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It is tricky for fans to determine whether the 2019 Motocross of Nations was a success for Jeffrey Herlings or not. The Netherlands won as a team, which was the main goal for all involved, but he did not win a moto like so many expected him to. What happened? Herlings reflects on the wet event in this exclusive MX Vice interview from the event.
MX Vice: This was a big one for you. This was basically your whole year. You won, which was the main goal. It was not your best weekend I guess, individually, but does that matter now? You won… That was the goal.
Jeffrey Herlings: Obviously we wanted to go 1-1. That is not a secret. Obviously with the weather circumstances, you have been seeing it's been raining so much. They flattened the track all the time and then the first few laps with the goggles your struggling. I had no goggle problems at all. The goggles were working absolutely one hundred percent fine, but just you get roosted constantly. When you are not there up front it makes it difficult. I think that's why we did not win individually, but this is a team race and we have won it as a team. I cannot ask for more.
This is your first sand motocross race in a year. Did the beach race last week actually help? I guess the rain changed the game completely.
Yeah. Last week was like riding in the Sahara [Desert]. Now we are riding in rain and mud with lines and a flat track. Just rain ruined my complete plan to go 1-1 at the ‘Nations. It was a shame, but it's racing and a part of things. If you look at the month I have been racing, I was consistent. I was always kind of in the top five. To win championships you need to be like that.
After this we have got some tests to do this week and then next week I will get surgery to get the metal removed from the collarbone, the foot and ankle. I'll be metal-free again and then take two months off to get it all healed up. I can do basically everything I like, but the bones really need to get strong again because of all the screws and plates on them. In December we'll go for 2020.
One of your goals with racing the last couple of weeks was to make sure you did not get arm pump here. Was there a bit of that at all or were you completely fine?
I didn't have arm pump. Arm pump was no problem at all. It was just that I missed out the first few laps. In the first moto, second moto… The second moto I even had three crashes. I think I should be thankful today with the second and a fourth. It was really good for where I came through from on the first laps in both motos and with the crashes I've had.
What happened in the first moto? You were riding around steady. It was nice. It was good but then randomly out of nowhere you flicked a switch and went six seconds a lap quicker than anyone. What changed around lap ten? It was the most random thing ever. Did you just get bored and go, "You know what? F**k it."
No. In the beginning it was like I got roosted and the track was flat. I couldn't find anywhere to pass, because the track was so flat. It was just one fast and quick line. I went through there and you just had to follow. I could not do much. Then the track got rougher and bumpier, and I found lines to pass. I could get around the guys. Same the last moto, but then for example [Jorge] Prado… I passed the kid three times.
I didn't know what was going on there either. Every single time I looked up you were behind him again.
Yeah. I passed him and crashed. Passed him again and crashed again, and then passed him again. I was like, "Now I'm over it." Guys like that. I just made hard work for myself. Need to thank the whole Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team crew. They did a great job. The bike was awesome. Just have to work on the starts. This was not really a good test, because the complete start field was muddy and things like that.
It wasn't like a normal scenario and I think that's one thing we can improve for next year, and just be consistent again and make sure we get healthy. That's the most important thing. We missed out on the pie this year, but we got the cherry at least. To win here was good. Looking forward to next year already. Taking some time off. Some good testing hopefully this week if the weather allows it. Then two months off, and then ready to go and prepare for next season.
I couldn't see the start from where I was stood, but I'm guessing you had the outside gate both times?
No, both times inside. That's worse.
What happened to your starts then?
I screwed up both times. Really, really messed up. I don't know what happened. I had no expectations. It's not the bike. In the previous races my starts were good. Sweden holeshots. Turkey they were good. China they were not too bad. Not the bike. It was me. I don't know what went wrong. Yesterday I spun a bit on the net and the same in the first moto. Obviously again due to weather circumstances it was so like ice on the plate, so maybe a bit of wheel spin? Maybe I had too much RPM or whatever. I don't know. It was not a normal circumstance that we had today.
I asked Calvin [Vlaanderen] the same question. It's kind of a tricky one but obviously all three of you guys are amazing in the sand. That's where you shine. Coming in yesterday, you were already a level above everyone else. Do you feel like the rain helped you – it became more technical and skill came into it a bit more – or did it close the gap to the other teams?
I think if it was dry then we would have had even a bigger advantage, because we were all working hard on the last few weeks. All the tracks were like a Sahara and so dry. We didn't have rain for a long, long time. Then obviously just things turned around this week and rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. If you look at the points difference, yeah. We did pretty awesome. A first, a first, a second, a fourth and a tenth. The rest of the guys… I think Belgium did thirty points or something.
Fifty-eight I think… Forty-eight. Something like that.
We were like thirty points in front. All good, I would say.
Winning the Motocross of Nations, was that everything you thought it would be? Was it just as special as you thought?
Yeah. It's awesome. I have won AMA Nationals and eighty-four GPs. I have won four world titles. MX2 and MXGP. I have basically won everything I almost could have won. I even won individually at the Motocross of Nations – in MXGP and Open – but never the Motocross of Nations at all. To win that and especially for the first time in our home country, it is pretty amazing.
What about the king? Did he like you or did he hate you?
He seemed to like me.
Were you allowed to look at him in the eye or were there set rules [laughs]?
I was actually thinking about asking him if I could pay less tax, but I didn't. I didn't really have the balls to do that. I'm just kidding. He loves sports, so that is very nice to have a king like that. It's not an everyday thing to shake hands with the king of your country and to see a guy like that. I really appreciate his visit. Pretty awesome.
2020. It's on, right?
2020 it's on, boys. 2018 was on. 2019 was completely off. 2020 we go for back on, hopefully.
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