Stefan Everts interview - 2005
Posted on December 04, 2018
I have to admit, with the off-season and not a lot happening, its hard to write about anything. What I am enjoying though is checking out some old CD's and finding things I figured were gone forever. Check out this cool interview with Stefan Everts after his won his ninth World championship.
As the 2005 World MX1 championship was unfolding it was that defending champion Stefan Everts wasn't doing it easy, but he wasn't doing it that hard either. He didn't look panicked throughout the season, instead he remained confident that his early season run had already secured his ninth world title. Even when he failed to win a Grand Prix for two months in June and July he just sat back and watched as the likes of Josh Coppins, Ben Townley, Kevin Strijbos and Mickael Pichon fought over his scraps. His championship lead still strong and his competition crumbling around him the rode away with yet another championship. While this season has been a tough one for Everts, he rates other years much more difficult.
"To come back in 2001 after two years of injury that was all about confidence many doubted I could come back. I had a bad time in 1996, the fuel problems (Everts was excluded from a GP for illegal fuel), technical problems, I was a long way behind in the points, 70 points behind Bervoets. I mean 2003 was the best season of my life, winning 18 GP's in one season, taking the three wins in France, (125cc/250cc and 500cc), winning the ISDE overall, I really had a great season, I will never have a season like that again, I can't imagine anyone will. We (the Belgian team) won the Motocross des Nations also in Zolder. I have had some mixed championship runs. This year was different, the competition was tough with so many crashes (from Everts) and we had a high competition level. The one thing I always had in my favour was in the championship points I always had a big lead, and at one point I was losing four or five Grands Prix to Coppins and the others, but I never let them get close enough to really worry me. I felt I am getting older, you can feel that early at a race, in practise I am thinking these guys are going so fast so quickly, so early, I really need to get my laps on the track to get a good time. I am not the fastest anymore, at least not as often as I used to be."
Still though the feeling of winning this year’s championship, in front of around 30,000 spectators and many of those his loyal supporters, what a buzz. As he crossed the finish line there stood around 50 of his fan club members waiting for him, flags waving and air horns bellowing into the warm summer air They lifted him up on their shoulders and carry him to the podium, we had seen it so many times before, but this moment remains one of the best in our sport. Amazingly after winning eight previous world titles Everts has never done so in front of his beloved home crowd (in Belgium), the win in Lierop, Holland was the closest he has ever come to doing so.
"I was so happy in Lierop, it was the best victory for me in terms of the weather was perfect, the track was very good, just my type of circuit, the way I won the Grand Prix, taking both moto’s, plus it was also a tough season. It's the first time I have ever won a championship so close to Belgium. So I had the fans around me, so many fans. I won my first title in Japan, then in France, third in Poland, fourth in Switzerland, then in Austria, number six in Czech Republic, then my seventh in Czech Republic and then number eight in Ireland. This year was the first time so close to home. I could have won it in Lierop in 2001, but my bike broke in a moto and I had to wait until Austria. It was also so important for me to show I was the quickest rider in the series. I was not getting frustrated when I was losing races, or Grands Prix. I was relieved when I won in Gaildorf, and then again in Holland. I knew I would be strong in the sand in Holland. The only guys I had to fear in Lierop were Ramon and Townley. I had good confidence coming into that race."
Everts did celebrate his ninth title on the Sunday night after the race in Lierop, drinking beer until the early hours and then backing up with his yearly party at his home village circuit in Neeroeteren in Belgium on Monday night. Usually taking it easy with drinking on this occasion the king let his hair down and forgot the pressures of his season.
"I drank some beer on Sunday night, I couldn't drive the camper home. On Monday night I drank some vodka and Redbull, I think I had about six, or seven, and then some Bacardi rum. I didn't feel sick the next day, I was just so tired from the race, and then Sunday night and Monday night. You know it's nice when the fans are waiting for you. I don't see them around the circuit. When I am racing I don't see them on the side of the track. You are so focused on the track and once in a while you see some people, it's a pity, because it is so nice to see people so excited. I can't see what so many people see. I mean I have a lot of fans, and of course in Belgium it's crazy."
What Everts did learn in the past is to not enter a racing season thinking he is unbeatable. For his 2005 defence that proved to be his most important weapon as he lined up against riders who in the past had beaten with ease. On this occasion and when Everts age seems to be playing a part it was experience that got Everts through. In a previous interview, five time World champion Eric Geboers told how he struggled to win some years because he went into the season being too confident. Everts is not about to make that mistake in the last days of his career.
"I don't do that anymore. I used to have the problem that I would go into the season and think I was unbeatable, I was riding so well, but that is a problem. It's a problem you have inside and you can't stop it. I knew that is was wrong to think I was unbeatable, but those races you are not going to win. It is so difficult to find the right balance, you can't be over confidence, but you can't be lacking confidence, it's a fine line between success and failure. The last five years I have had that balance. Especially in the last three years, I have found the puzzle, put everything into place. The training, the rest period, I really am complete in so many things. Winning a first title is like riding in the dark. You can start the season with such a mixed feeling, you don't know what you are doing really, and I had my father who had the experience, so it was a little different for me. I often wonder how I won that first title. You start to win GP's and you're confidence grows, but you are still riding in the dark a little, it's the hardest one to win for sure, at least I think."
In a season where he often struggled to find his best speed, and when other riders were pushing him around, it became obvious that the greatest GP rider of all time was not worried about his lack of form mid-season. What he did enjoy though was the moments when he rode at his best, and in these moments he was a league above his rivals. In the mud of Gaildorf and the thick sand of Matchams Park and Lierop.
"I had many moments, Gaildorf was good, and also Matchams Park I was on it. I pulled away two seconds a lap and I wasn't even pushing. I am getting older, some races I have it really difficult, but Matchams and Lierop I had complete control. Japan was a great race in the second moto. Other times like Isle of Wight I didn't feel good, I couldn't find my rhythm on the track. When I was younger I could find my speed quicker."
New rivals always give Everts a special motivation. When World MX2 champion Ben Townley arrived on the MX1 scene there were bound to be fireworks, and while the two a great friends the battle between the two World champions was going to be huge. Everts has respect for the New Zealander, and is not scared to say it, he did see moments when Townley struggled against the best GP riders in the world.
"Ben is for sure the most talented guy we have seen for many years. He has a lot of talent and he is so determined. He is only kid I have seen like that, I can't think of anyone else who has what he has. Had he stayed in Europe he would have won so many titles, nobody would have touched him. I am more impressed with Ben than even Tortelli or the others. I think Ben is maybe stronger than me, but he has that sometimes too much, he sometimes is too confident, and then he makes problems for himself. I don't see his season as one with mistakes for him, he is getting experience and he is doing it so well. If you look at Christophe Pourcel, he is like Ben three years ago, but we have to wait and see what determination he has, and what he can do in the next three years, for sure he has talent. At this moment we have more young kids than ever. Riders like Cairoli, Rattray, Townley, the Pourcel brothers, the German guy Schiffer, it's his first year, and he looks like a good one. So many things though can make you or break you. If you look at Marc de Reuver, he is a great rider, but he makes too many mistakes. It's going to be tough for him in 2006. Jumping on a 450 is a big thing, it's a big bike and you can get in trouble. I think Josh stepped it up a little bit, at one point he was riding strong, and he didn't start the year so strong because he was injured. I can't be everywhere the fastest guy, and this year I had that, whether it be Coppins or Strijbos, the top riders can all ride a bike."
One race, or even country Stefan Everts would like to never again visit is South Africa. The event has seen the very worst of Stefan Everts. Of course in the 2004 race he was penalized for throwing his goggles at Mickael Pichon after Pichon had knocked him off his bike early in the race. Then this year Everts lost the GP after crashing on the last lap of the GP while leading Josh Coppins. So angry was Everts that he failed to congratulate Coppins on the podium and then stormed off in an angry rage. It was so unlike our great champion and something that still puzzles him.
"I don't know about South Africa. Everts and South Africa do not mesh. I don't know what happens to me in South Africa. I have myself pretty much under control on most occasions. What happen this year, I would have been disappointed had that happen anywhere. I think beside not shaking Josh's hand on the podium and having such a look on my face on the podium, this year wasn't so bad. I told Josh I was sorry about not shaking his hand, and I think he appreciated that. It was such a disappointing moment for me. The first moto was a tough race, Josh won and I was having hard times. The second moto was another good one between Josh and me, but I was a little quicker, then I just gave the GP away. The crash was my mistake, I was waving to the crowd, and when I landed I hit a stone and I crashed. Still at that moment I was still in the lead, but then what happen really pissed me off. The rubber on my front brake was stuck. I could feel there was something wrong, and I continued, and Josh had not passed me yet. I could see the rubber and I tried to get it out. While I was trying to get it out Josh passed me, and that was it for me, I was so unlucky with that stupid rubber thing. South Africa was the lowest moment of the year for me. The way I lost it, all the other races I lost because I was slower, but in South Africa I should have won."
Of course next season will see some new challenges. Sebastien Tortelli the last rider to beat Everts in a world championship is returning to Europe after seven years racing in America. Tortelli will race for the KTM factory in the MX1 class. Everts will not underestimate Tortelli despite the fact the 1998 World 250cc champion has spent the last seven years often injured in the American series.
"Tortelli was so consistent the whole year. I didn't expect him to be so consistent, I was waiting for him to make a mistake and he didn't. From the guys at the moment they are not consistent enough. I made a lot of mistakes this year, more than ever, but I was still more consistent that the others. That is the area you have to work hard, I was taking points when the others were not. At this moment I don't look at anything yet. A lot of things change in the winter. Tortelli is coming back, Pichon is changing bikes. I never underestimate my rivals. That is how I always prepare myself. You know Tortelli can be as good again as 1998. It is better to be in your mind ready for the worst. People might say Tortelli is coming back from injury, three years on the injured list, and he is changing bikes, but I don't do that, I don't look at his possible weakness, I look at what he might be able to do."
As the season rolls to an end Everts will make sure to rest his aging body and give himself the best chance to end his brilliant career in the same way he started it. As a young boy he arrived on the scene with his mind clear and his body strong. Amazingly after more than 15 seasons of success he still feels mentally strong and physically ready for anything thrown at him.
"I think it is important to rest, do nothing for a few weeks, let my body recover from the season, lets the muscles and everything relax, that is important, but not longer than a month, then I am back into it again for the next season."
One thing Everts is 100% sure about is that he will do another 16 Grands Prix and then his racing life will be closed forever. Having begun his MXGP career back in 1989 it's been an enjoyable run, although for all great sportsman the time comes to say goodbye and Everts wants to do it on his terms. Once his racing is over he would like to venture into helping other riders and maybe even running some events of his own.
"I will stop next year for sure. I have been racing since I was 16 years old, doing Grand Prix since 1989, that’s a long time ago. For me the risk to race one more year is big. I won this year, I am still the top guy, maybe at my best. It's a little risk to do the one more year. I was not tempted to stop this year, I didn't feel right to stop. I want to try and go for number ten, which is my motivation. I made up my mind to have one more year. Ben (Townley) told me it might have been a good idea to stop in Lierop, but I have decided to make one more year and get the ten titles. Even if I win 10 Grands Prix in 2006 and am really dominating, I will still stop, it will be time to stop. Kelly has never said to me I have to stop. She does not get involved, and nobody else can tell you when to stop. In the end it has to be my decision. I wouldn't even do the Nationals in America, if I was getting younger I might think about America, but I am getting older. I am excited about stopping. I have a lot of ideas what I can do. I don't know, I have some ideas to do some promotional thing, like events, I would like to organize something. I would like to do something with a rider, but of course it needs to be financial. If I have to give my experience to somebody I am not going to pay for my way to the races. I would want somebody to give financial support to the idea. The money I make now I will never make again."
THE FAMILY FACTOR
Family is also something that has given Everts strength in the last years of his great career. While he always had his father around when he came into the sport, and still his father is by his side in the toughest of times, it is now his partner Kelly and son Liam who give him so much strength.
"It is very important having them around, the last years have been easy, so there is not too many problems, but Kelly was there for the bad years, when I was having the two years of injuries, the Dave Grant experience when I got into all sorts of trouble. She gives me clear sober advice, because at many times in those bad years I didn't think straight and I didn't know what decision to take, and it is important to have her giving me support in the decisions I eventually do make. She takes care of the book accounts and the agenda, taking care of the tickets and organizing everything, she is very important for me."
As for Liam, his one year old son, it's made Everts think more about life, and not just motocross racing. The future for the Everts family is a rosy one and you can count on Stefan Everts giving his son the love and dedication to make sure that Liam has every chance in the world to also one day be a success at whatever he wants.
"Having your own kids, there is nothing as important as that. Whenever I am in the car coming back from racing, or whatever I can't wait to get home to see my boy. I want to be a good dad, and a better dad than mine was for me. I want to give him, I don't want to spoil him too much, I want to give him discipline, but I want to give him much more love than I got from my father. We don't talk about that with my dad, that’s starting to talk about feelings and that is something that we can hardly ever do. With Liam I want that, I want to give him a lot of love. It is something I always wanted as a kid, and it is something with Liam and Kelly that I have that more now."
One place Everts is careful is when handling his investments. Having been caught before he now takes it easy and lets his money make money. Having a company like L&M behind him has also made sure he has enough money to retire back to Belgium and live a very enjoyable life.
"I am very scared to invest money on companies, houses and ground I like. I have most of my money in an account and I just get a little interest. I had some bad experiences in investing. Once a year we do our accounts and this year we did okay. We had L&M and they were a good company to have. I hear from Youthstream that since they are here I am making good money, but I was making good money before Youthstream came here. I was lucky with L&M, okay I started my partnership with Yamaha and that is always going better. That is also something do to with my results and the good work I do with the press. The sport in popular in Belgium, for me the money I make from the sport has nothing to do with Youthstream. In Belgium we have always had live television, so that is nothing new for my sponsors."