Antonio Cairoli suffered another hit at the Grand Prix of Asia, as the deficit that he currently faces to Jeffrey Herlings doubled in size. Considering the thumb issue that he is currently dealing with, however, it was not a bad weekend at all and one that he hopes to put behind him as he mounts a charge to the chequered flag. It sounds like the battle has only just begun.
MX Vice: I do not really know how to feel about your weekend, because I do not know what you expected coming in. Based on how yesterday went, I feel like today was pretty good considering the thumb and everything.
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, I did not know also what to expect because in the week it looked very bad. I tried to ride a scooter and it was barely possible, even the scooter, so I was really not pumped to come and race because I know with this kind of injury… I have had it in the past and it is something very frustrating, because you cannot ride at all, especially when I saw the track Friday. I saw the track was very hard and it was going to be so hard and slick. I said, “Okay, going to be tough." The expectation was to finish top ten for me this weekend. To be honest, I did not really feel great the first practice. I could barely hold on. I was very frustrated.
Second timed practice was the same. Then qualification race… I know in the race I can still invent a little bit and make it something a little bit better, but still I had to take injection once yesterday and today twice. I was also physically completely destroyed; it made me sweat a lot and this kind of medicaments. It was okay. In the end it was good, because the first moto was third and that was good. That second moto I had a good start. Jeffrey [Herlings] got the inside very, very aggressive and he pushed me outside. He also lost the holeshot… If he just stayed on his line he maybe probably get the holeshot.
It was a little bit tough at the beginning of the race, then I messed up a little bit on the back side of the track. I take one rut a little bit strange and then I twist my thumb again. After that I was still almost giving up I would say. I had so much pain I could barely hold on with those jumps that there are here. Then everybody was passing me. I dropped back to eighth or ninth. I said, “Okay, this is not possible." I need to try to regroup and try to stay a little bit more in front as possible.
So in the end I could make it to fourth, which is okay. We came close to the podium, which was for me impossible. I did not expect it was possible during the week. It is motocross and sometimes the crash is around the corner always. I am okay with this. I tried to regroup as soon as possible; I will attack from now on if I am healthy again and I can keep training and try to do the last part of the season with a different mentality and racing mood.
You say a different mentality. What will that be? Will that impact the way that you race here or train in the week?
Both. My plan was to have a better second part of the championship, but for sure I had to start already from last week. This was my plan and then the crash happened and the injury happened. A little bit stopped the flow, but I think from now on we need to be a little bit aggressive with riding. Try to be less clean and more physical with everybody, because it is nice from now on. The championship is almost at the end, so we need to step it up. This was my plan already before the injury. I hope I can start training again soon and this does not take too long.
What is the deal with the thumb? If you take two weeks of rest before Loket, will that heal it? Is it going to be something that will bother you the rest of the season?
Normally three weeks it will be okay. The problem is like when the shoulder pops out… Subluxation we say in Italy. But it was not completely out. The thumb was just barely off the cartilage, the capsule. I get a scan this week. The problem is it is the cartilage and the capsule of the thumb that is damaged, so a lot of fluid is coming out and making swelling. The tendon and the nerves are stretching, so it is kind of painful. Normally three weeks it will be okay. In Loket I hope I will be one hundred percent again.
Obviously there is never a good time to have a thumb injury, but I am guessing this timing maybe pissed you off more? With Jeffrey Herlings’ only just coming back, this was kind of your opportunity to make up more ground and, because of things out of your control, you obviously could not capitalize on that in the way that you planned.
Yeah, of course. I have had it in the past, the broken collarbone and I know it’s okay. I did not get the plate done, but I was okay within twenty days. I know how it feels riding with it. It is bothering you for sure, because it is still one surgery, but it is a little bit easier injury than others. They missed one race so we could make up some points. Now we lost a couple this weekend. From now on, like I said, my goal is to try to stay in front of him if it is possible from the next races and try to make a sprint to the end of the season.
Going back to last week, did it surprise you how good Jeffrey Herlings rode considering the injury? Did you expect him to be on a lower level?
No. I know what kind of injury it is, the collarbone. When you get the plate on, you need the physiologic time for the stitches and the surgery. It does not really bother you much. It’s okay. The only thing is that you miss two weeks of riding and maybe your physical condition is a little bit lower, but I know for him it was not a problem because he was already on a very good condition. So it did not really bother him. I was the only one who could stay in front of him, because the rest of the guys are a little bit slower. I expect him already very competitive.
Twenty-four points now, I think it is anyway. That is nothing to worry about, right? It is not a total that is too much to overcome. You could make that go down quite quickly.
We have seen it that motocross is a difficult sport and injuries are always around the corner. In the race, you do not know what can happen. You can lose ten points in one moto easily if you crash. I am not really worried about the points. My goal is just to regroup a little bit and try to heal up as soon as possible and be back and have fun like I have already all of the season until now.
Only this race was very tough for me. Riding with an injury is always difficult. It reminds me a little bit of 2016, when I was riding with a broken arm for a couple of races. It was not really a good feeling. I did not really like this weekend of racing, but we still save it and make good points.
Finally, how excited are you to get back home to Europe and to a bit of normality? Obviously we have been in Indonesia a while now. The food is different. Everything is different. Are you excited to get home?
Actually I like to travel a lot. For sure being back to Italy I can have better food for sure and see my friends, my pets at home who I miss and everybody. It is really nice to be back home, but our job is not to be always around. So I am okay with this. I have been doing it for so many years and still [it is] okay.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer