Antonio Cairoli has encountered a handful of issues in recent weeks, but salvaged plenty of points and stayed in the thick of the title chase. That was discussed in this exclusive interview from the Grand Prix of Portugal, which was originally posted as a podcast, as well as those training comments that he made a week ago.
MX Vice: 2-2 on the day, which obviously is not exactly what you want. Considering the position that you were in in the first moto and your eye… I feel like this was a championship performance and you salvaged good points.
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, exactly. Everything is going good. Like I said also in the press conference, only that first moto in Arco I am still not happy about it as I know that Jeffrey [Herlings] at the moment is at a very good level. His fitness is strong and he can push for all the moto very good. I know that I am not at the moment where I need to be with the condition, but it is a long season and we plan to grow slowly and build up a stronger middle and end of season. So, overall I am okay. Two times second is okay.
For sure, we are here to win but we have to be realistic also. We have to see when it is possible to win. For sure, the first moto I think if I did not have the problem with the stone and with my goggle I think I could come quicker to the front. I had good lines and I had good speed. Maybe I could challenge him for the win? But second moto he was a little bit faster, I had to say.
I had also a little bit problem with my eye that got swollen during the moto when I started pushing and my heart rate goes up. I start to feel a little bit not one hundred percent. I have to say that he had better lines and the track was very deep. I struggle a lot when the track is like this. He is attacking the track more than me with power and I am a little bit conservative in some places, which are where I lost some seconds on him. But, overall, I am happy. The championship is strong and we are always there, always on the podium. This is how it goes.
Did a rock hit you early on in the first moto? I know you were not happy with fourth in Trentino, because obviously those are big points. When you were in third and fourth, did you panic that you maybe were not going to get to second and give up an extra one or two points?
Yeah, actually yes, because I get the stone and then my lens pop out from the frame, so I did not really know what to expect about the rest of the race. If the lens maybe come off completely and I need to stop for a goggle change, but then it changed to be quite okay. Only not enough so I need to clean always my hand. The vision was not always the best, but I was happy that I could come to second. Very happy.
In the second moto, you changed your gate to go alongside Jeffrey. Was there any reason for that? Was it tactical to maybe pinch him off and get out ahead?
No, it was nothing tactical. It was just that I saw that first moto I went a little bit too wide in the corner and they get me from the inside. So I say, okay, I go a little bit more conservative to try to get a good start and to stay in the top three already from the beginning of the race.
Obviously, we know that Jeffrey has got the light now. Your starts are not a problem, but have you thought about maybe adding that just to make sure that you are on a level-playing field and there are no excuses out of the gate?
No. When you have a better jump, you can do your own line. This is the motocross. When you have a better jump and the rest next to you then for sure you do not leave the door open, nowhere to nobody. Not because it was Jeffrey, but even if it was someone else. I kept safe on the inside line. It was a great start and I am really happy about some parts of the racing. Less happy about some other parts of the racing, but I know what I have to work so I am not panicking at all. I know that he is on the top of the form at the moment and he is very quick.
There were a lot of comments last week after what you said in our interview about skipping training days and maybe that is why you can’t go his pace for thirty minutes, but towards the end of last year you said that you backed down your training so that you could maintain the same level across the whole season. Is that kind of what you are doing? You are looking at the bigger picture already?
Yeah, exactly. It is difficult. I do not know another rider in motocross that has done this. Winning a GP every year for fifteen years in a row, so it is quite difficult. Maybe the people at home, they do not really realise it is tough. Keep training every time and it is not always fun. After so many years, I know what I have to work [on]. Sometimes it is difficult to get the motivation but, with the level that we are at now, we are always on the limit.
Jeffrey is pushing always harder and harder. It is getting easier to get the motivation, because I know that I need to stay with him and I need to train. Compared with the rest of the riders, they are a little bit one step back at the moment. This is not a problem. I have the motivation. Sometimes it happens that it is difficult and it is raining. I skip training and stuff like this. Not the physical training, but the bike training, but now we are getting to the summer, so the weather is going to be better and we can step it up a little bit.
Maybe people went a bit crazy. The way you said you skip a few training days, it is not like this is happening every week. It is once a month or so and you know that you can sit there and say that it is okay, because you know the level that you need to be at to contend on the weekends.
Yeah, of course. I do not skip trainings daily. For sure it can happen one time a month. You need to be very consistent in this sport. Jeffrey is riding every day almost and is pushing, like I was ten years ago. It is normal. I think everybody in the world should do the same. When you are young and you are new to some stuff, you keep doing it and you love it. With age growing, it is always difficult. Even to go work. For normal people when they get a new job they are motivated.
You are always motivated but sometimes it can happen if you skip one training here; one a month, not a week. But, anyway, I know what I need to work on. Motivation is there. I am really enjoying a lot the racing at the moment. So, hopefully we can come with some more wins from now on. This is the goal always.
You say you know where you need to work. Where is that exactly? Is there one point that you can see where you are losing time on the track or something?
No, actually it is on the fitness. Actually it is on the race pace. This is where we need to work. We have the speed. On the practice and on the lap times when we do the qualifying times and stuff like that, I always had it in the past where I am not fast in the single lap, so this is where we are working already a little bit.
The main stuff is working to get the race pace constantly the same, because this is the most difficult. With the speed we are pushing from the first to the last moment with Jeffrey. This is where I know we need to work. It is difficult. It is not for everyone, but this is challenging, like I said, and this is what keeps me going after so many years.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer