Jago Geerts – the fight to be fit!

Belgium’s best Grand Prix rider since Clement Desalle walked his first world championship podium in 2018 as an eighteen-year-old and has finished top three in the MX2 standings for the last four years, three of those as #2, but Jago Geerts is watching his last title ambition in the class dwindle. The Monster Energy Yamaha star is already 104 points behind Adamo after the Grand Prix of Sweden and could also miss round sixteen of nineteen at Arnhem in the Netherlands this weekend.

Geerts ages out of MX2 this season and, thanks to his career-long association with Yamaha, is already set for the Monster Energy factory crew in the premier class for 2024 but is currently coping with the disappointment of a second injury setback that wrecked arguably his most potent bid to be Belgium’s first world champion in the two principal classes since Steve Ramon in 2007.

A scary downhill crash at the Grand Prix of France, round seven in May, led to a broken wrist and derailed a streak of five podiums in six rounds, including three wins. Geerts missed subsequent trips to Latvia and Germany but fired back in spectacular form to score 3rd, 1st, 1st and 1st to close to within 10 points of Adamo. The first moto mishap in Finland led to a smashed left collarbone and despite an attempt to ride ahead of the Swedish fixture less than two weeks later, Geerts was forced to heed medical advice and again sit on the sidelines.

“We tried on Thursday,” Team Manager Michele Lavetti told us. “But after a few laps it was not possible. Not because of the pain but he did not have the strength in the arm, so it was dangerous to try the Grand Prix like this.”

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The ’so near, yet so far’ complex is another rough episode for #93 after his 2022 championship duel with Tom Vialle went down to the final laps of the last moto of the season in Turkey. His slip that day in Afyon was decisive and the points gap after the chequered flag was 758 to 754 in the favour of his French rival.

“Two days after the operation for France he told us that he’d be back and would go for the title, nobody believed that…but he did,” Hans Corvers, Team Principal. “He got to ten points. But the crash in Finland is a little bit different. We all know how it ended in Turkey and we all know how he came back from that and then again after France. This one though, mentally; I saw tears. Honestly…this one was harder than losing the world title last year.

“He is still fighting,” he added. “Thursday was a few days too early. So, he is still mentally strong because he has a lot of pain. It was a four-hour operation and not a nice break. If, eleven days after the operation, he is still trying to ride a bike then you cannot say he is mentally down or giving up.”

Geerts might make the Dutch Grand Prix but will almost certainly return to exercise some demons for the Turkey (two weeks after Arnhem) and gather more points to ensure a fifth successive year with a championship top three medal. “It’s his sixth year with us and four of those he’s been riding for the title. So, it is especially hard for him because we know how hard he works,” Corvers says. “Last year should have been his. This year even more so…and it looks like it’s not meant to be. For him – and for the team – it is a big shame. A hard thing for the crew and hard for him.”

The acute sense of injustice comes with the feeling that Geerts reached a fresh, lofty level of his MX2 potential. The mistakes have been fewer, the elite competence in all conditions even higher. Two bone breaks in three months feel particularly harsh considering his development arch had steepened with
changes the 23-year-old made in his personal life. “Motocross will stay motocross as long as there is an engine and two wheels and that also means riders will crash,” Corvers states. “When you go on the bike then you know either tomorrow or after tomorrow there will be a crash. In the past Jago struggled and we could not find the solution. He’d be on the ground and we’d say “wow, how was that possible?!” Last year it was already much, much better and this year was OK. He crashed a few times of course, but then so does everybody. When he decided last winter to move to Monaco alone – not only for the financial structure – but for what that meant for his lifestyle then we also saw a change on the bike. He was more mature and stronger. I can see him growing even more and I think that will help him for the 450.”

Geerts used a positive and encouraging run at the 2022 Motocross of Nations with the YZ450F to help ease the Turkish despair last autumn but 2023 was meant to be a triumphant last assault on MX2, a term he entered as the heavy favourite. A 104-point deficit is not unbreachable with 240 left on the table but looks unlikely. “Until it is mathematically certain then I’m sure Jago will not stop thinking about MX2,” says Lavetti. “I asked him if he wants to start with the 450 and to begin preparing for the next chapter of his career and he replied ‘no, no…we keep working’.”

At some stage in the coming weeks, as the championship ploughs on to a conclusion, Geerts will likely turn to the YZ450F and to the prospect of MXGP and where he’ll continue in the same team structure run by Corvers after Yamaha’s surprising paddock shake-up. “We know he is a smooth rider, he rides on the torque and is not aggressive; the 450 will fit him better,” Corvers nods. “I don’t want to say that he will battle for the world title but for sure he will be ‘there’. He showed the world at the Nations that he can do it. The future looks nice. I hope he has the luck that he can catch at least one title.”

Article: Adam Wheeler

Image: Full Spectrum media