From Weston to Scheveningen and the crown jewel of them all: Le Touquet’s Enduropale, it seems beach races are getting ever more popular across Europe. One of the emerging stars of this specatular racing discipline is Yentel Martens, the former MX contender who battled for the EMX300 title with our own Brad Anderson. After a nasty injury at Teutschenthal in Germany, Martens has switched his focus to beach racinf. And he grabbed another podium at Red Bull Knock Out in Holland and is currently joint leader in the French beach racing championship.
Husqvarna colleague Billy Bolt captured the overall WESS title at Red Bull Knock Out while Martens was clearly one of the fastest men of the day. Hardly any surprise for those who saw the son of 500cc world champion Jacky race at the Berck-sur-Mer and Loon-plage rounds of the French beach racing championship. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna ace dominated in Berck and finished third at Loon.
Congrats on your performance at the Knock Out! There was quite a bit of controversy about the log section that was eventually taken out. How did this affect your race?
Yentel Martens: “It had quite a bit of impact, make that a lot as a matter of fact! (grins) Well, it doesn’t really matter because it is what it is. Glenn Coldenhoff was obviously the strongest and fastest of all of us. I was pleased with third but I felt more was definitely possible.”
At a certain point you started catching up on Coldenhoff.
Martens: “That’s right, I was second and start to make up time on Glenn… And I had a pretty significant lead on third at that point. Then all of a sudden I was in third myself! Evntually I passed the log section six times –if not more- and I really struggled there. Of course I noticed some riders passing on the side. However I opted to stay on the course because I was afraid to get penalized or disqualified. Some guys ahead of me only passed the logs once or twice, it’s easy to see where I’ve lost time!”
You made the box in every single beach race you entered over the last couple of weeks.
Martens: “Let’s say we’re on the right path but I’m nowhere near set! It’s a matter of putting in the work, day after day. I’m still super motivated and I don’t mind grinding it out. For the moment I feel well and the bike is great.”
Every beach race is a little different, and strategy comes into play too.
Martens: “The main thing is your physical condition and to know yourself. And you need to plan ahead to fuel your body the right way for such a long effort: when to eat and drink. Knock Out makes for a long day too. You need to be at the start 90 minutes in advance. That means getting up early and waiting in parc fermé. From there you move to another parc fermé where you have to wait 30 minutes. And you obviously have to wait at the start again. So it’s best to take something to drink and eat with you. First of there’ a qualifying race of one hour. After that you grab something to eat, shower and get ready for the final… That’s when you have to wait some more! Luckily there’s less standing about at the Enduropale in Le Touquet.”
All frontrunners in beach racing talk about the experience you need to excel in this type of racing.
Martens: “Last year I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts, also when it comes to the rules. Now I am much more cautious. Perhaps even too cautious at times mainly becaue I picked up a penalty and got disqualified last year. In Scheveningen I was too conservative anyway. When it comes to fitness and speed we’re right on track. In fact my current form is probably even better than expected but the main goal remains Le Touquet, early February.”
The Enduropale of Le Touquet is a 3-hour race, Red Bull Knock-Out is only 2 hours. What do you prefer?
Martens: “I actually prefer the 3-hour format, (smiles) better to get it over and done with at once! Like I said Knock out makes for a very long day.”
Enduro riders are used to deal with obstacles and change their pace all the time. That’s very different from what you are used to as a motocross rider. In a beach race you have to anticipate constantly to pass backmarkers. How do you deal with that?
Martens: “I have learned a lot about passing. Last year I was still too careful with backmakers. Now I dare to take a few more risks when passing lapped riders. So far it works out well! You just have to look ahead and try to predict what the other riders are going to do. The sooner you pass them, the less chance you have of hitting them. If you start to doubt yourself, that’s when you get tangled up.”
You’re born and raised in Lommel, probably the most notorious sand track in the world. But every beach race has its own type of sand.
Martens: “The sand of Scheveningen is very similar to the French beach races. Berck, Scheveningen, Hossegor and Le Touquet, they’re are almost all identical as far as the sand goes. Although the beach in Scheveningen is much wider. It gets rough as well but not nearly as rough as Le Touquet for example. Just because it is so much wider. Enduropale is certainly half the size compared to the Knock Out track. I’ve been told that the soil at Weston is pretty hard in comparison. I’ll have to find out myself I guess!”
All year you’ve been killing it at home, yet your MXGP wildcard appearance in Lommel was very disappointing.
Martens: “I felt really good the week before Lommel. On Friday I suddenly got ill. In free practice I could push for only half a lap and I was knackered! I couldn’t do anything. After the qualifying race I had to throw up. Basically I performed below par all weekend long. On Sunday I couldn’t even muster a moto finish. Lommel was one to forget as quickly for sure. After that I took a bit of time to rest. I got back on the bike at the Keiheivel-Balen International and there I showed that I can mix it up with the GP riders (ed. Martens finished on the podium twice in Balen). In hindsight I got a boost after racing Keiheuvel. From then on, things went even better. ”
How do you rate your chances for Le Touquet?
Martens: “Actually, you can’t really tell because there is so much that can happen in that one race. As always, I go there to win. Normally, it would be a very realistic goal to make the podium again.”
At the same time you are now in ‘pole position’ for the title in the French beach race championship.
Martens: “At first we did not plan to commit to the complete series but now that I am leading, things have changed. So I’ll head to St-Léger de Balson early December and a week later there’s the ‘Ronde des Sables’ at Hossegor.”
Is the famous Enduro del Verano in Argentina on your calendar again?
Martens: “Yes, I’ll definitely go back in February! That’s one of the most beautiful races I have ever ridden. The people are very enthusiastic and it is a very popular race in the region. The sand is super special there. Probably because the Enduro del Verano is more of a desert race than a beach race. The sand looks a bit like Lommel in the summer when it’s like porridge! In any case, I am really looking forward to it. ”
Photos by Pascal Haudiquert and Future7 Media.