Interview: Stephen Rubini – A chance to start again

After narrowly missing out on the EMX250 title last year, Team Honda Racing Assomotor rider Stephen Rubini came into the 2020 season with a lot of promise. Unfortunately a pre-season injury derailed those hopes at the first two rounds, but this lockdown has given him the opportunity to let his body heal and now he’s fully fit, raring to go and ready to impress once again when the 2020 MX2 championship restarts.

How have you been coping with the quarantine in Belgium?

First of all, after Valkenswaard the lockdown was good for me because late this winter I had an injury with my neck and I didn’t ride like myself in the first two GPs. This meant after Valkenswaard I could take some time to rest my neck. It was good for me at first, but then, when you want to come back on the bike and see your friends and train like a usual, you can’t. Then it was pretty hard. The fact that we don’t know when the race will begin again makes it very hard to follow the programme, every training and workout when you don’t have an exact date of the next race is hard mentally.

Generally, at the moment, you’re keeping fit, rather than training?

This article continues below

Yes, I would say that is what I’m doing now. In Belgium we can still go out and do cycling or running, walking and things like that. Maximum of two people, so when I go cycling, I can go with a friend and workout together so that is helpful because you aren’t alone, but other than that, I think I am like everyone else and watching Netflix a lot!

That doesn’t sound too bad, so are you glad that you are in Belgium?

For sure Italy, France, Spain and other countries are really tough on the rules. I have called my parents in France and my brother and they are really locked down. If you are going out without permission you can get a fine so the rules are really tough there, so I’m pretty happy to be in Belgium because you can go out and exercise and things like that. I see many people out doing activities when I am cycling so it is nice that we don’t have to be at home 24/7.

I read that Lommel is opening back up soon, what do you know about that?

Yes, we don’t know exactly what the situation is and whether everybody can go. Its hard when you aren’t from Belgium to know everything so I’m looking for answers, to know whether it is only under 18s or if you need an invitation or things like that. I hope I am able to ride, even if it’s not every day, just to ride a little bit. I’m not even sure if I will be able to have a mechanic here in Belgium because my team mechanic is in Italy. It will be tough but if I can ride two or three times a week, it’ll be amazing for me.

This is probably the longest you’ve ever not ridden, does it make you miss motocross even more?

Except for injuries, yes. This is definitely the longest I have ever not ridden, if I’ve been fit and healthy. Even after the season, we have a holiday, but we miss riding and we realise how much we love riding. However, at this time of year, we are usually in the middle of the season, doing race after race and I really miss that. The gate drops, the feeling of the start line, the battles on the track and even the training because its all part of the game. Every minute spent on the bike, I now miss it.

Have you been able to replicate that competition in training, or online with other riders or friends with games?

This article continues below

Actually, I’m not the best cyclist ever, I’ve only really started the last couple of years. However, in this time I’ve done over 100km a couple of times, which was a challenge for me because I’ve never done that before. Luckily, I was riding with Brent van Doninck so that made it a bit easier for me, as he is a good cyclist and he pushed me. Also at home gym workouts, I’ve tried to push myself to 1000 V-Ups or similar things like that. I try to challenge myself a little bit but after one month and half, you want to challenge yourself on the bike and not just in the gym.

You talked about the neck injury before the season, did you reinjure that at Great Britain?

So two weeks before England, I had a crash in Lommel and I had one compressed vertebrae and it was really hurting me. It was impossible for me to fall asleep. Maybe I’d get two or three hours, so it really wasn’t too much. In England, I was starting to feel better, still not 100% but better, and then in the second race I had a gnarly crash and I hurt my neck again unfortunately. It definitely didn’t help, so in Valkenswaard one week later, it was impossible for me to ride. In the sand, you work twice as hard and it was really hard for me to focus as I was always thinking about the pain, and that just isn’t a good way to ride. We talked with the team and we decided to skip this one and possibly even Argentina, which was scheduled for two weeks later. I needed time to recover as it was impossible to ride with that pain.

Has the pain fully gone now?

I’m fully recovered now but it actually took more time for me to recover than I expected. It took almost one month before I didn’t feel any pain. The first two weeks, if I had a bad night, in the morning I had a headache so I’m really happy to be done with that!

When the season starts, you’ll be hoping to show what you can actually do?

It’s like a second chance for me. I can start again on the right foot, and I’m looking forward to start the season again and show what I’m capable of. I’m going to train hard and really enjoy every time I’m on the bike.

In terms of the season, have you been keeping up to date on all the changes?

This article continues below

I was really focused on that at the beginning of this break because I was anxious to start as soon as possible, but now every week there seems to be changes, so I’m looking at it but I’m giving it less importance. The last release (prior to today’s update) has Russia first, but I’m not sure we can go there, Germany will have to be changed and Spain might close the borders until 2021 so there are so many things that can change. Now, I am just waiting a final calendar and I really hope we will have a season but I’m scared that it could be bad. Whatever happens, I will be ready though.

When the season the restarts, what are you hoping to achieve in the MX2 class?

My goals are the same as the start of the season; I want to finish in the top 10 of the world championships and do as many top five results as possible. The main goal is to get on the podium, I really want to do that and I’m sure I’m capable of doing that. What I missed the past few years was consistency, and last year in EMX250 I had this and I was able to be consistent and now I want to do this in the MX2 class this year.

Interview: Honda pro racing

Pic: Shot by Bavo