Today, Marc De Reuver works as a trainer for the F&H Kawasaki MX2 team.

BY JIM  KIMBALL Photos by Adam Duckworth and the De Reuver family.

DIDN’T YOUR PARENTS GET YOU A MINI-CYCLE AS A WAY TO USE UP YOUR NONSTOP ENERGY? My dad and his brothers raced. I was an active kid and am still very active, but he thought motocross would make me tired. “Let’s put Marc on a motor bike so we can have some rest in the evening,” was my parents’ thought, but it did not help because it only made me crazier. 

YOU SOON STARTED RACING A YAMAHA PW50, RIGHT? In Holland, you can only do racing from 6 years old for insurance reasons. They don’t have mini-tracks in Holland. We just have big tracks, so I had to ride my Pee-Wee 50 on them. With my PW50, there was no suspension modifications, but I managed to win the Dutch Championship at 5 years old, because the officials looked a “little bit through their fingers,” which is how we say it in Holland. Today, that would be impossible.


YOU PROGRESS THROUGH THE RANKS QUICKLY? Yes, but it was a mistake that the people around me made, including my dad, who made me move up too quickly, because I was always winning championships easily. When I was 11, they put me in a Big Wheel class where I was racing against 15-year-olds, and that gap was too big. At 11 years old, you are a kid, and when you are 15, you are in a different world. They moved me too quickly through the classes, and I always had to ride against the big guys. Again, that is why I have this mentality that I cannot lose.

YOU MOVED TO THE 125 CLASS WHEN YOU WERE 13. WASN’T THAT A BIG STEP UP? My first year on 125s, I only weighed 120 pounds. I was very young, and I saw all these people hanging around my pit, but I did not know exactly who they were. In the beginning, my parents paid for me to race. But, people from Amsterdam are very proud, so they sponsored me because they wanted an Amsterdam kid to make it to the big time. We are also a bit arrogant in Amsterdam, because we are the best; that is how we think.

In 2002 Marc raced for KTM in the 125 World Championships and stayed with the Austrians through the 2006 season before going to Rinaldi Yamaha.

WHEN DID YOU ENTER YOUR FIRST GRAND PRIX? I was 16 years old when I did the 500 Grand Prix of Holland. In the second moto, I finished 10th. It was crazy. I raced for Jacky Martens. Jacky had quit racing by then, but he had a Suzuki 500 team. My bike had a stock fuel tank, and the motos were 40 minutes, plus two laps. The team heated my fuel tank to make it bigger to get enough fuel. to make it to the finish. Suzuki did not have a special gas tank for the GPs. Jacky was focused on the 500 class, and I came straight from the 125 class, so it was not a good combination. 

YOU CHANGED TEAMS AFTER THAT? Yes, I had the chance to stay at Suzuki with my dad or go to the Eggens Racing Yamaha team. At that time, Yamaha and KTM were the very best bikes, so I wanted to go with Theo Eggens Yamaha. But, my dad was really angry. He said, “If you go to that team, you are not my son anymore.” He was upset, because there was no place for him on that team; he would just be a spectator. 

I said, “Listen, Dad, this is what we worked for. This is what we wanted.” I was 17 years old and didn’t have a driver’s license, because in Holland, you had to be 18. I took two bags and went by bus and train to Theo Eggens’ place alone. I did not speak to my dad for six months. It was especially tough for my mother. Eggens was a good team, and I liked that they had really good bikes. They offered me an apartment to live near the team with my mechanic. It was our dream, so I did it.

YOU FINISHED SECOND IN THE 125 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP, RIGHT? Yes, I lost the championship in the last moto. I only had to finish the moto to take the championship, but I crashed and broke the radiator. I did not finish, and that is why I lost.

WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE IT EASY AND WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? Let me explain my approach to racing: I have the mind of Mike Tyson. I don’t want to win; I want to kill everybody. I don’t want to win by five seconds; I need to win by at least one minute, because I want to show that I am not just the best, but that I am unbeatable. What I got with this mentality was some awesome racing success, but I also got some ambulance rides.

Mark moved through the Amateur ranks fast because his dad kept moving him up. He raced the SuperMini class at 11 years old.

YOU RACED YOUR FIRST MXDN IN 2001 FOR TEAM HOLLAND, AND IT BECAME VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU. If you cut me open, the cheese melts out—that is how Dutch I am. I am so proud that I am Dutch. We ride in orange clothing because the King of Holland is William Alexander Orange, that is why. When I put on that orange jersey at the Motocross des Nations, I have 25-percent extra of what I already had. It is the same when Ricky Carmichael put on the stars and stripes, he would go crazy to win. He would die for his country, and me, too. That is how it should be. 

WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO THE FACTORY KTM TEAM? In 2002, Yamaha came out with an all-new YZ125. But, we could not get it working right. It was a big mess. Eventually, I got in a fight with Theo Eggens halfway through 2002, and when I switched to KTM I started to immediately podium. I must admit that the KTM 125 was so much better than the rest of the bikes. It was like riding a 150, while the others rode a 125. It was that much different.

DIDN’T YOUR TEAMMATE, STEVE RAMON, WIN THE 2002 FIM 125 CHAMPIONSHIPS? Yes, KTM wanted desperately to win the 125 World Championship. At the Czech Grand Prix, I had to let him by. I completely stopped on the track during the last lap and just let him pass me. It did it on purpose so that it would be obvious to everyone what I was doing. Remember, I was young. I finished second and was so disappointed that I had to let him pass. I would have rather died than let him pass me. But, KTM paid my salary, so I needed to listen to team orders. KTM paid me the win bonus money as if I had won. 

SO, IN 2003, YOU WERE READY TO CHASE THE CHAMPIONSHIP. I had a good winter in 2002 and then in 2003 I went full gas for the 125 World Championship. I was leading the points when I injured myself. 

HOW DID IT HAPPEN? Remember what I told you about my Mike Tyson mindset? I was at a Dutch Championship race. I won the first moto, and Eric Eggens was the runner-up. The second moto, Eric was leading, and I was second. If he won the race, he was going to be the overall winner. I just could not get it out of my mind that the Monday morning the newspaper headline would read, “Eric Eggens Beats Marc de Reuver.” 

I knew that the World Championship was more important, but I only thought about beating him, because I could not stand that he beat me. I crashed and dislocated my hip, and the 2003 World Championship was over for me. 

IN 2004 YOU GOT TO RACE THE WORKS KTM 250SXF FOUR-STROKE. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? It was a prototype bike and it broke a lot, but my riding style contributed to that. I sat back a lot more than other riders, so I put a lot more pressure on the gearbox. I broke a lot of gears. It was a very strange bike. It was fast—when it finished. 

If you’re a Dutch sand specialist, the odds are that you’re a Dutch mud specialist too.

TELL US ABOUT THE TIME MIKE ALESSI CAME TO RACE YOU. Mike started talking big in his interviews about coming to Europe. He was riding a KTM that our team provided, we had plenty of room under the awning for him, but he wanted a separate truck just for him. That made the red light go off in my head.

Mike was in the first qualifying heat, and I was in the second qualifying heat. He won his, and I won mine, but I was in the second qualifying heat, so the track that I rode on was rougher and slower. In overall timing, he was 10 seconds faster than me, and I remember Mike’s dad, Tony, came in under our awning and said to the team manager, “Mike was 10 seconds faster than Marc, so we will be good for tomorrow.” I couldn’t sleep that night. I vowed that Mike was not going to win. 

HOW DID THE RACE GO? Of course, Mike took the holeshot, and I was in second. I waited a bit, because he went very fast in the first laps. Then, I passed him and waved for him to catch me.

WHICH RACER DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST? Ricky Carmichael is the best motocross rider ever. Ricky Carmichael beat everyone in Supercross, and then killed everyone in outdoor motocross. This guy is the best. 

I was riding with number four on the bike at the 2005 MXDN at Ernee. I was standing there and asked my mechanic, “Hey, do you think Ricky Carmichael wants to be in the photo with me?” I passed him as I walked by, and it took all the courage I had to ask Ricky if he could come take a photo with my bike because I had number four on it. I have so much respect for that guy. 

Marc’s career was punctuated by moments of brilliance and moments of pain.

WEREN’T YOU SLATED TO MOVE TO THE 450 CLASS FOR 2006 BUT STAYED IN THE 250 CLASS INSTEAD? Today, the KTM group is really organized, but back then, they made some funny decisions. I had already won the Dutch Championship on the 450 and expected to race the 450 World Championship in 2006, but they told me that they had hired Mickael Pichon to race the 450 and I had to go back to the 250 class.

THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A BIG LETDOWN FOR YOU. Not really. Bobby Moore was my manager, and he had two contracts for me. He had an American contract ready and a European contract, but I wanted to be World Champion before I moved to the USA. At that time I was 22 years old, and I took the European contract because I thought if I could win the 2006 World Championship, then I would be ready to race in the USA in 2007.


BUT, NO CHAMPIONSHIP AND NO AMERICA? No! I ended up going to Yamaha for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. My manager, Bobby Moore got a great offer that I could not pass up. It looked like the best team because Stefan Everts was there, and he was a many-time World Champion.

Then, in February of 2007, I missed a bump and hurt my back. I did not crash, but had an awkward feeling, and in the end, after six weeks, I found out that I had a hernia. I had two options: surgery or cortisone shots. Yamaha decided on cortisone. They did not want me having surgery, because I would be out too long.

ULTIMATELY, YOUR TIME AT YAMAHA WAS NOT GOOD. It turned out bad. Everts left Yamaha for KTM, and I lost the person that I thought could mentor me. With my hernia, I could not hold onto the bike because the factory bike was very fast. When I was fit in the beginning of the year, I was totally fine with it, but with the back injury, I could not hold onto the bike. I asked Yamaha to put a stock engine in my bike, but they said no!

Finally, at the last 2007 GP in Holland, I said, “Guys, give me a stock engine; otherwise, I don’t ride.” They gave me a stock engine and I won. Yamaha team owner Michele Rinaldi was crying. He said, “Why did you do that now?” 

I said, “I told you a million times to give me a stock engine, because I cannot hold on.” 

Marc raced for Martens Suzuki, Eggens Yamaha, KTM, Rinaldi Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki during his career.

DID YOUR WIN MAKE THE RINALDI YAMAHA TEAM HAPPY? No, they fired me. I had a two-year contract with them, and in the middle of the first year they told me I was out. There was an option in the contract that allowed them to end my deal in the first year.

BUT YOU ENDED UP AT TEAM HONDA IN 2008. I had done nothing at Yamaha in the last five GPs of 2007. Then at the final race, which was one of the toughest, I won! I got the HRC offer and agreed to take a drug test. I was happy to do it, because there were already rumors about me!

IS IT TRUE WHAT MXA SAID ABOUT THE 2008 CRF450 BEING A GREAT BIKE? Yes! That was the best bike ever. It was incredible. On a Wednesday, right before my first GP, the bike arrived, and I rode the bike for one hour, and we went straight to the GP with it. No testing. That is completely not possible these days. I won four GPs, but I only finished 10th in the championship, as I also had some bad results. 

YOU HAD BAD LUCK. Absolutely, but if I am honest, it was not just bad luck. It was my own fault. My problem was that I refused to lose. I would get so angry. Even today, if we played a card game and you left the room for a minute, I would switch the cards so that I would win. It is one of my worst traits, and it affects things that I cannot do. I cannot play tennis, so I won’t even hold a racket in my hand. I know I can’t do it, so I don’t do it. I only do things that I can do well.


AS MUCH AS MXA SAID GREAT THINGS ABOUT THE 2008 CRF450, THEY SAID BAD THINGS ABOUT THE 2009 CRF450. WERE THEY RIGHT? In 2008, we had the last GP in Italy. I won on a Sunday with my factory 2008 CRF450, and then on Monday morning, we had the launch of the 2009 fuel-injected bike. I told myself, “This is a stock 2009 CRF450, so, of course, it won’t feel as good as my factory bike.” I rode the first lap, came in and asked the mechanics, “Is this bike broken?” So, I took a different 2009 CRF450 out, and it was also slow. I did four laps, and I said, “This is not possible. This bike is a nightmare.” 

WHAT ISSUES DID YOU HAVE ON THE 2009 CRF450? The bike went into neutral all the time. We went practicing, and the bike broke and I crashed. I was on my back, and my legs were so twisted. I took my helmet off and threw up blood—not a little, but a lot. I thought I damaged everything inside my body, as I was so warm. They ran to me, saw the blood and called 911. They yelled into the phone, “He’s throwing up blood! Come quick!” They came with a helicopter, and when I saw the helicopter, I knew that I was hurt really bad, because normally they don’t send a helicopter. I had internal bleeding, a dislocated hip, broke my back in three places and tore my abdominals. 

Marc won the 2007 Dutch Grand Prix for Rinaldi Yamaha and they fired him. But, Honda picked him up for 2008.

NOTHING COULD BE WORSE THAN THAT, RIGHT? Yes, it could! I had just bought a big house, and I had spent a lot of money on cars and stupid stuff. In my contract it said that if the bike broke and it was the fault of the manufacturer, they needed to pay me. But, Honda said that the gearbox was not broken, so they reduced my salary by half, and I could not pay my mortgage. I went into a deep depression. 

HOW DEEP? In the USA, it is normal to have a gun, but in Holland, it is impossible to have one. It is illegal, but I was a bad boy and had a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver. Being severely depressed and having a gun is a recipe for disaster. Finally, one night I put the bullets in and thought about the unthinkable—but I did not do it. I didn’t do it because I thought about my mom. If I did that, I think my mother would come lie in the coffin with me. That is what stopped me.

I had many panic attacks where I could not breathe and was completely hyperventilating. That is when I took antidepressant pills and then you are flat. You have no emotions. I took too many of them, along with using alcohol and cocaine.

BUT, ULTIMATELY, YOU GOT OFF EVERYTHING, RIGHT? Yes, everything. I need to tell you something, though. Since I was 5 years old, people were constantly telling me, “Marc, you are going to be a World Champion.” But, in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, I was still only seventh or eighth. When I lost my factory contract in 2009, I knew in the back of my head that I was never going to be World Champion, and this played a role in the addict I became.

I had been battling to be the World Champion for seven years. I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself by riding only to finish in the top 20.

DIDN’T YOU CONTINUE DOING BEACH RACES? Yes, but in 2015 I broke my back again when I was doing the beach races. I told the ambulance guys, “I broke my back.” 

They said, “That is not possible. It would hurt much more.”

I said, “I am 100 percent sure I broke my back.” 

My mother came to the hospital and said, “Marc, now you stop.”

DID YOU STOP? No, I was not finished yet. The thing was, I was the Dutch champion in 2014, so, I had the number-one plate in Holland for 2015. My recovery time was three months, but I planned to be back on the bike in one month. I always came back early. If the doctor said six months, I came back in four. But, I would never ride without the green light from the doctor. 

HOW WAS THAT DUTCH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE? In my head, I needed to be the first Dutch guy. Ken De Dycker won the race. Nathan Watson was second, and I was third. I said before the race, “This will be my farewell ride.” But, I was not prepared to finish on the podium. 

When I took my helmet off on the podium, a cameraman asked, “Marc, what does your future hold now?” 

I replied, “I don’t know anymore.” 

You know how it goes, you come back to the truck, and everybody was saying, “Marc, you cannot stop.”

And, I was like, “Yeah, okay, I will continue.” But, soon after, I said, “This is it; I stop. I have a son, and I am not together with the mother anymore. My son, Jason, does not live close to me, so I have no time for riding anymore. If I ride, I want a good bike with good suspension and a good engine. I cannot just ride for fun.” 

Marc seems to have found a home at Dutch-based F&H Kawasaki as a coach and trainer.

HOW DID YOUR INTEREST IN TRAINING RIDERS DEVELOP? I rode dirt bikes since I was 5 and stopped racing when I was 31. I only know motocross and nothing else. I can lay bricks. I can clean toilets, but anybody can do that. I have too much passion to be a bricklayer. I want to show young guys, “Don’t do this, because then this will happen. Listen to me.” There is not one situation that I have not been in. You name one situation, I have been there, 100,000 percent. Losing the GP in the last corner, being out six months, and the first race back, win. You name it, I lived it. 

WASN’T YOUR FIRST HIGH-PROFILE RIDER RED BULL KTM’S PAULS JONASS? Yes, and he won. I really enjoyed my time working with Pauls. But, in the end, his dad and his manager wanted me out. Of course, there is always a Dad who has been involved with the rider since he was a child. I have a lot of respect for every dad. I am now talking with you for this interview because of my dad. I am going to the race tomorrow because of my dad. My dad put me on the bike; nobody else. But, there is a time that the job of the dad is finished. He must just enjoy his son, and say, “Look, this is my son. This is where I brought him.”


DID A TOP GP RIDER LIKE PAULS JONASS HAVE AN ENTOURAGE? Yes. I call that “the cake of the winner.” Everybody wants a piece of the cake. If you come close to somebody else’s piece of the cake, they get very mean. They all want a piece of the winning. Even if someone carries the bottle of water for you. “I carry the bottle of water, and it’s because of me that he is the World Champion.” It is incredible.

YOU ARE NOW WITH THE F&H KAWASAKI MX2 TEAM. HOW IS THAT? Now, I can control it much better, because I have it in my mind now that I don’t want a piece of your cake. I do my job well, and I am happy for them. If you win a GP, I win a GP, in my head. I don’t need to be in the photo. This is your moment. I am your tool to win. Nowadays, it is more that the entourage gets prominence in the photo, and the rider goes to  the back of the photo. F&H is a Dutch company, I am on the payroll of a Dutch company and for me that is good. They want to have Dutch riders, and I like that. We have some very fast young Dutch riders moving up.

DO YOU EVER SEE YOURSELF BEING A TEAM MANAGER? They talked about me being the team manager, but I don’t see myself in that position, because I need to have control over the riders. If you are a team manager, you are just looking to see who the best rider is to sign for the next year. When your contract is up, you are out, and that is not me. I want to build something. I want to make the racers better or get the best out of them. A team manager does not have that function. It is also my problem, as I go too deep with them. I just want to be the best trainer. I need to be the best. 

IN MODERN MOTOCROSS IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A GOOD TRAINER, ISN’T IT? Yes, but the problem is, some riders have a limit. They cannot do more than they are already doing. Their tank is empty. I cannot get more than they are willing to give, but I still try. You need a top rider. With my knowledge, if I have a top rider, there is no limit. 

WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE MEMORY FROM YOUR RACING CAREER? One of my biggest joys was when I broke my neck in 2004 and was off the bike for eight weeks. I came back and at the first race I did, I won both motos by one minute over Ben Townley, who was the World Championship leader in the 250 World Championship. At my first race back, I win by a mile. That gave me joy. But, all my best memories are from when I came from far back, or when everyone thought I had no chance, and then I won. Those are my favorite memories.


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