While many were gorging on Christmas food over the holidays new Monster Energy Yamaha recruit Joel Roelants was putting in the miles across the cold sand of Dunkirk and enjoying his first outings in Yamaha colours and on the YZ450F. The 23 year old Belgian – a rookie to the FIM MX1 World Championship in 2013 – was able to ‘blow away the cobwebs’ after recovering from a hip operation and clocked his first laps in Blue. Roelants took some time out from his training schedule in Corsica to explain his first sensations of the factory YZ450FM and the feeling of getting back in the saddle.
The most obvious question…how do you feel after several weeks back riding?
Things have been going quite good. In the first week it was pretty difficult and I was feeling very stiff after the first sessions on the bike but I found the rhythm quite quickly. I’m still too slow of course but it is building up slowly. At the beginning I was a bit sore on the bike but that was normal and one leg did feel stronger than the other but everything is fine physically.
So you’ve temporarily escaped the cold…
Yes! At the moment I am in Corsica. We have come here to train and do some work and I like the place. We’ll stay for ten days and we’re close to Christophe’s place [team-mate and MX2-GP rider Charlier] and the track here is pretty good. My idea is to do two days riding, then have an easy day and then another two and an easy day and so on. We went mountain biking last week and it is a beautiful place. I’m taking care not to overdo it.
What was it like climbing on the YZ450F for the first time?
I didn’t really know what to expect. Since the crash and operation there were three things I had to get my head around: a new bike, a new class and a new team. I’ve been waiting a long time to really find out anything about these steps so it was a bit of a relief to end the mystery, start riding and get to know the guys a bit better. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. For the first two weeks I just rode the stock Yamaha and I loved how the bike felt and handled. The handling was the thing that struck me most. This week I should be practicing with more race components and I spent some days in Italy making tests for the GP bike where I really didn’t have to change much at all. The bike feels very stable and I had almost no complaints. I know – or I am told – it was very fast and aggressive last year and the focus for this season has been curbing a bit of that power and sharpening the handling.
How about just getting used to the bigger bike?
I’m not really surprised by the power of the MX1 bike because I know the speed and potential they can get out of a 250 these days! After having ridden the stock YZ450F and moving to the YZ450FM this feels like a real factory machine though. I worked on the starts and I have to say they were pretty bad! It was on a grippy terrain and I wasn’t used to the torque of the 450 so that did take a bit of getting used to. I’m in a period of adjustment to the 450 now and I guess that is normal for any rider moving up from numerous years in MX2.
And gelling with the team?
Everything has been perfect with the team. Most of them speak English and they are always thinking ahead with regards to what I might need or things we might have to do to for the best preparation. We have regular meetings and the communication is good.
Lastly what’s the plan after Corsica and what pre-season races will you do?
The plan is to do at least two rounds of the Italian Championship in February, most likely three, and then that will take us to almost the first Grand Prix of the season in Qatar.