Kenny Belaey after the success of Antwerp
Wednesday 7 September 2011
by Ben Swales

JPEG - 1.6 Mb Antwerp was, without doubt, one of the highlights of this year’s World Cup. Once again, it was a weekend charged with tension and emotion, bringing trials to the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, this time at the foot of its magnificent mediaeval castle. In charge of the event was Kenny Belaey himself, who was playing two roles: that of the organiser and that of a rider. And the least that anyone can say is that he played them both brilliantly! He brought us a spectacular World Cup, roundly appreciated and very media friendly, and was, as usual, incredible on his bike. The Belgian, European and World Champion was one of the favourites in the competition, and for good reason: In the lead after the first day’s qualifiers following a perfect trial, he suffered a puncture in the final and finished on the third step of the podium. He spared a few minutes after the competition to give us his opinion on the weekend and to talk about his projects for 2012. We also talked about the young rider who even Kenny considers to be tomorrow’s great rider, Britain’s 15 year old Jack Carthy, who was staying with Kenny for the weekend.


JPEG - 262.3 kb So Kenny, you must be pleased with how the weekend went? It was a great success!

Absolutely! Even before I started riding I was happy! It was a lot of work finding the sponsors and funding, organising the teams of workers, the TV coverage, etc.; it all costs a fortune. Then we had to get permission to run the competition here, on this site, and that wasn’t easy either. I had to have a lot of discussions with the town’s authorities to realise the project.

That must have taken a lot of dedication!

Well, yes, I worked for hours and hours to get everything in place. I’ve been working on it since October, making sure all the finer details were in place. The little stickers you see there, all of the promo for the event, the giant screen at the foot of the castle, it took ages to get it all sorted, little by little!

It’s a great feat that you pulled off, did you do it all on your own? Your family were very present all weekend, notable your dad and your girlfriend; were they able to offer much support?

This year I managed it all by myself! My family were by my side for the last week or so to help with the final preparation, but all the rest was me. Even the website was my work. My dad ordered all the materials for the sections, but I paid. JPEG - 345 kb The set-up and managing of the event itself was entrusted to a specialised events company, but we had some problems with them: they didn’t pay the suppliers, or even my dad. Everyone was complaining to me about them. The Council weren’t paid. The organisers were in the bar all day drinking. Of course, the UCI weren’t happy, and came to complain to me as well. So I decided to take things into my own hands, even though it’s not usually the done thing that a competing athlete organises a competition!

Still, it wasn’t you that set the sections, and that was overseen by the UCI as well!

Exactly, the sections were nothing to do with me. I took care of the marketing, paying the bills, ordering everything that you see here and promoting the event as much as possible. That was my job! I’m very lucky that after 20 years of riding shows etc., I have become involved with Red Bull and Adidas, and that opened some doors for me. Whenever I approached a potential sponsor, they responded favourably. “No problem, we’re with you!” It was incredible.

Yeah, it’s great to see you bringing such sponsors and media attention to trials!

JPEG - 580.6 kb Yes, it’s something that is important for trials. You see the VIP boat that we rented, for example, by sections 1 and 2? That went down really well. And there were some big companies on side, like Movistar. It’s expensive, but it’s important for the sport. Trials has always had an image of a marginal sport, but I don’t agree with that. We shouldn’t be content with that. When you approach big sponsors, go where the money is, you can do things much bigger and better. It’s worth all the effort! But you have to know how to go about it. At the beginning, I admit, I had to lie a bit. I remember when I first approached sponsors they all asked “are there a lot of people at these events?” And I said “Yes, 10,000 people”. If I’d said a hundred, they’d have laughed me out of the building. Ten years ago, when people asked me if we were all professional athletes, I always said yes, but the truth is, most of us did other things alongside it. But saying that meant that they were more interested! That’s what we need to do! We have to get rid of this idea that trials is a tiny sport that interests no one, something a bit lame… We have to make the people that can invest in our sport WANT to invest in our sport. That’s my mission.

JPEG - 614.3 kb Yes, it’s important for the pros like you, the leaders of the sport, to move it forward. You have a role that is just as important as the clubs, the federations and the companies…

Yes, we have to move forward on all fronts. Our sport has enormous potential. Just look at the interest that this event generated with the public…

Exactly! The 26" and 20" finals had massive audiences, it was amazing! They were going wild and the atmosphere was fantastic!

Yeah, it was great! Next year I’m going to organise two World Cups, one in my hometown of Aalter at the start of June, and another one here in Antwerp!

JPEG - 269 kb Excellent news! Trials is really starting to take off in Belgium then? You’re in the media more and more, on the TV and in the papers as well as online!

Yes, the Belgian public are really starting to take notice, which is great. The fact that I’m in the Adidas advert alongside the likes of Messi and Beckham really changed things… I was put on the same pedestal as them in the Belgian media and now Kenny Belaey and trials are well known in Belgium! “He’s a real professional”, “he’s a hard-working athlete”, “it’s a physical sport”, “he’s won a lot of trophies, but he didn’t win today – the level must be high, and he’s not the only one”… hearing things like that was amazing. I remember there was a time when I won two World Cups in a row and people just said it was because it was a small sport and there wasn’t any competition… But no, it’s a sport that you have to battle in, there’s Gilles, Vincent, Giaco’ and the others, and it’s hard work! It’s like in darts: you hit the bull’s-eye two, three times, but you don’t win, because there are others who can hit it as many times, if not more than you. That’s what it’s like in trials now; one mistake and you can lose an event!

Yes, the ‘Super Elites’ are all really close at the moment,,, You’re pushing the discipline further and higher from a sporting point-of-view, it’s really impressive!

JPEG - 245.3 kb Yes, I think that’s great publicity for the sport as well! The trial was also transmitted live on Sporza, Belgium’s biggest sports website!

That’s fantastic, live footage of a World Cup! I think that’s a first! After all of the organising, the gruelling final, you must be exhausted! How did the final go for you?

Yes, I gave it my all. It’s not easy to organise and ride in an event; it was a real test – so much going on in your head at the same time! Not an easy task. And then there are always last minute problems! On Friday evening, my girlfriend’s bag was stolen, with my car keys in it. My bikes, mobile and bank card were in the car as well, NOT what I needed just before the semis! That wasn’t a good start. Today I felt good, like in Canada… Well prepared, feeling good, sure of myself on the bike, physically fit, explosive, precise, everything! And then I got that puncture…

Yeah, that really set you back. We saw on your second lap that the tyre went down even after you’d repaired it!

Yeah, but it wasn’t just that… When you repair a puncture you always get a bit of dust from the inner tube on the rim, and my braking suffered. When you go for a gap to front for example, the brake doesn’t hold enough, the rear end comes down and you have to put a foot down to make it! The two dabs I took in the final section were down to a technical problem and that’s what lost me the competition. If I hadn’t made those dabs, I would have won. Everything was going well, but there were a few little things that went wrong. I’ve been lucky enough not to suffer from technical problems much in my career. I decided to fit an ultra-light front tyre, 450 g, and a lighter tube. I think that was my main mistake.

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Yeah, light tubes and tyres don’t allow for any errors!

Yep. A bad choice on my part. Only myself to blame.

JPEG - 177.3 kb Anyway, let’s move on. There was a young lad here today that impressed everyone. He didn’t take part in the competition, but we saw him ride today and it blew us away! Cadet World Champion Jack Carthy! You spent a bit of time with him a few days ago, training in Aalter… what did you think of him?

He’s incredible! The move that most impressed me was this gap, about three metres across that I struggled with a few years ago and it took me a few goes to land. He arrived, took a quick look at it and landed it with ease! There was also an inverted 1.6m hook, really technical. He took a bit more of a run up than me, but he got up it with no trouble! And he’s only 15! It’s incredible, such talent! Honestly, I believe that he’ll be the next World Champion. I’m certain. I see a bit of myself in him, there’s a real desire to win… When you see him alongside the world’s best, you see him thinking “OK, he’s good, but I can take him”… That’s what I used to think about Cesar Canas and Ot Pi! You think, “OK, he’s better than me, but I’ll watch him, follow his lines, and I’m sure I can beat him!” You’ll see, he won’t have any trouble, he’ll be there at the top next year! When he turns 18, 19, Gilles, Vincent and Me will suffer!

The next generation is here!

JPEG - 185.7 kb Yes, and its’ a good thing! It’s with people like Jack that trials will continue... It’s also god for the organisers, the sponsors, etc. to see such talented riders coming through. I want to organise more events in the future, and we’ll need riders like Jack if they’re to be a success!

Too true. Well, thanks for your time Kenny, and congratulations on a fantastic weekend! You put on a great event and a great show! Good luck for the remaining events of the season! See you soon!

Thank you! See you soon! And a big thanks to all of the volunteers in our international Trialteam, to my girlfriend, my father and my family for their support. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

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For more photos of Kenny Belaey and the other Elites in the Antwerp World Cup Final, head over to the event’s official gallery!