Antonio Cairoli was left frustrated following his home Grand Prix. Not because Jeffrey Herlings beat him straight up in the second moto, but because he was restricted to fourth in the opening encounter and gave up some vital points. A freak issue caused that, which he discusses in this exclusive interview, but he has also pinpointed some of the things that he needs to work on to match the new series leader.
MX Vice: Not exactly the weekend you were after, especially after what was maybe the best race of your career last year. You showed you had the speed to match Jeffrey [Herlings] though and it sounds like you ran into a few issues in the motos?
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, actually I had to say that Jeffrey was faster. Consistently all the moto he was faster. Maybe for twenty minutes I was same speed. It was difficult for me to keep that pace. I was riding not relaxed, so I used a lot of energy. With the lappers coming, I lost a little bit the contact with him and then I was too far to catch up with him. He was pushing all the moto. It was very difficult to come back to him. I’m a little bit pissed off on that first moto. Not so much in the second, because I know it is always between me and him lately. It was okay.
For the championship sometimes finishing second is not a problem, but fourth place is something that really was not in the plan. It happened though. I had a good start actually, then the case was that some stone got stuck in my brake pads in front. It was locking the wheel for two or three laps and I was making a lot of mistakes, riding not perfect. I was also scared that something was even wrong and then go over the bars sometimes. At one moment it come off and I could feel that it was again a good bike and I could push. I came back to fourth, which was not bad but also not good for me.
Was there any moment in that first race when the wheel was locking up, but you thought you would have to pull in to pit lane? Was it ever that bad?
Yeah, especially on the first lap when it was very bad. It locked on the triple and on the step up. It locked quite hard. When I land I almost get over the bars, but then I was hearing a little bit of whistling. I was hearing that it was becoming a little bit less and less and less with the time. After the second lap I say, okay, maybe it will come off and it will come back again. It was like that. Fortunately, I did not have to pull off.
Obviously, it was tougher to pass this year as well because they kind of took out Cairoli’s corner. What did they do there to change it and how did you feel about that?
It was more wide last year, so you could cross jump and take the inside. Now the inside berm was just one and a half meter. The corner was a little narrow and was not really the case to jump short. It was also more deep. They put some sand on, so there was like deep ruts so you could not really get inside to make a pass. This is just a small thing. Last year was an excellent race. It is not every time possible to make this kind of comeback. I am really good with my mind. I know that I can stay with him in better tracks and stay a little bit focused more on the start and try to stay always in front.
Like you said, in that second moto you proved that you can run his pace for ten or twenty minutes. How do you practice that so you can do it the whole way? Is it practicing at a higher intensity across the whole moto? Is there even a way to fix that?
Yeah. Actually it is very hard for me to keep the motivation, especially after fifteen years to train in the week and go one hundred and ten percent like I did five or six years ago. It is fifteen years that I am training every week. Sometimes it is difficult to find the motivation in the week to keep pushing at that pace for forty minutes two times. Sometimes I skip some training. This is not what we need because I know that he is training very hard. It is also not easy to focus for so long time and be consistent always.
After fifteen years, was this maybe the most pressure you have ever had at a home GP? Obviously there was a great battle with Jeffrey going on and you were so good here last year, so everyone wanted to see the same.
For sure. Also because motocross is growing a lot in Italy. I have so many fans and this is good because this is what I want, to make the sport bigger. But, in the other side, you have a lot of pressure for sure. I keep saying it from the morning at 6:00am outside the motorhome and people, “We want you to win! We want you to kick the ass of Jeffrey!" It is not easy. He is also a big champion and he is pushing very hard and training. All the pieces need to be in the right place to beat him or also to win the GP. It is very difficult, but this is what is challenging me and this is what keeps me going.
Finally, it seems that Jeffrey has fixed his starts a little bit. Obviously he was up front out of the gate this weekend. Does that change the way that you approach the races? Is there anything more that you need to worry about there?
No, for sure not. Okay, if he is in front already it is okay for me because in one side it is better because I know I can see some lines which before I would never see. He would just come from the back and he had better lines than me always. But, in the other side, for sure I need to push a little bit already from the first laps and very hard. This is also a little bit changing my training program. Try to adjust this about going with heart rate immediately high and stay on that level for thirty minutes, which is difficult. This is evolving during the year.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer