BMX Talk took a little trip out to Korea back in October for an Invitational race in Seoul. While we were there we caught up with Herve Krebs, ex Swiss racer turned coach who is now working out in Thailand developing the sport from the grassroots and working with their best riders on a national team level. It was pretty interesting listening to how BMX racing is in Asia and what his plans are over the next few years to develop the sport..
BMX Talk:You had some cool jobs over the last few years including working for UCI in Aigle and training Sifiso and the South African team…. Now your new challenges developing BMX in Thailand… How did that come about?
You are right, I had the chance to work for UCI, and when I started, BMX was absolutely not considered a serious sport by the high end sports council, we were a “marginal sport” and I can remember the hard work it took to prove to them that we are professional…
My experience with the UCI Centre was amazing.
I had the chance to meet many riders and help them improve to reach the highest level.
Sifiso is a really good example of coming from a country without any structure and helping him become a champion!
I was also in charge of hosting BMX coaching courses in collaboration with the Olympic criteria.
I went in Thailand in 2007 and at that time, the president of their federation asked me to stay and work for Thailand.
But I was really happy with my job at the UCI and I had the feeling that my job goals had not yet been achieved. We were on the pre-Olympic year and I was also personally committed with the athletes who were at that time in the Centre preparing the 2008 Olympic Games(Sifiso, Emilio Falla, Samantha Cools, Yvan Lapraz and later Jenny) so I turned down his offer at the time.
In 2010 I was feeling the time at UCI was over for me and when the president of Thai Cycling Association knew that I had quit UCI, he contacted me again, and asked, “now can you come?” And as you guess, I said yes!
So my wife, Marie, and I moved to Thailand. She is part of the project because she is working with me on many levels. Financial management, coach assistant, paper work, taking care of the athletes when injured and being the mum of the group!
We’ve worked like this for many years, and already at the UCI we were working together. Our collaboration is fantastic and I definitely think that it works well.
BMX Talk: So it’s back to basics and working with new kids who are excited about the sport…how long has BMX racing been going in Thailand?
It’s actually pretty nice to go backwards a little bit. To work with some basics and remember some of those important things. These things can also help when working with the high level riders, taking a step back to basics and working on improving certain elements.
But already now, after 1 year, the level of the national team improved a lot and it’s not really that basic anymore. They are a few years behind if you compare with Europe or USA, but I’m really positive that we will reach the high level in few years time.
BMX in Thailand existed back in the 80’s. For some reason it stoped completely for more than 20 years. I don’t know how it restarted again, but it’s funny to see some old school fans with classic bikes!
I can see that Thai people love BMX. The kids are improving because they are riding more. Many people ask me questions about training, bike parts and products and setting up or how to do technical movements. They are definitely curious and motivated to learn.
BMX Talk: How many tracks, clubs and riders do they have?
There are about 10 tracks, most of them are pretty small. Some peoples have built pump tracks behind their houses or bike shop as well.
There are 2 or 3 main tracks and there are 2 tracks that I built, with a pro section and bigger jumps, but only one at the moment could have an international race. But we are planning to build a SX track really soon.
BMX Talk: It must be hard for these kids to get affordable equipment and bikes? How much is the average salary out there and where do they get their gear from?
It’s quite complicated. We have dealers of bikes and components, but they generally order everything from the US. The high import taxes makes the bikes really expensive. It’s really hard to say the average of salary. You have some really poor people. For some of them, 1 bike it’s a 4-5 months salary. They don’t really have a second hand market like in US or Europe. People think that you need a new bike to start. We have to change this mentality.
BMX Talk: We recently saw you in Korea with the Thailand team, you told me you‘ve already developed a “national team” and they are seen as professionals over there…What’s the deal for them?
That was really important to build a national team first. Now, the kids and teenagers have a goal to reach. When you are teenager, that’s always a critical age where the road can turn and they take another direction and stop BMX.
I want them now to think they can perform and be on the National team. For that, they train more by themselves and the general level is going up. And it’s working, I can see the difference already after one year.
Now the team is professional. They receive a small salary but they have full support of coaching, training facility, accommodation, food, and trips.
BMX Talk: That’s pretty awesome that they can already make a living from BMX…The younger kids will already have something to aspire to then..
Yes, like I said, I want them to motivation for the youngsters to not give up.
When we are working with the high level riders, we sometimes forget the new comers and the next up and coming riders but that’s who will become the next generation of champions. It’s our job, as coaches or pro riders, to give them examples and motivation. I will make some training camp for the 13-16 years old and also a junior developing program.
We also started to organise some training camp with the national team where the athletes coached the kids. That was really successful. We had more than 120 kids.
BMX Talk: Is there a national series over there?
We have 5 rounds per year. But that something I still need to improve.I want more races and make 2 races per week end.
They have a lack of racing and in Asia, there are not enough races. I’m planning to go abroad more with the team.
BMX Talk: The tracks look pretty raw…not the usual groomed tracks we are used to seeing in Europe…?You’ve built a couple of tracks since moving there…are there plans for anything new coming up?
The tracks are suffering a lot during the rain season. It’s not raining a lot, but when it does it’s really heavy rain. They don’t get use top surface, so, usually when it’s the rainy season they don’t practice BMX.
I built 2 tracks and plan more of course. I changed a lot the design of the tracks, more euro style haha. Steeper and deeper.
In 1 track I putted some surface like in Europe, they where really impressed by it. They like never thought you could put that on a BMX track. So, now they can practice the whole year. On the other track, we are testing a “home made soil tack”. Let see how it works, but that look pretty good.
In 2 or 3 months, we gonna start to build our SX combo track. 2 starting hills, 2 tracks, asphalt turns, etc…
BMX Talk: What’s your goal for developing BMX in Thailand and is there a 3 year plan?
The weather in Thailand is hot the whole year. From July to October, there is the rain season, (rain 1h per day) and it dries really quickly. (30-35°C) From November until June, almost no rain! And still the same temperature.That’s amazing! So, during the winter time in Europe, Thailand will be your next destination for training! Thailand is a fantastic country and the Thai Cycling Association is amazing. The whole management committee loves BMX and makes everything to improve it at every level. I’m really happy and proud to work for Thailand.
Thai people are lovely and I really thank them for their warm welcome and helping me to adapt myself here.The team is awesome, they are training hard and never complain. They are really motivated and they always try their best. I hope with my presence in Asia, the other countries will also work to develop BMX more on this side of the world. I would like that Asia could have a proper continental championships like in Europe.
I already started in that way and I believe with the help of the UCI BMX commission and my boss, who is the vice president of Asian Cycling, we can do some big things. But I realize that to achieve this, it’s necessary to understand my new country and the way of working, thinking and usages of Asia. It’s impossible to make cycling moving forward without understanding and adapting it. I still need some time to develop BMX in Thailand but that will give an example to follow for the other countries in Asia. We already started to help Myanmar.
Thank you very much Marco for giving me the opportunity to speak about BMX in Thailand.
If people want to contact me: