He wasn’t one of the invited riders, didn’t get a spot on the frontline at the start – yet 22-year-old Axel van de Sande kept 1,500 motocrossers at bay in The Hague on Sunday, winning Red Bull Knock Out 2015.
Breathing down the neck of the young Belgian the entire race, Nathan Watson (UK) eventually took second. Camille Chapeliere (FR) took third, followed by 21-year-old Lars van Berkel who won the best Dutch rider title in his home country.
“This has been extremely heavy, I have never done anything so heavy,” said Van de Sande right after the race. “It was the very first time I competed in this event and I cannot believe I ended up becoming the winner. Riding the sand suits me well and luckily I’ve had every chance to keep my tempo up.”
His mechanic Eric Toelen agreed it was a nerve-wracking day. “Oh, I cannot believe this. How great is this! There is only minor consequence though – I will have to shave off my moustache as a result of this win. I’ve bet it on this yesterday and I’ve had it for such a long time.”
Facing extreme conditions and winds up to 120 km/h, Van de Sande had already overtaken 700 competitors after the semi finals – including top riders Marc de Reuver and Sergei Potisek, who were both stranded with a broken bike.
The finals were equally exciting. Although Van der Sande and Watson gradually distanced the others, a fall from Watson helped Van der Sande secure his win and his 2015 Red Bull Knock Out title.