?

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Patrice Assendelft: We’ve done a lot of preparation, especially with Jeffrey (Herlings) because of his injury. We were scheduling the Nations and how much time we have, now we are so close to the event. We are really thrilled and looking forward to it. We’ve done a few training stages, last week and this week. As a team we’ve been very close together, we are very thrilled as a team to participate it this weekend.

Gatedrop: You had a tough decision to make for the MX2 class. A lot of people were under the impression that Roan van de Moosdijk would have been selected but you went with Vlaanderen. What are your reasons for picking Calvin?

Patrice Assendelft: Well, I took the decision after China. I was going to use the four training stages to make up my mind but after China I realised that these two guys are so close to each other. I mean there’s not a very big difference in riding and times and everything between one or the other. It’s been like that for the past six weeks and it’s still like that so I thought that if I waited longer that it would still be close in another weeks time. It’s not fair not giving one of the riders the chance to prepare themselves for the race. Also, for the team as they have to prepare all the gear and stuff.

I then said I’d choose the most experienced rider, you have to face the fact that Calvin, over the last GP’s, after Vialle and Prado has been the most consistent, fastest MX2 rider. We will have a lot of fun with Roan in the next few years because he’s definitely going to be our MX2 rider in the upcoming years. For this time I choose the most experienced one and that’s Calvin.

Roan accepted that very professionally and last week we done a few training stages and he has been there at every training stage. He will be there this weekend and he’ll also be Assen as part of the team. We will be present with four riders but three riding with Calvin in MX2.

Pic: Shot by Bavo

Gatedrop: Obviously as team manager, you have the final decision on the team but just how much input did Coldenhoff and Herlings have on Vlaanderen’s selection – did you speak to them about it?

Patrice Assendelft: No, because it’s my decision. I did consult them and they both said “well, it’s up to you and whether it’s Calvin or Roan it’s alright with us”.  I always said I was going to make the decision anyway but of course I really didn’t want to make a decision that’s really against those two because they’re my key players. But they both said it was my decision and whatever I decided, they’d agree with it and that they’d both be good riders in MX2. We can make it happen with both of them so they were fully fine with it.

Gatedrop: Going back to RedBud last year, France won but the real hero’s were the Dutch. After Vlaanderen couldn’t race, the Dutch finished second with two riders. You must have been a very proud team manager that day and you have good memories from RedBud despite not winning?

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Patrice Assendelft: Thank you (laughs). I mean it’s incredible we managed to be on the podium with only two riders. Calvin had so much bad luck and I think Glenn had the weekend of his life. He’s was extremely good and Jeffrey was good already for the entire season, he made a good weekend at RedBud too. A 1-1 and a 2-1, it was almost magic. Lucky for us we have seen the same Glenn Coldenhoff at the moment over the last five GP’s that we saw at RedBud last year. Maybe the magic is really going to happen this year who knows.

Gatedrop: Just on Glenn Coldenhoff on how he rode at RedBud and ending this season. What would you put that down too? He’s never really been the fastest guy before but if you take Herlings away now, he’s the best rider in MXGP at the moment.

Patrice Assendelft: I think with Jeffrey, in every sport, you have I don’t know, once in every twenty, thirty or forty years. You have an exceptional talent like Jeffrey like you have Roger Federer in Tennis, like you have Ronaldo and Messi in Football. I think Jeffrey is extremely talented and is the most hard working man I know. He’s so dedicated and he’s got so much reflection after his injuries always, to fight back and everything.

Glenn is a very very talented hard working young man who now has the benefits of his hard work over the years. The fact he’s getting a little bit older brings him so he knows his skills better, riding better and all the work he’s been doing  in the last ten-fifteen years is finally paying off for him. You sometimes have different type of riders, Jeffrey is a phenomenal talent and Glenn is a talent but through working hard and knowing his body very well and not doing extra exciting things on the track. Just doing his job, getting faster and faster. I think finally now we are seeing the real Glenn Coldenhoff and what he’s capable off, that’s to fight for titles.

Pic: Youthstream

Gatedrop: Just on Assen, there’s so much pressure on the Dutch being favourites. Is that something that worries you and what are you doing/saying to the riders to help take the pressure off?

Patrice Assendelft: (laughs) you know, of course I am not going to deny that we are one of the top favourites, maybe we are the top favourite but that’s only in theory. I mean last year we were one of the favourites but you just never know what’s going to happen. The first thing is that the qualifying is a lottery, you have to be ready for that. Anything can happen in three moto’s, everyone realises that. We are very much in contact as a team, a few times we’ve had dinner altogether with the wife, mechanics, we train a lot together and we have a group app were we make a lot of fun. We are also mature enough to make fun together but to say hey, this is sport and anything can happen. We need a little excitement and tension but it’s not too much, I think we can handle it.

Gatedrop: I was at Assen last year when Herlings won the MXGP World title and the atmosphere was crazy. What are expecting from the atmosphere next weekend?

Patrice Assendelft: It’s going to be a full house. I’ve saw a lot of camping around the circuit and they’re sold out already. A lot of people are coming from other countries which is good. There will be a lot of orange in the grandstand, a lot! You know, what I really like about Motorsports and especially Motocross, it’s not the same as in football that fans are arguing or fighting together, they make fun together and respect each other instead. It’s going to be crazy, our king will be present at race day and that’s very special for us as a Dutch Motocross team that our king will be there on the grandstand.  I’m really looking forward, I really hope it’ll be a packed house and we can make people proud.

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Gatedrop: In terms of preparation, how are the Dutch riders looking during training this week and last week?

Patrice Assendelft: Yeah, yeah, they’ve been doing a lot of work. Last week we spent a few days together at the sand circuits and we will do that up until Wednesday. We will be training together Monday and Wednesday. Besides that they are doing a lot of physical work and everything. I think on Thursday and Friday they will take some rest.

Gatedrop: Have the Dutch riders been riding much with the American’s and how are the American riders looking into the sand if you’ve seen any of them?

Patrice Assendelft: No, we haven’t been on the same track at the same time. We hire the tracks privately,  we hire it for us because we don’t want anybody else on the track. We are just training with the Dutch crew.

Gatedrop: The Dutch go in as heavy favourites but who do you see as challengers next weekend? As we know it’s the MXoN and anything can happen!

Patrice Assendelft: You never know. If you asked me four weeks ago, I would have said something different from today. I would say the American’s, Belgian’s, the French of course. I think that would be it but if I had to predict a podium I would say Netherlands, America, Belgium, that would be my three favourites.

Gatedrop: Obviously you’re mostly focusing on the Dutch team but as a Motocross person, are you looking forward to seeing Prado race the 450 and up against Herlings? What are you expecting from Prado?

Patrice Assendelft: You know, it’s going to be interesting. Prado is a very talented rider and is a great starter. At the beginning of the moto’s he will be a real competitor but really knowing how to use every CC from the 450cc, it really takes some time. You saw it with Herlings when he went to the 450cc a few years ago. The same with Pauls Jonass, he was almost as good as Prado in MX2. It takes some time to get used to the 450cc but Prado is a very talented rider so it’s going to be stiff competition but I am looking forward to it.

Gatedrop: Just on Vlaanderen, do you know his plans for 2020 yet and if we’ll see him in MXGP, there’s also been some talk about America. Also, if he goes MXGP would you still consider him for MX2 next year?

Patrice Assendelft: I don’t know if he’s already signed or found a team for next year. I don’t know. You know, we make up our mind every year about the team so looking already to Ernee next year is too early. I’ll think about that in Summer 2020.

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Main pic: KNMV