Merle van Benthem | Interview
21st May 2018
Merle van Benthem | Interview
21st May 2018
To say that Merle van Bentham has been unlucky in the past when it comes to injuries would be a massive understatement but in 2018 it felt like her luck was changing … until Zolder. Four UCI SX events and four UCI SX finals, including the crash in the Zolder final which unfortunately has left her with a broken collarbone. But in true Merle fashion she remains positive and is still hopeful of making the plane to Baku …
Collarbones tend to heal quickly and we’re convinced that when Merle gets a full season under her belt she is capable of putting a real dent in the Elite Women’s class … Tokyo is approaching …
15: Not how we wanted to start this but … the Zolder crash, do you remember how it happened, what’s the injury and how long will you be sidelined?
Merle: To be honest I can’t exactly remember what happened … But watching video’s back, it looked like Saya & Natalia crashed and Saya’s bike hit me and I lost control. Wrong place, wrong time… But I broke my collarbone and got a concussion. So, hopefully I’m back soon.
15: Zolder crash aside, it’s great to see you back on the World Cup SX tour … remind us all of the injury that kept you away for so long. It looked like you were feverishly working away behind the scenes to get back … is that process all down to you or under the guidance of team coaches?
Merle: Yeah, so at the Phoenix national in February 2017 I crashed and immediately knew something was badly wrong, so I flew straight home from Phoenix to get an MRI of my knee. It showed a torn ACL, partial tear of my MCL and Patella tendon, torn both my meniscus and damaged the cartilage of my bones.
In the first couple months after surgery I only could do rehab stuff with my physical therapist to get the range of motion back but when I could start walking again something didn’t feel right in my knee so I went back to my surgeon and found out my medial meniscus didn’t heal properly so I had to have another surgery again … After that second surgery my knee felt a lot better and could step up my rehab exercises. I did all of my rehab under guidance from my physical therapist. But then when I finally could start riding again I went to California by myself to start riding again just because I really needed a change in my environment.
15: You have been unlucky with injuries in the last few years … as well as the physical obstacles to overcome, you must need huge mental strength to believe you’ll be back stronger than ever, especially for a world class athlete. How do you deal with the mental side of recovery?
Merle: Not going to deny that I’ve been through some really difficult times in the past dealing with my injuries … But I feel like I haven’t reached my full potential yet and the love for the sport keeps me going.
15: You’ve made the main for all 4 of the World Cup rounds you’ve raced this year … that’s got to be a big confidence boost? Did you have a goal when you got on the gate in Papendal?
Merle: Yeah it definitely was! I had so much fun being back on the gate again as well. When I drove to Papendal in the morning of the race I just couldn’t stop smiling but also got a bit emotional. I realized all rehab time was all worth it and my hard work payed off. My goal of the weekend was just to have fun racing and have some good laps. I knew I was riding really well and in the back of my mind I though a spot in the final would be possible 😉
15: The atmosphere in Papendal is always amazing and the Framed festival this year just added more. Does all that attention on the Dutch riders make it easier or harder to race there?
Merle: For me, it definitely makes racing easier! I really enjoy racing in front of my home crowd! You feel so much support from the people in the stands and it means a lot to me that my friends and family are there to support me. It just gives my so much energy.
15: The Jelle tribute this year was amazing … have you seen him much since the accident, was that his first time back to the track? How’s he doing?
Merle: I agree, a well-deserved tribute to him. But also, to his family and girlfriend who went through hell the last couple months. He is improving so much, as you can see on his Instagram page. It’s also so good to see that he hasn’t changed. He still makes the silly jokes he always did and still working so hard towards his goal! So much respect for him, family and his girlfriend, Doete!
15: What’s your plan for the rest of the year? We assume the Worlds are off the table now but what about the last UCI SX round in Argentina?
Merle: Oh, don’t count me out for Worlds yet 😉 But definitely going to work towards the world cup in Argentina. I was riding really well in Papendal and Zolder but I still missed a bit of power out of the gate so the goal is to improve that and hopefully can get on the box again 😉
15: You raced the European Games back in 2015 in Baku, what was that experience like, not just the event but the country? What should the riders going to Worlds expect there or will it be like any other Worlds event?
Merle: They changed the track since the European Games but it looks good! Baku is a pretty cool city, it’s a mix between really modern buildings but also some traditional buildings. It also can be VERY hot and VERY windy haha. Fingers crossed for some good weather haha! It will probably be a different world champs than we are used to since Azerbaijan isn’t really a BMX country, but I’m sure it will be great!
15: If you were a betting woman, who would you put money on to take the Elite Women’s W1 plate this year?
Merle: Laura or Alise.
15: We’re loving the new team bikes … you’ve opted for the fixed rear end with the disc brake and chain ‘tensioner’ … How are you liking the new bike? Is the rear end of all the bikes built specifically for each rider?
Merle: Yeah so Meybo custom built frames for the people who rides with disc brakes. I LOVE the disc brakes and the rear end this way.
15: And lastly … we assume Tokyo is a target for you? As a team have you discussed the Olympic points race that kicks off in September … what’s the plan?
Merle: To qualify the maximum number of girls! And hopefully I can continue the progress I’ve made since my comeback and you’ll might see me at the gate at the Tokyo 2020 😉