Only Rockstar Husqvarna’s Conrad Mewse could match anything like the performance level of Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings at Valkenswaard for the Grand Prix of Europe as the 16-year-old went 1-1 in his debut in the EMX250 European Championship.
The result was something of a surprise for the four-stroke rookie who last shone as 85cc World Champion and enjoyed a decent day at the 2015 125cc World Championship as runner-up but who had struggled to match the hype and results posted by former KTM Junior team-mates Jorge Prado and Josiah Natzke.
“Coming to the weekend my goal was to get in the top five…I achieved that! It means so much to me because for a few years things haven’t gone so great with my riding and now I feel that I have stepped it up,” the teenager admitted. “I haven’t won a European overall since the 85s so it was great for me.”
“Last year I was kinda living in the shadow of my team-mates but with switching teams it all changed… all the way down to my trainer, team manager and everything,” he continued. “I’ve done some really good work with Joel Roelants on my fitness in the winter.”
Mewse was cited as one of the sport’s brightest prospect after sweeping the 85cc board (World, European and even Dutch titles) in 2013. The last two seasons have been a struggle but the athlete is quick to praise the productive environment found at Jacky Martens’ renowned ‘conveyor belt’ and ‘nest’ of talent where he works alongside MX2 riders Max Anstie and Thomas Covington on factory material.
“We all do stuff together, there are no secrets and we help each other out,” he says. “I’m riding with Max and Thomas all the time.
“When we go on practice days now they are faster…but it is getting a little closer! I am starting to pick up the pace a bit. Even when there are not such good results then you have the feeling they are there to help you and pick you up. I think that [the encouragement] is key and I cannot thank the team enough.”
The EMX250 class is particularly competitive in 2016 and Mewse – who says he loves the hard-base sand of Valkenswaard – knows he has to continue in, or near, this vein of form to once again to attract plaudits and praise at the top echelons of motocross.
“In the 85s I was one of the main names in Britain but in two years I had kinda gone off the radar a little bit,” he reflects. “It was nice to come here and go 1-1 and then do things like scroll through my phone to see all the messages. I love all my fans and I cannot thank them enough for the support. Hopefully there are more of these [results] to come in the season.”