Cleaning out the inbox from some press releases and news from the week that was here in the USA: The news came this week that injured Red Bull KTM rider Jeffrey Herlings would not be heading over here to contest the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. Of course Herlings has been injured and it looks like he's going to miss the first four or five MXGPs, so the thought was maybe get healthy and come to the USA to hit the start of the series here. Truthfully, I always thought it was a long shot despite Herlings trolling his fans with social media posts.
I'm sure there were some discussions, I'm not saying that, but what's the upside to KTM sending him here? They have a team with Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb and they'll both be title contenders, Herlings has different sponsors over in Europe than what the American team runs (Pirelli vs. Dunlop), the bikes are different, the MXGP team would be left short-handed with just one rider (Antonio Cairoli) and what happens to the staff of people in Europe that were there to help Herlings? Does the USA team just add them? There are so many moving parts here that it was always a long shot to happen.
Besides, as good as Antonio Cairoli looks right now after one round, anything can happen and KTM might just need Herlings to help out the #222 later on in the season or in case of injury, be the guy to try and make a run at the championship even facing a massive points deficit. It would've been cool, for sure, but having been on race teams, you cannot just make bikes, parts and a support crew appear out of thin air. The effort for Herlings to race here would've been costly and taken a lot of work by KTM on both sides of the ocean. Musquin and Webb are ready, they are great riders and things will be set with those two.
We all saw RM ATV/MC KTM rider Blake Baggett made a spirited charge at Musquin for the win this past weekend in an effort to get his second career 450SX win. He didn't do it, but it was still an impressive ride by the #4. Something that's really helping Baggett is former factory rider, turned Baggett and Justin Bogle's team manager, Michael Byrne. Byrner had a great career on the bike and the last few years has helped out Mike Alessi at MCR, his buddy Chad Reed on some different teams and went to RMATVMC KTM a few years ago. He's a very smart guy about riding technique and what the bikes are doing out on the track. Universally, whenever I talk to people who Byrne has worked with, they praise him. There might be a factory level management job waiting for the Aussie one day, he's that good.
I asked Bogle about working with Byrne at Indianapolis and he said, "He's very, very, very intelligent and very good at communicating with the riding stuff. Honestly, half the time I just feel like I'm talking to an older version of me. He was very, very good and very talented. He had a lot of injuries, so he's been through all of it. It's been good for us to spend a month with him just living at his house with him and his family, which I'm extremely thankful for. Just kind of getting closer and him understanding us more. I know to a lot of people I look like an idiot, because I make rad music and I dress cool, so understanding that I do bust my ass and I do want this badly and being around him and just trying to be a sponge and soak up everything he's doing."
One of the more disappointing riders this year is JGR Suzuki's Justin Hill. The rookie hasn't shown consistent speed like many thought he had when he was moonlighting in the 450SX class last season. His 250SX season didn't go well although he did get a win. The thought was he would show that speed more this season and it just hasn't been there. Fitness seems to be a bit of a problem, as during the week he's always faster than Chad Reed but hasn't beaten the veteran at just two races this year.
The team is hoping that being back in North Carolina will be a help to Hill in turning his season around. California life, it seems, is a bit of a distraction for Justin or at least his team thinks so… "We're [Hill] getting better. I'm kind of bummed. Obviously, we need to do better in the mains. But at least the speed's getting there. We need to keep fighting. We're not giving up," team manager Jeremy Albrecht told me after Indianapolis. "It's going to turn around. He's just got to stay on his program and keep doing the same thing. It'll come. He just needs to get on track, really. Get some confidence. Us changing the bike around, him changing his programme a little bit, all is coming together.
"Obviously, even tonight needed better results than what we got. He's at least bummed and we know he can do better. I'm not going to leave here all bummed out, but definitely we need to get up on the box and really that's where he belongs. He can get a third. I'm not saying he's going to do it every week, but he can get up there and do that."
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Suzuki Racing