2012 marks a turning point in the professional and personal life of the most decorated rider on the UCI circuit, four-time Elite World Champion Kenny Belaey. A couple of months ago "The Magician" officially joined prestigious American company GT, alongside his idol Hans "No Way" Rey. In the coming months, he will be one of the top riders of the 2012 UCI season and will give his all to take another World Cup title and a fifth World Championship. Not only that, he will also be organising two rounds of the World Cup in his native Belgium, taking part in plenty of projects with Red Bull and Adidas as well as marrying fiancée Fien Lammertyn. Big things are afoot in Kenny’s life in 2012!
The GT/ Red Bull / Adidas rider still managed to find time to sit down and tell us about it all! The photos that accompany it are from Kenny’s recent trip to Majorca, taken by Berlin rider Sebastian Klipper (who brought us the recent Kenny and Hannes in Majorca video).
Hi Kenny! 2012 is going to be a big year for you, with plenty of new projects and changes in your professional and personal life… Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about it all, it’s always a big honour to talk to a personality like you! To start off, we wanted to talk to you in your role as UCI Rider Representative, one of your many roles! There’s been a big change to the UCI circuit with the arrival of the Super World Cup, which will be more open for all riders and will have a Super Final for the top four international trials riders. You were involved in the implementation of this new format, and it will be you who tests it out as the organiser of the Aalter round in June! What’s your opinion of the change as a member of the UCI, Rider Representative and organiser? It’ll be more to manage for sure!
Yes, life will change a bit, for sure! My wedding, a new sponsor, an online shop (which will mainly be managed by Fien) and two events… I’m really concentrating on my future after the sport. The day that I stop competing at a top level, I want to be able to stay where I want to be and that’s the goal of all these projects! With regard to the Super Final, I think that, for the moment at least, it’s the most effective solution if we want trials to be more media friendly. Last year I wasn’t very happy with the TV coverage in Antwerp; there were only three cameras, showing only two of the sections – that was due to the format of the final, with all eight riders riding at the same time. It’s impossible to film it well, or to see the best riders properly. This new format should correct that and also allow us to try out a few new things as organisers, to try and make it into more of a show, rather than a sport that remains inaccessible to the public. We may have to adapt a bit as riders, but we have to invest in the future of the sport!
From a rider’s point of view, won’t it be much more demanding, with four more sections to ride after a World Cup Final which is already exhausting enough? And on sections that will doubtless be even more selective… Will you be adapting your training to deal with that?
Yes, it’s going to be much more physical, longer, but also more interesting and accessible for the public. It’s in that way that we’ll earn more respect and consideration. They’ll see us as true athletes, which they don’t seem to at the moment... After a final, I still have plenty of energy, so it shouldn’t be a problem for me… I hope! ;)
The interesting thing about this new format is that it is designed to be more media friendly, but will the media be more trials friendly? If they don’t play the game, is the new format all for nothing?
We can’t think like that… First we have to change the product, then we have to get the media interested!
OK. A question on the fact that the counters won’t be reset to zero for the Super Final… The Super Final winner might not be the overall winner - might that not be difficult for spectators to understand, on TV or at the event?
Yes, maybe, but with a commentator who keeps people informed and a big screen that shows the Final scores before the start of the Super Final, that shouldn’t pose a problem. As ever, it’s a question of organisation. I think that the organisers will do their best and have enough experience to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
OK, we have another question for you in your role as Rider Representative, unrelated to the Super Final… A question that we ask ourselves every year and that is important for the promotion of our sport to young people: why do the World Youth Games, which are considered as the under-16 World Championships, not give proper titles to the winners? Would that not encourage the young riders to attend, if there was a real title to compete for? There isn’t even a jersey! Each year there is a clash with the BIU calendar, which is a shame for the champions of tomorrow – the BIU is an excellent school for young competitors, as you know, that’s where you cut your teeth as well…
It’s the UCI’s ruling. I don’t really understand why they do it, but you’re right, and It’s something I’ll raise at the next meeting… The BIU was certainly a good school, although these days I’m not that interested in it. What is interesting is that young people are riding a lot, it doesn’t matter which Federation they’re in! I have a lot of respect for the BIU, as, like you say, I come from a BIU background, like my heroes Canas and Pi and I don’t want to say anything against them. I also thing that it’s thanks to this school that I have managed to stay on top for so long… The BIU sections are set on 100% natural obstacles, which helps you to progress enormously… It’s something that’s lacking in the UCI and in trials in general, but it-s a sacrifice we have to make in order to ensure good promotion. In five to ten years, when the sport is better known, we can always return to the woods, taking the cameras and media with us, everything is possible… But we have to adapt, and that-s been the BIU’s mistake: the biketrial of today and the biketrial of 15 years ago are still the same! Whereas the UCI have moved on considerably. It’s a shame that the BIU are so stubborn and don’t want to work together with the UCI. The day that they do that, we’ll have more participants, more countries, but at the moment it’s all a game of politics. It’s a shame - they can’t win against an organisation like the UCI and they’ll end up destroying themselves.
You’re right, and it is a real shame for the sport! Let’s talk about Kenny the man… You’ve asked Fien to marry you?
Yes, we’ll be getting married on the 5th May! Right in the middle of the season… I’m a bit worried about my stag do… I’ve already told my friends that I won’t be able to celebrate too much and I hope they’ll listen, but I’m a bit worried that they won’t…
Haha… I think you might be shafted there Kenny… your stag do should be a big party! But we need them to keep you in shape for the season! Speaking of which… You have a new sponsor for 2012, which is now official since Mark Peterman, Director General of GT Bicycles announced that “Kenny Belaey, multiple trials World Champion, who is an innovator and visionary of the sport” would be riding for GT! That’s fantastic news, especially as you’ll be riding alongside one of the biggest names of our sport, Hans "no way" Rey! That’s crazy! Are you excited?
Yes! I’ve known Hans for a long time and we’d talked about it in the past, but my CV wasn’t quite full enough to be able to ride for a brand like GT on an international level… But now, after 20 years of work on and off the bike, it’s become a reality… A dream come true! It’ll also open some doors into the American market… Another dream that I have at the moment is to organise a round of the World Cup over there… We’ll see! They’re super cool at GT, really great!
GT have talked about the arrival of some new models for each of their team riders and have mentioned “a special project to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hans Rey and GT… Will there be a GT trials model soon?
Now news at the moment, but I don’t think that it will be a trials bike. My GT trials prototype has been a bit delayed, but it’s coming, and hopefully one day it will be commercially available…
You’re riding a Curve 26 in the meantime, one of the best frames currently available, developed by another World Champion, Bruno Arnold. What do you think of it? Will you be riding it in the World Cups?
I think so, at the moment. The geometry of the Curve is perfect for my style of riding… Bruno and I have a similar style, so maybe that’s why…
That’s true, smooth and cool… In our last interview with Ot Pi, he said that he was disappointed to see you riding an Ozonys King & Dunce rather than a Monty in your Adidas clip, although he did say that he thought you were “the most professional rider on the trials circuit”… Have you got anything to say on the subject? We also saw in that interview that Ot Pi’s priority remained with 20” trials and that a 26” rider with big ambitions like you would have to head for new horizons one day or another…
Monty is a very friendly and honest company, but the GT offer was much better for me and it was for that reason that I changed. Their passion is 20” and I don’t think that will change. In the Adidas advert I needed a real street trials bike, and Monty didn’t have one.
Will you be coming to the first big event of the season, K-124 Days 2012? We missed you last year!
Yes, I have a meeting with my sponsor Continental in Germany on the Friday before with the Athertons and Danny MacAskill, which I hope will be finished in time for K-124 Days. As always, I’ll take it as a training event… A way of seeing what the others have been up to over the winter!
Yes, that’s the idea of the weekend! What did you think of Tribal Zine’s K-124 days video by Marcus Gelhard? A comp specific video, with a specific audience… 400,000 views/ 289 likes / 50 comments, an unprecedented success for a pure competition video… Did you like it?
Yes, Marcus did a really, really good job! We need more videos like that! It often works out like that: one man does a better job than three professional cameramen with thousands of pounds worth of kit! Bravo!
How’s your preparation for 2012 going? You were in Majorca for a few days with Hanes Hermann to train at some pretty idyllic natural spots. How was that?
It was beautiful! Plenty of rocks, and the urban riding was interesting too. It was perfect for me to be able to ride their with Hanes; he’s got plenty of power for the big moves and I’m better at natural riding and precision, so our styles complemented each other and helped us to push our levels. We learned something every day!
Your projects with Red Bull take your shows all over the world, you were in Qatar recently weren’t you? Do you have any other tours planned, or are you focusing on the coming season?
Yes, I was back in Qatar for the tenth time. They love trials over there and each time I go we have the same great reception. Trials is a really cool sport that allows me to travel a lot and to experience other cultures. For the moment I don’t have any big demos or tours in my diary, all my focus in on the competitions this time!
Yes, Fien wanted a career change and I need a hand with all my projects – there are only 24 hours in a day and that’s never enough for me! The idea of the shop is also to increase the level of service at the competitions and to allow kids to get their bike a bit quicker. I really believe in the project. Wesley will also be by my side as a mechanic. I’ll really only be involved as a marketing consultant…
Cool! We heard that Enter Bike will be sponsoring a very, very promising young rider of whom we know you’re a big fan: Jack Carthy?
Yes, Jack Carthy is a rider that I really believe in, he contacted me to ask for support and we snapped him up! He received his bike a few days ago.
A promising collaboration, we’re sure. Well, thanks again for your time and all the best for all of your projects in 2012!
Thank you too, see you soon!