By Wayne Christoffersen



It was literally his last chance. Gerrit Ordelman screamed the YZ250F to the limit with 27 other riders, all aiming for the same exact spot in Glen Helen?s first turn. Every single rider had the same thought: gotta get fourth or better. Gotta make the big show.
The last chance qualifier for the 125 class at a national motocross doesn?t draw that big a crowd. The masses are fighting over parking spots or staking out spectating real estate near the track. Most people don?t even know who those guys on the track are. But for those riders, it?s the main event. They know they aren?t going to win the national; they just want to be a part of it. And that doesn?t happen unless they finish in the top four.

Thanks to TV, magazines and ad hype, the only vision most people have of a career in racing motorcycles is a glamorous one: young men traveling the globe on their sponsors? nickel, their images plastered all over these very pages, getting paid princely sums to do what the rest of us pay to do. That?s not to say that most of those guys don?t earn their keep. After all, motocross is a business and therefore exists to make money, and the pressure placed on factory riders every week can be unnerving. If a sponsored rider doesn?t consistently perform, there are hundreds of hungry privateers nipping at his heels hoping to get a piece of the action.
But what about the guys they beat? What about the riders who go faster than 99 percent could ever dream of going, yet still struggle to escape the shadow of Carmichael, Hughes, Pastrana, Langston, and all the others?
Gerrit Ordelman is one of those guys, a 20-year-old rookie privateer from Victorville, California. Following a brief discussion over the phone, we decided to spend the week leading up to the outdoor opener at Glen Helen tagging along with the Ordelman ‘team’ to find out what it?s like to compete at this level without factory support.

There was no doubt that motocross was the family?s passion. In the driveway were parked two late model pick-ups and a Weekend Warrior, all plastered with stickers from the various after-market companies that offer Gerrit some level of support; Race Tech, FMF, Maxxis, Jason Jones, John Burr, etc.
The garage was open and displayed, between other things, two 250Fs, both at some level of disassembly. His father Gene, a machinist, taught Gerrit from the beginning how to do his own wrenching. ‘I can pretty much take apart and re-assemble my bikes from top to bottom,’ said Gerrit. Without such knowledge, a young privateer doesn?t stand much of a chance unless independent wealth allows him to hire his own mechanic.
The motocross deluge continues inside the home. Photos of Gerrit at Loretta?s (where he posted a top-five finish last year) in the living room, and a bedroom that leaves no doubt as to where Gerrit?s heart and soul lies. A trophy case lines one wall, and dirt bike images cover (in perfect symmetry) all the others.

It was easy to see his passion for his chosen profession is for real. ‘I?ve been around bikes all my life with my father and cousins,’ he said. ‘When I was 14, my parents took me out to Sunrise (a So.Cal. track) to race and I was hooked?I loved it. I moved to novice when I was 16 and a couple of years later decided that with a lot of hard work and dedication, I could pursue racing professionally.’
Shortly thereafter he proved he was serious by hooking up with trainer David Martinez for strength and conditioning training. ‘Dave helped, and continues to help me with training and nutrition. Conditioning is so important at this level because if you know you?re in shape it?s one less thing to worry about when you?re at the starting line. When conditions are at their worst is when I feel I have an advantage because of my preparation. The only time I suffer from fatigue is when I get nervous, which doesn?t happen much anymore because I always try to have fun when I race. More important than physical preparation, however, is the mental aspect. At this level everyone?s fast, so you have to be able to look down the line and know that you have the ability to beat every guy there.’
After graduating from high school with a 3.75 GPA, Gerrit went to community college for a semester but decided that if he had any chance of succeeding he would have to dedicate himself full time to racing. ‘I reached an agreement with my parents that I was going to focus on racing for two years and see how far I could take it,’ said Gerrit. ‘After two years, depending on my results, I would return to college but continue to race as well, since that is what I love.’

Without a doubt, family support?financial as well as emotional?is crucial to a racer for him to achieve a Factory ride. ‘My parents have been behind me all the way,’ he said. ‘My mom is my biggest fan, my dad is always there to help out, and my girlfriend Erin supports me all the way.
‘Last year I spent upwards of $29,000 on bikes, travel, entry fees, and everything else it takes for Gerrit to race full time,’ said his mom Janell. ‘He?s actually out there riding my new Jetta. Instead of a new car for me, Gerrit got the bikes. It?s worth it, though, because he?s a good kid and that?s what he loves to do. I want him to enjoy being a kid for as long as he can; there?s plenty of time later on for the real world.’
For Gerrit?s father it?s easy to see that his son?s involvement in the sport of motocross offers a deeper connection. ‘Gerrit and I really don?t talk much on an emotional level,’ he said. ‘Being able to help him out with his racing gives us something to share and that has gradually brought us closer together. My birthday was a couple days before the Salt Lake Supercross (where Gerrit just happened to post his best SX finish?13th) and Gerrit gave me a card that said how much he appreciates all the sacrifices I?ve made to make his pursuit of racing possible. It nearly brought tears to my eyes to know that he cared.’
Gerrit?s mom also believes he?s got two guardian angels watching over him on the track. She spoke of losing two children?Gerrit?s older sister at birth, and his younger brother at two from a kidney and liver disease. ‘I?ve never had concerns when Gerrit is racing,’ said Janell. ‘I know that his brother and sister are up there watching over him.’
Gene added, ‘Our family has gone through a lot and feels blessed to have such a smart and healthy child. We all have a never-say-die attitude and that carries over to Gerrit?s racing.’

Gerrit and three other aspiring factory riders travel the country in his Dodge pick-up and travel trailer. Wherever they go it?s a straight shot, two up front driving, and two in the back catching some zzz?s, watching videos, or playing Nintendo. For the opener at Glen Helen, Ordelman and friends arrived at the track Wednesday evening to get set up. Thursday included a couple of practice sessions to get the bike dialed in and prepare for pre-qualifiers on Saturday. Every rider who doesn?t have a top 20 number from last year?s season must pre-qualify just to get a shot on Sunday.
Fortunately there were no mishaps, the bike ran strong, and Gerrit advanced to the Sunday round. ‘I got a bad start and came out of the first turn in the middle of the pack, but I knew my position was good enough to get to Sunday, so I just rode smart,’ said Gerrit.
Sunday morning arrived and it was time to see if all the hard work was ready to pay off. In the morning qualifier, however, disaster struck as Gerrit went down on the final lap, forcing him into a do-or-die scenario in the LCQ. Amazingly enough, when I caught up with Gerrit in the pits he seemed relaxed and focused. ‘I just fell over in one of the last turns and that was that,’ he said. ‘I?m having fun, though, and I?ll be ready for the LCQ.’ Fun was a word I heard a lot in the Ordelman pits over the weekend, and it wasn?t just for show. He seemed to constantly beam with enthusiasm, and always looked at the positives of every situation, whether it be track conditions, bike setup, or being forced to run in the Last Chance.
So there he was in the LCQ, diving into the first turn along with 29 other hopefuls, all determined to capture one of the four remaining spots. The pressure was placed firmly (although you?d never know it) on Ordelman to come out blazing in the three-lap sprint. He came out of the first turn in second place, and pulled away with four other riders to make it a five-horse race. ‘Huffman was in first but he wasn?t really pulling away,’ Gerrit said. With two laps completed, Gerrit was in fourth, and Planet Honda?s Johnny Marley was right on his heels in fifth. ‘That?s one of the things I like about the four-stroke,’ he said. ‘I can?t hear if anyone?s behind me. I knew being in fourth, though, that I?d have to go fast. I just kept it pinned and said if I crash, I crash.’
When the checkers waved it was Gerrit Ordelman who came across in fourth place, finishing two seconds ahead of Marley, and securing a spot in the Sunday afternoon show. ‘I?m just looking forward to doing some more racing,’ he said in the pits following the race.
Later that afternoon Ordelman would garner a 30th in the first moto (starting from the 42nd slot), and a 27th in the second moto. Overall, it was a gutsy performance that will hopefully have some of the factories looking his way.
At the end of the day, Gerrit and his girlfriend were all smiles. ‘Let?s see what happens in Hangtown,’ he proclaimed. L

Don?t leave home without them

l Surprise, surprise; to succeed at the pro level it takes talent, and a lot of it. Ever spend any time at your local track watching in awe as the expert class speeds around the track? Well, chances are that none of them would come close to getting past Saturday?s National Pre-qualifiers. To compete with the best of the best, you had better be smoking the local competition each and every week. One look at Gerrit?s trophy case and you?ll find that he?s accomplished that task. ‘I probably won more than 50 races as an amateur,’ he says.

When it comes to conditioning, both your mind and body need to be in top form to compete at the next level. ‘People don?t realize how important the mental aspect of racing motocross is,’ says Gerrit. ‘There?s nothing that is more important.’
Physical preparation is also essential. For someone like Gerrit that means up at 7 a.m., grab a bowl of cereal, and get to the track by 9. Once at the track he?ll complete, at the very least, three all-out 30-minute motos, mixed in with some practice starts, and other technical work until about 3 in the afternoon. After that it?s a trip to the gym with trainer Dave Martinez for an hour of cardio (1/2 bike, 1/2 treadmill), and an hour of circuit/weight training. On his two ‘off’ days he?ll literally run around his outdoor track (about three miles per lap) in the sweltering high desert heat, and do some mountain biking.

Although it might be nice to show up at the track and race competitively with a bike out of the box, the reality is that any support you can garner from the after-market companies is crucial. ‘I run stock engines, but FMF and Race Tech have been helping with pipes and suspension,’ Gerrit says. ‘I also get great support from Sinisalo and Gaerne, Spy, Wiseco, and Maxxis, which helps a lot.’

Even with support, the costs of being a full time racer without a factory ride are tremendous. Last year alone, the family?s expenditure on Gerrit?s racing exceeded $29,000. Although his increasing professional success has contributed to the ‘fund’, his earnings have yet to make a dent in the thousands of dollars it takes to keep racing. For example, his overall finish at Glen Helen?s season opener garnered just $130 from the AMA, but he?s waiting to see if his performance will garner some returns from Wiseco and Spy.


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