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Waiting Game Story Geoff Meyer images Ray Archer

Greatness doesn’t just come with the victories, but also the way a rider returns from defeat. Stefan Everts and Antonio Cairoli have both been written off long before their championship reigns were over, but it was the fortitude to return, win and even dominate that has made them the two greatest GP riders of all time. Motocross is without question the pain game, where competitors spend months on the side-lines, getting over broken bones and mental struggles. Every single World champion apart from Belgian legend Joel Robert has had broken bones, spend time on the sideline.

For MXGP World champion Jeffrey Herlings his whole career has been all about winning, pain, winning and then more pain. At just 24 years of age, he is already in the legends list, with four World championships and 84 Grand Prix victories. Motocross Illustrated: Firstly, good to have you back. How are you feeling, because I can imagine you probably went through a period of maybe even depression? Herlings: Well, I can tell you I am feeling great and I am not (depressed). I should be racing on the weekend and winning, unfortunately I am not a healthy human being because I am healing from a foot injury. The timing is never right, but it happened just a couple of weeks before the season started. I prefer it now than leading the World championship and it happens five races from the end. Motocross Illustrated: There was talk you would race in America, knowing you a little bit, I can’t imagine that was a goal, because you always had your goals in Europe. What was the case about riding in America? Herlings: Well, I actually wanted to go, but logistical wise, if something happened to Tony, they would have nobody here in MXGP and three in America, with only Tom Vialle here for KTM. For KTM it wasn’t an option, although I would have dreamt to do it. It was a life time chance I would say, and I had to only spend three months there. I was prepared to do it, but I have an MXGP contract, so we couldn’t make it happen. Motocross Illustrated: Coming back, I would imagine you would want a long time to prepare and come back winning. I spoke to Glenn Coldenhoff and he mentioned it takes like three months to get fit and you are not fit, so I am thinking, maybe Rhenen the Dutch championship race on May 30, or maybe Kegums in Latvia on June 16? Herlings: Obviously the longer the better, but KTM want me back as

soon as possible, so whenever I can start training without pain, they pretty much want me to start racing. That is normal you know. I was wasn’t racing that weekend, I would be training anyway, so maybe it isn’t good to line up at Mantova and finished 15th, but we would practice anyway, so the tent will be full, I will be there signing autographs and things like that. So, when I am capable or riding and pain free, I will race as quickly as possible. It won’t be for podium finishes, but I am mentally prepared for that. Motocross Illustrated: Can you make a goal that you go for 10 GP wins or something like that and then go into 2020 close to Everts record? Herlings: Hard to say. When I go out, I want to win, but I know that isn’t realistic, but definitely the second part of the season I want to be back where I was. I know the first five races, I will just be lining up, but once those races are done, I want to be like the Jeffrey Herlings we all know, and winning races. Motocross Illustrated: So, you won’t start riding until end of April, so you think it would be possible to be racing two weeks after that? Herlings: For riding around yes, for winning never, maybe not even for top ten. I will practice anyway and if that is a 10th or 15th, or whatever, I just need to be realistic. Motocross Illustrated: I watched you on Dutch television and it was like you didn’t really want to be there talking about your injury. Herlings: Yes, because I feel like, I don’t know why it happens to me. I never crash, but when I do crash, I break something. This time I just hit my foot between the wall and some dirt and the bike. I just looked at it and figured it was broken. I rode for three months, November, December and January and I didn’t crash once. So, one small crash and my foot shattered. I just don’t understand why.

GP WINNER Bulmer story Bavo images

Team HRC’s Tim Gajser came out victorious after two incredible motos at the MXGP of Trentino. Engaged in two race-long battles, the Slovenian rider kept calm under immense pressure to make two late passes and claim his first MXGP overall of 2019, at the fourth round, held at the beautiful Arco di Trento track.

After winning the qualification race, Gajser had first gate pick and that allowed him to get out of the gate extremely well in both races. In the first race he rounded the first bend in around fifth position before making a number of passes on the first lap to slot into second place. As he tracked the leader Antonio Cairoli, the pace increased for both riders as they kept raising the bar and lowering the laptimes. With just four laps remaining, Gajser pounced on a slight mistake and took over the lead, much to the delight of the large number of Slovenian fans in attendance. He then held on for the first moto victory despite a last lap charge by Cairoli, but he knew that he still had to secure race two in order to receive the honours of the overall. The second moto couldn’t have got off to a better start though, as Gajser raced to his first holeshot of the year, putting his Honda CRF450RW in prime position to take the second moto win. As the paced started to rise, Cairoli began to put pressure on once again, taking over the lead at the mid-point of the race. After studying the Italians’ lines, Gajser waited a few laps before making his move to regain the lead, eventually taking over with five laps to go. The two riders then gave everything they had for the remainder of the race, with Gajser coming out victorious to take a clean sweep of all sessions over the course of the weekend. It was nothing more than Slovenian deserved and it sent his travelling fans into raptures as they celebrated their rider on the top step of the podium, at their adopted home GP in Trentino. Round five also sees the riders’ return to Italy, at the sandy Mantova track near Verona. This event takes place on May 11-12 which gives everyone five weeks to prepare for what is the first of three back to back races in Italy, Portugal and then France. Tim Gajser: It is unbelievable. It’s my first win in over a year and it’s just such a great feeling. To do it here at Arco di Trento is especially special because of all the Slovenian fans that made the trip to come and support me. I had two great battles today, we were both riding so fast but I think the fans gave me that extra boost I needed to take this victory. Every lap I could hear them and it was amazing to win in front of them,

just to repay them for their energy that they gave me. I am also so happy for all of the members of Team HRC who work so hard to get me to this level, they all deserve a lot of praise for the effort they put in every week, so a big thanks to them too. Now, there is a bit of a break until the next race but we are heading in the right direction and I can’t wait to try and put this Honda CRF450RW on the top step of the podium again. Marcus Pereira de Freitas: What an amazing performance by Tim today! To ride so well, with such pressure on his shoulders was just really impressive. Both motos was a race-long battle and to come out on top is just such a boost to him and to everyone in Team HRC. The pace he was riding was extremely high and it was great to see how comfortable he was feeling on his Honda CRF450RW and testament to how well the team has worked to try and get him to this level. It was also good to see Brian put in a top 10 finish, which is something we’ve known he is capable of, he just needed to put everything together. He rode solidly in that second moto and kept the speed of the riders around him and showed that he fits in with that pack of guys. Overall it was an extremely good weekend for Team HRC in the MXGP class and I hope that we can use this as motivation in this break to keep up the high levels and make sure we perform well in round five of the series. Our best wishes also go to Calvin Vlaanderen as he looks to get surgery on his right leg. It was a real shame to see him get injured this weekend, when he was riding so well, and we hope that he will be fully fit by the time the next round takes place in Mantova.



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Team Rider: Jamie Squibb // Photo: Ian Roxburgh


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