Antonio Cairoli has had a difficult few months, due to niggling injuries and swings in the points, but the recent Grand Prix of Belgium proved that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Cairoli may have lost six more points to Jeffrey Herlings, but it was quite clear that he was closer to one hundred percent and could push a little harder than he has been able to do at recent events. All of that is discussed in the exclusive MX Vice interview below.
MX Vice: Two seconds on the day, a strong 2-2 though. Considering Jeffrey Herlings' situation in the sand, I feel like it was a pretty good weekend.
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, I felt good for sure. First moto I felt better of course, because my condition was better. Despite some lappers that I really struggled with and I lost a lot of seconds while he made the crash, the same lap I lost almost the same amount of seconds that he crashed, then we were always about twelve, eleven or ten seconds [behind]. I was trying to keep it for the last part of the race, trying to push a little bit more, then I was quite happy. First moto was good. That second moto we had not the best start and I was about to go third, so I went outside on the second corner and he came inside. He was immediately attacking for first and then at the end of the first lap he was already first.
I struggled a lot to pass Glenn [Coldenhoff] and since I was second he was already about ten or twelve seconds gone. That case it's difficult. I know that I need to stay closer in the first laps. First moto same. The first few laps he was gone. My plan was for the second moto I need to stay closer in the first laps, but then you cannot plan these things. He really pushed a lot in the first laps and he took a good gap. I barely finished the second moto, because I was very tired after twenty minutes. I was making some mistakes, then I ran out of tear-offs and with the lappers I was struggling a lot.
I did not want to take my goggles off, so then two times second is good. I am really happy about the riding, especially first moto, and I really enjoyed it a lot. The riding skills were good in the sand, so I am really happy, but of course we need to gain points. We lost six points. We will try another time in Switzerland, which is a track that I really like and hopefully my time is better. I am still struggling a little bit, especially on the first part of the race when it is cold and it is a little bit painful, but after was good. Hopefully now in one and a half weeks we will be better.
Once you got into second in the second race I think he had a gap of eight seconds. For you to try and close that down would obviously be a tall order. Do you just try to keep motivation and make sure you keep him there in case he makes a mistake, like he eventually did? Obviously it was very late at that point anyway. I guess it is tough to keep motivation when you cannot quite see him?
Yeah, for sure. Of course that was my plan. He was about ten seconds when I was already second place. So, honestly, it is difficult to catch ten seconds on Jeffrey Herlings in the sand. I was happy, by the way, because I did not ride sand since Assen last year. I was here one and a half weeks before Lommel, so I was pretty happy about my speed. This is a good point. I am happy overall. Hopefully my thumb is feeling better. I can train another week here in Belgium for now and after I move to Italy before Switzerland, so I can ride maybe two times again on hard-pack and hopefully be ready for Switzerland.
I know people will look at the results and think it must have been a terrible weekend, because you lost six points, but I feel like we need to emphasise the fact this was actually a good showing. I know you want to create fireworks over the next few rounds and try and make this thing happen. The fact that you were so close to him in the sand today makes me think that Switzerland and Bulgaria, those weekends could be really good for you. Then this thing could be going down to the wire.
Yeah, for sure. My problem was this. Unfortunately today I did not have the thirty minutes inside, but still I was happy with the riding and with the result. It is about how I feel with my thumb. It is getting better and better every week. I did not feel pain today. In the sand, okay, the first two laps a little bit when it was cold, but after it was not bothering me at all. It is not an excuse. But this week before the race, I tried to ride and I rode a little bit here at Lommel and at other tracks, but I was not really feeling one hundred percent. But for sure now after the race I see that it is better and I can keep pushing a little bit more. He is on a place now that you need to control a little bit, but I try to attack and see what happens. In the end we will see. It is still a very great championship and I am really enjoying it. My riding is very good and I am really happy.
You obviously did a bit of training before this race, which was a step in the right direction with the thumb. Is it full steam ahead now? Are you going to have to take some time off this week or can you fully go for it ahead of Switzerland?
For sure. Before I had three times training in the sand after Loket, so I was here in Lommel two times and another time in another track. So after a really long time, I have to say Riola was my last sand riding, so that is why I am really happy about everything. Now this week I can still ride in Lommel, I hope, because the thumb was not bothering me too much, so I think it is a good track for the thumb. I can still build up some fitness. This is what I am trying to do, then after we will move to Italy next week and try to ride some hard pack before the race.
Obviously, the thumb has made it difficult on you. Have you had to change your bike set-up to compensate for that? Is it going to be a case of now figuring out how to develop that as the thumb gets better and trying to find the right sweet spot?
Yeah, I am riding completely different so I am having blisters on a different spot. I do not really complain because, like I said today, it does not really bother me the thumb. But before, yes, in Loket and for sure in Semarang a lot. In the week I could not ride how I wanted, so I lost some fitness. On this time where Jeffrey is riding seven days out of seven a week, it is really tough if you cannot keep up this speed for all the moto. It is good points for him. He is still pushing all the time. For me, it is also good. Every weekend it is a good click to try to make it happen.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer