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The Snitz Column
written by Steve Sommerfeld


The world of freestyle motocross is soon about to change in the little province of Macau which is a once-seedy Chinese gambling enclave that is now receiving an almost $3 billion face lift.  The new venture called the ‘City of Dreams’ and is to be the home to some of the world’s upcoming FMX stars.

During May 09, 12 riders from all over the world came together in Lint, Belgium to audition for the opportunity to ride in the full-time freestyle moto job. The applicants ranged from 5 Australians, 2 Americans, 2 Canadians, 2 French and a Swedish guy living in Spain.  The Aussies included FreeriderMX magazine’s top 3 riders of the year, Joel Brown, Steve Sommerfeld and Brad Burch, also RFDmx Underground Series founder, Joel Rayner and one of Australia’s OG’s, Matty Cole.  

The job description is a full-time 2 year minimum ride in a theatrical performance in Macau’s new casino complex ‘City of Dreams’.  It will be the first time freestyle moto has been in a theatre situation in the world and could be the first of many new similar ventures involving FMX.

But how could FMX be in a theatre you ask? Well the director of the show, Franco Dragone is world famous for his work in the Cirque Du Soleil performances for the past 20 years which combine some of the world’s very best performers and artists and has concocted something very special for this show.

Now I guess you’d say it’s a bit of a shame that many of Australia’s riders have to travel overseas just to earn a crust and realistically the scene in Australia is quite small anyway.  But when you see the level of investment going into the City of Dreams in Macau, you’d understand why riders are chomping at the bit to get the job.  

There is also another famous Australian behind the Macau dream and he invested $3 billion into the project, his old man happened to be the bloke who took cricket from the 5-day match that usually ended in a tied-game and changed it into the quick-paced World Series One Day cricket for Channel 9.  I’m talking about James Packer and what James’ father; Kerry Packer did for Cricket is what James is able to offer for freestyle motocross.

For most of us Aussies, it was our first European trip and the plane flight was the first hurdle.  For myself, I was only 7 weeks into recovery after a broken ankle and found out that a 24hr plane flight is the worst thing for swelling.  All the hard work I’d done with physiotherapy to get rid of swelling up until that point was almost a waste as the ankle joint blew up to resemble a beach ball, the same size as the day I broke it.  For all of us though, the 24 hours in transit without sleep was something we hadn’t planned on.  We arrived in Singapore airport after 8 hours and had a couple of hours to kill, so what better to chill than sitting in Harry’s bar in the airport and having a few Singaporean brews to pass the time.  The intense heat and humidity insured that the beers went down quicker than expect I must add.  

When we arrived in Belgium we were picked up by Dragone’s head of logistics, Peter Dingemans and he was quickly turning into our own tour guide as we made our way from Brussels to Lint where we’d be staying for the next 8 days.  But at this stage it was only 9am Belgium time so we had another full day sleep deprivation and walking around like zombies.  In total we went 50 hours before we even had our first good night’s sleep.

The first day of auditions were at Jimmy Verburgh’s home compound in Zelzate where there were quite a few Red Bull KTM’s lined up and a couple of YZ’s for the Aussies.  The first test was to get used to the 8 metre radius ramps at 65ft, which are quite different to the Aussie comp ramp of 9.1 metre radius and at 75ft.  Browny explained it feels like you get more pop out of the ramp but it’s still only 65ft so you don’t get as much hang time for tricks.  Burchy on the other hand decided to jump in the deep end and went straight for the foam pit, hucking a few flips off the 8m ramps and had them sussed straight away. Matty Cole and I were both recovering from broken ankles, but he had 4 months since his injury and managed to jump only 50ft on the first day before his ankle was getting to painful.  I pulled on a pair of boots and it was almost impossible to even stand up, so I decided I’d have to pull the pin and watch the guys from the outdoor couch.

The audition process wasn’t like a job interview, it was far from it.  Considering Team FMX4Ever’s Jimmy Verburgh the Dragone FMX adviser put us to just one of the tests to see who could back up riding at 10am from a big night of partying the night before.  Honestly, I thought there were going to be 12 guys sporting headaches and laying around the studio apartments looking like the empty beer bottles from but I was surprised to see everyone pull on their boots and get the job done.  Even Browny and Rayner who were notably crook that morning.

To break up the audition process though we headed to the world famous Lommel MX track which is Belgium track in the World GP series.  All I was told by FRMX editor Simon Makker was that I should go watch a race there as I wouldn’t be disappointed.  But we went one better and all of us got to ride the track and it was an experience to say the least.  Just to see how they built the track with only two tabletops and on the sandiest track I’ve ever seen it was definitely a hard slog to even get one lap done.

The rest of the auditions were inside the purpose built studio in Lint which was built only in the last 6 months strictly for Dragone’s City of Dreams.  One of the FMX4Ever portable set ups was set up and it was from here that the real auditions were to take place to see how the guys rode and fit into the group.  It was good to see how other riders went from all over the world and also had Morgan Carlson and Gilles De Jong join in for a bit of a practice session with the boys.  And why wouldn’t you, a full indoor session with no wind and no rain, need I say more in a country with a weather pattern similar to Melbourne.

With the Freestyle auditions completed, we had a couple of days left in Belgium and it was once again up to the party animal himself, Jimmy Verburgh to take us back to his hometown of Zelzate where we partied with many of the FMX4Ever team riders Nick Franklin, Morgan Carlson, Nick De Wit, Chris Birch, Ives Baekelandt and the last few guys from auditions, Austin Drummond and Ryan Logan and Alex Elgh.  But after 3 nights in a row of staying out until 7am it started to take its toll even on Austalia’s quietest fmx rider, Brad Burch who is known for his ‘school captain’ discipline when he almost missed his plane flight back to Australia by a mere seconds when he was stuck in Zelzate after heading back to Frankie’s with some girls.  Rayner, Browny and I were in the taxi and driving back to the train station in Brussels when Burchy strolled down the road.  ‘Where are you guys going’ Brad asked?  And with the best line all trip, Rayner replied ‘Bloody Australia Mate!! Get in the Taxi we have to leave right now!

So what a way to finish up our 8 day stay in Belgium.  For the 7 riders to be selected to join the troupe in Macau they will begin training in the coming months which will be very tough to keep up with the heavy workload but for a once in a life opportunity like the City of Dreams it will all be worth it.



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