We Spoke to Ireland’s Kelvin Batey Pre Zolder
Kelvin on all things BMX, past, present and future
3 MARCH 2015
Kelvin Batey discovered his Irish roots after the 2008 Olympic cycle and ever since then he has been at the forefront of the re-emerging Irish BMX race scene. He has won World titles in the green jersey, coached our riders, worked on our tracks and has just been generally inspiring.
With the 2015 season about to kick off we talked to Kelvin about his BMX career to date, his involvement here in Ireland, his plans to regain the Masters UCI Gold and ultimately his Olympic dream.
Here’s what he had to say …
15: You raced in Ireland’s first race in the rebirth back in 2011, which seems like a long time ago now, and you’ve been a major part of the growth of BMX here since then. Do you think we’re heading in the right direction? What do you think is needed now to get to the next level?
KB: I think things are heading in the right direction now after coming to a bit of a plateau in the last couple of years. It seemed as though the sport was going to explode after that first race in Ratoath which was amazing but with the tracks we’ve had based around the same area there hasn’t been new riders attracted into the sport which means numbers are going to fall from the initial excitement of BMX being back competitively in the country.
The main thing that needs to happen and seems to be happening is new facilities being built around the country, new clubs being formed and new blood coming into the sport.
15: We have some seriously talented riders in Ireland already, which is amazing for such a short amount of time. We just need to get them to take that step to being athletes. What does a typical week of training for an Elite level athlete look like?
KB: Being an athlete isn’t a job or a chore. It’s a lifestyle and habit that has to be a passion for the rider. The training is tough especially at certain times of year but when the races roll around and the training is all done you can look back and think it’s all been worth it. There isn’t a set formula for people to follow and instantly be the next Maris Strombergs, the program has to be structured around the certain rider to be able to work on their strengths and weaknesses. Gym, sprints and technical work on the track are the main base of an BMX training plan but also studying the sport off the track in a way to help tactically and mentally are important.
15: Your Route 55 team was all about bringing young riders with potential to fruition which you seemed to thrive on. Is that something you’re trying to bring to GET Racing and all the coaching sessions your doing with them?
KB: Rider development is a huge passion for me and using my own experiences in the sport to understand what a rider is going through in racing or even training is something I really enjoy. The Route 55 team is one of the best things I feel I’ve accomplished in the sport as bringing riders and families together like the team was priceless. Now I’m with GET Racing we are creating a team that’s really committed to performing at every level of the sport and I’m looking forward to seeing the riders competing for lots of titles this year.
15: What was behind the decision to park Route 55 at the end of the 2013 season and join GET Racing?
KB: The decision was based around us losing our sponsor with Intense as they were no longer going to be making the bikes. With us speaking to different teams and making sure each rider was on one for 2014 it was a tough decision but we decided to only have an Irish team for the following year. The philosophy of the GET Racing team also helped with the decision, hearing the way Scott wanted the team to go was very appealing.
15: We think you are visibly quicker now than 3 or 4 years ago. Are we just crazy or do you feel quicker? What do you put that down to? Better training, more focus or have you just been reinvigorated?
KB: I know I am stronger and faster than I’ve ever been just by seeing results in the gym and in times/speeds on the bike. The way the sport has gone you have to make sure you step up your level every year which is harder the older you get but with more quality training, adjusting my training plan to suit me more and better rest has helped me take things up a notch. I feel as though personal issues got in the way of my performances at the start of last season but when they started to get sorted my results quickly started to come through. I like the challenge of trying to still be a top rider at the age I am and racing against riders that have a lot more support off the track.
15: You’ve had your fair share of injuries over the years, how is the body holding up? Any concerns for the coming season?
KB: The body is holding up well. I’ve always looked after myself so even though some mornings I do feel my age after hard weeks of training, now I’m into a more quality style of training I do feel good. I just hope this can continue for at least another couple of years.
15: 3 UCI Worlds medals in 2 years is extremely impressive, how many do you have in total now? Do you fall asleep holding the first one you won or is that reserved for the 2013 Masters Gold ?
KB: The 2013 Gold I won in New Zealand will always mean so much. I remember leading a worlds final in 1991 getting passed in the last corner. I was gutted but always told my parents I would win a worlds one day. With so many 2nds and 3rd’s all the way through the expert and UCI medal classes it made it even sweeter getting the Gold in 2013. It would be nice to add one or two more titles before I pull it over though. In total I have 5 UCI medals with 6 other podium finishes in expert Worlds finals.
15: You looked strong for all of 2014 racing Elite in the UK and possibly would have finished in the top 2 had you not missed the Manchester indoor rounds. What’s your goal for the 2015 British Series or is it all about the Worlds in Zolder and getting that Masters title back?
KB: I have no goals of working towards titles over here in the UK as I just want to take each race as a one off and focus on each one at a time. In the last two years each UK race I’ve done has been in preparation for the Worlds in July and I’ll be doing the same this year as the level of competition is at a real high level over here now. I have certain targets I’d like to hit before Zolder but getting another jersey is what my year is all about before hopefully getting back on the 8m hill.
15: Again, you were clearly the quickest in Holland but for a little bad luck on the last berm in the final. Do you continuously replay those moments in the hope of avoiding them in the future or do you just put them down to the nature of the sport and move on?
KB: I got the third straight too good in that final after a bad start which gave Cristian the chance to put me high in the last corner and for Morten to swoop past us both and take the title. It’s just the nature of the sport as just a year earlier I had a slice of luck in the first corner when Javi and Cristian tangled. It is just the nature of the sport but if I’d have just had a better start in the final last year I may not have been having to try and pass.
15: Who are the elite riders turning to Masters this year? Who are you keeping an eye on in the run up to Zolder?
KB: I’m not sure who will be stepping in Masters this year but no matter who does the class will be the most competitive it’s been I think in Zolder. A UCI jersey and medal are priceless and anyone who comes into the class this year I’m sure will be as motivated as anyone to get them. There isn’t anyone in particular I’m going to be watching in the run up to the race as all I can do is focus on myself, race my best and if that’s good enough then I’ll win the title again.
15: The last three World Championships where on tight indoor tracks where as this year we have a big wide open outdoor track. Do you have a preference? Will it affect how you prepare for the race?
KB: I do prefer more wide open bigger tracks so I am glad we are going back outdoors this year which does suit me better. The last 2 or 3 years of Worlds have been less than 30 second laps where you can come across the line hardly out of breath so it will be good to open up a bit more around Zolder. I will just prepare for this season in the same way I do any other as it’s important not to forget about other races that you will do in the year.
15: Are we going to see you hop back on a cruiser 30 minutes before the gate drops in Zolder to defend that World title this year?
KB: Most definitely. The cruiser felt amazing at the worlds last year and we had only changed the cranks and bars the day before the race, had a few practice laps and then raced really well on it. I’ve always like cruisers though with being quite tall and having that extra room on the front.
15: Should we expect to see you back on the 8m hill after the Worlds this year? We assume you are looking forward to turning Elite again. Are there any SX races you’re looking at to get back into the 8m vibe?
KB: I will be back on the SX hill right after the Worlds so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some time on the hill in Manchester. I have missed racing the hill in some ways despite being free of injury since coming away from Supercross. I’m just going to see how I feel at the end of the year before deciding on which races I’ll be competing at.
15: How do you see 2016 panning out? It’s got to be all geared towards the Worlds in Columbia and that Olympic qualification spot. What do you think you’ll have to do to get one of the 2 spots available in Medellin? The large countries will have already qualified by then so what other riders will be after Olympic spots at the worlds?
KB: It’s going to be crazy tough to get the Olympic places but as a few people have shown in the last 2 Olympic cycles you can come in from almost nowhere and grab one of those prized spots. I think a quarter final place will pretty much guarantee a place but you just never know how the race will pan out. The last Olympic qualification places decided at the worlds came down to a point in the qualifiers so as everyone in BMX knows anything can happen on the day.
15: You’ve had an interesting Olympic history to say the least. You qualified a spot for 2008 but it went to another rider while 2012 saw you 100m away from qualification when you and Twan Van Gendt tangled. 2016 has got to be your time, right?
KB: We will see but the two past disappointments are my motivation to give this another shot. I can’t describe the feelings the hard work that went into those two Olympic cycles and then to have the disappointment of missing out on both when I was so close really was a big blow. 2016 is my last shot so hopefully it will be third time lucky.
15: You don’t seem to covet bike parts like most BMXer’s, we asked you a couple of years ago about a hub or something and you had no idea what was even on your bike, so we gather you see your bike as a tool rather than something to ogle. Surely your tricked out carbon Prophecy has made you love the ‘bike’ a bit more? You must have missed it when it briefly went missing a while ago?
KB: I’ve never been one to care too much for bike colour or covet certain things on it although I really have loved my Prophecy. The new one that I will be riding this year is absolutely amazing and I feel very lucky to be on one of these bikes. I see them like the Jaguar of BMX.
15: You’re in a bit of a unique position in that you’ve been on the gate with two generations on Elite riders. From Dale Homes and Kyle Bennett to Maris Stromberg, who haven’t you raced but would like to?
KB: I did race Maris for a few years when he turned Elite so I have raced a few different generations of legends. I had so many good battles with Dale in the UK and I always seemed to step my level up when he was over from America. Kyle was just amazing to watch but a humble true gentleman off the track and someone who will never be forgotten. It was an honour to be on the gate with all three riders you mentioned.
15: Your more in the Stromberg school of BMX than the Barry Nobles school but we think you should surprise us all and pull a 360 on the second straight mid race. Maybe wait until after 2016 though. Are you in?
KB: I definitely like the more no frills style of riding like Maris or Liam Phillips as they are so efficient and get the job done. I do like watching riders like Barry Nobles too though as it just makes it more interesting seeing all the different styles out there. I have never done a 360 and doubt I ever will but my best trick is a toboggan which my training partners will tell you are pretty decent but only done once a year!
15: We see that your brother Liam is flirting with a return to BMX. What do you think, should we order him an Irish jersey just yet?
KB: It would be great to see him in a green jersey but the way things are going he could also be using an orange one soon! ha-ha! It’s good that he’s back into it a bit but he’s got a long way to go with training before he can even think about competing. All the skills are there but it’s the amount of time he’s had away from racing and fitness levels that would need to be sorted out.
15: You’re planning to come race the first Irish National during April in Lucan, that has got to be more gut-wrenching than the Worlds finals you’ve been in? Do you get nervous at all? Nerves can be good, right?
KB: As I’ve got older I get less nervous which has helped me stay calm and focus better at races. When you are younger you think that it’s the end of the world if you don’t do well in a moto but with BMX there is always another race to try and get the result you want. I’m in the mindset now that with BMX no matter what happens life goes on afterwards and although each race is the most important race at the time there is always another one to set your sights on straight after. I’m looking forward to the Lucan national though, my favourite track.
15: Having designed the Lucan track just the way you want it clearly gives you an advantage over the other riders here, so we think you’ll be OK in April. Is designing tracks something you enjoy? Are you in bed every night thinking of jumps and rhythm sections?
KB: I love designing tracks. I remember I got told off at school for drawing tracks in the back of my school books in the boring lessons with teachers saying that will never come in handy. Well, I’d love to go back and show them now! I always used to say History and RE were a waste of time at school when actually they have now turned out to be two of the most helpful in my career! ha-ha.
15: So when you retire from BMX racing, in 20 years or so, what do you plan on doing? Irish National BMX coach I hear someone shouting.
KB: That would be amazing. When I first started riding for Ireland I didn’t just want to pull on the green jersey at International races and leave it there, I wanted to develop the sport off the track both in the short and long term. It would be nice to think we will get the backing of Cycling Ireland in the coming years to do this and see an Irish rider or riders being a force to be reckoned with on the International stage. It will be a long road but a road that will be worth taking for the sport and riders that buy into being an athlete as well as BMX racer.
Photos: Stephen Kane / Simon Murphy / Jerry Landrum BMX Mania