2007-05-04 08:05
Portuguese MX1 Grand Prix winner Kevin Strijbos is hoping to be as fit as possible for the fourth round of the FIM MX1 Motocross World Championship at Mantova this weekend in Italy.

The Belgian pulled out of the Flanders MX trophy in Belgium on Tuesday after an incident in qualification led to the 21 year old needing treatment to his left knee.

"It does not feel too bad, not painful at all and the swelling has gone down," he said. "It does not bother me when I am riding but I have limited flexion and the fact that some blood needed to be drained was not good. I don't think it is serious."

Strijbos needed minor surgery on the knee prior to the first Grand Prix of the season and has since taken results of fourth, second and first to sit second in the series behind Josh Coppins. The triumph in Portugal ended the New Zealander's two race unbeaten streak.

"Josh said that he was riding a little hurt and we will see how he is this weekend, although I think I might also be struggling to be 100%," Strijbos added. "It felt really good to win again in Portugal. I was tired after that GP but at the same time full of energy! I trained hard that week and feel physically very fit."

Last weekend, a day before the Flanders event, he just missed the podium at Moerbeke for the third round of the United Telecom Belgian Championship. "I am not disappointed with that fourth position at all," he commented. "I made a decision on the day because the track was quite dangerous and I did not want to take any risks. I had trouble finding some decent lines and opted to make my laps as quick as I could but not stepping over the line."

Steve Ramon on the other hand gained second position overall at Moerbeke. The defending national champion was able to extend his lead in the standings thanks to moto results of 2-2-3 and now heads Manuel Priem by 43 points. "I am looking forward to Mantova now because my riding was fast and I had a good feeling on the bike last weekend," he said. "De Dycker was strong in all three motos but I was not far away."

Ramon is looking to bounce back from two Grands Prix of misfortune and has not taken a podium slot since the opening round at Valkenswaard last month. "I want to do well in Italy because I am already tired of the bad luck I have been having," the 26 year old, who currently stands fourth in the standings and 58 points adrift of leader Coppins, commented.
"The championship is now looking difficult but I will not give up and keeping pushing all the way until the last Grand Prix. Josh will be consistent all year so to close a gap like that will not be easy, but I want to win GPs and there is still so much that could happen."

The flat, semi-sandy terrain at Mantova hosts a Grand Prix for the first time since 2000 as the Italian Federation continues its revolving policy of using a different venue each year. The course is however known to a large contingent of the world championship paddock as the circuit hosts the popular Starcross International meeting each February; acting as the traditional curtain-raiser for the off-road calendar after the winter period.

Several months ago Strijbos and Ramon gained top 10 positions overall at the site east of Milan and a short distance north of Bologna. After two Grand Prix on hard surfaces in Spain and Portugal the soft terrain of Mantova will provide a different test.

"It is a good track to ride and the sand is obviously a good surface for me," said Strijbos "but it will be a hard weekend because there are many jumps and not many places to grab a quick break. The jumps make the track fun, but a lot of work."

"I have to agree with Kevin and say that Mantova is a physically demanding track but we know the course from the International and the conditions will be the same for everyone," opined Ramon. "It is a little bit different to other GP circuits because it is mainly flat and enclosed with jumps built around. I hear the weather might not be so good so there will be plenty of ruts and getting a good start will be very important."

The weather forecast for the weekend predicts cloudy skies and rain.

MX1 World Championship(after 3 of15 rounds): 1 Joshua Coppins (NZL) 144, 2 Kevin Strijbos (BEL) 125, 3 Jonathan Barragan (ESP) 89, 4 Ramon Steve (BEL) 86, 5 Ken De Dycker (BEL) 84.

Source: Team Suzuki Press Office

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