Jorge Prado has had a phenomenal season. The fact that it started with a disastrous injury, which was swept under the rug by some, makes it even more remarkable. Prado made some time for MX Vice earlier this week to recap all of that and also shed some light on what he plans to do in the future. It is an intriguing interview that can either be listened to or read. Both options can be found below.
MX Vice: We have got a bit more time to go through everything here, instead of rushing it. I have not spoken to you since you won the title, actually, so it has been a month and a half now. I guess it is all starting to set in a little bit? Talk about how crazy it has been since then.
Jorge Prado: Yeah, it has been a long time we don’t talk. Normally it was kind of like every weekend, but now it is already one month and a half! After Imola, I had to go back to Spain and then ‘Nations. After Nations I went back to Belgium, had one week off, got surgery over there and went back to Spain. I visited my family and friends and then I also did some driving-license practice. I did the test and everything, because soon I am eighteen and I need to get my driving license.
When I am eighteen, I’ll go back to Spain and get that. I did a couple of stuff in Spain and was always very busy with interviews, radio programmes and also some TV programmes. It has been two weeks off without training, but not like real holidays. I did not really have time to just relax and breathe a little bit. It was two weeks with no training. I was busy, but it is also good for myself and the motocross in Spain.
You mentioned there that you had an operation. I am guessing that was your elbow from the beginning of the season?
Yeah. Last year before the season I got injured and broke my elbow. They put the screw in. I crashed, I think in Argentina, and I think there the screw got a bit loose. I was always having many problems with the screw, irritation. I could not do some movements. I decided to take it out right now, because it was the right time and to get fully fixed for next season. I was struggling this season a little bit with the elbow, so I did not want to struggle one year more like that. I took it out two weeks ago, more or less, and now it’s feeling very good. I started training and it is feeling way better than it did before. I’m very happy with how the operation went and how the elbow is feeling right now.
Going back to the beginning of the season, we talked about your elbow a lot. I still cannot believe that you were injured in December, January and then a bit of February…
Yeah. The crash was like the twenty-fifth of December. I got surgery the twenty-seventh. It was two months out, so two weeks before the first race in Argentina I started riding the bike and started racing.
This is what I don’t understand. You started riding again two weeks before Argentina and that was a bit rough. Then, by Valkenswaard, you were fast enough to win. How is that possible? You were injured for like three months and then straightaway you could win. How?
Two months. I am a rider who really every time that I get injured, I really never lose… I start from the same point I left. Probably physically for sure I lost a little bit, but speed-wise it is still pretty much the same. In Argentina I was first in the timed practice until the end, then Pauls [Jonass] made a fast lap at the end and I got second. I was already good in Argentina, then had bad luck with the crashes. Maybe it is not bad luck… It was just mistakes I did.
Calvin [Vlaanderen] as well did a very good job over there. If you start thinking, that race, I thought many times during the season that crash I made in the first moto… Wait. I did not make the crash. The guy hit me, so we crashed. I lost many points in that moto. That could have been a race where I would have been all year thinking, because of that crash I could have lost the championship. I was lucky after I could make a really good season, very consistent, and that mistake did not affect too much my overall points.
Do you think that maybe then, in a crazy way, the elbow injury saved you from getting tired and burnt out towards the end of the season? Obviously, you came into the first round really fresh. That does not affect you too much, like you said, so maybe it actually helped?
Honestly, yes. When I crashed in December, I was feeling already pretty fit. I did a very good job last year with my preparation, then I got injured and I had to start again. Probably, yes. Many riders are riding a lot in January and February. Everybody is riding a lot because normally that is another period where you need to really concentrate and ride a lot to get confident and test all those things that make you go better on the bike, but I was not riding in that time.
I was training, but I was not riding. Then all year long it was like I always wanted to come and go riding, because I was very motivated to go riding and to improve. I felt that I could always improve, day by day. I was not really tired of riding, where I think other riders maybe got a bit down after so much riding all season. Yeah, it probably helped me also.
Going back to the beginning of the season again, obviously you switched over to the De Carli side. We touched on it a little bit at the races, but obviously there was not as much time there. Talk about the benefits that you think came with that now you have done a season with the team.
Yeah, the change to the De Carli side was very good and very important for myself as well. I feel like I am in the right spot right now. They help me so much with everything at the track and when we get off the track as well. Claudio [De Carli] was a guy that helped me a lot this season with the bike, with the training programme, with so many things and made everything a bit more easy. Getting a title is never easy, especially when you need to beat the champ of the year before. It was a great change moving to Italy with a good training programme, really good people around me and everybody who wants the best for you. That made a big difference.
Obviously, being younger than most of your competitors, is it just that extra little bit of guidance that you were maybe missing before? Someone to reassure you that you are doing the right thing with training and bike set-up?
Honestly, I am very good with my bike set-up. I know very well what I want or the way we need to go, but Claudio gives that extra confidence on saying that this is the right way or let’s think a bit more and maybe try to find another way if there is a better way. We are always trying to improve and improve together, because he is a guy who really gets involved with me. He wants to always improve myself physically and then the bike. The package with Claudio is very good.
I guess it was the right time too because, if things were a little weird last year, had you stayed at the same spot and battled Pauls like you did this year, that would have maybe got very weird.
Yeah, for sure. If I would have been in the same spot this year like last year things probably would have got a bit tense, let’s say.
Looking at the season as a whole, was there a time where you thought you did not have a shot at the championship? Obviously, at one point you were like fifty points behind. Was there really a point where you started to doubt yourself?
After three races it was almost fifty points. In the beginning of the season, the thing was that I was finishing first or second and Pauls was first or second. We could not make a gap between us. I was like, fifty points are a lot of points if you just can take… Not take points in the weekend, because we go first and second, or second and first, and it was just six points. It was tough. Honestly, I thought it is going to be on the limit in the just last races. I was getting closer, closer and closer. I did not make mistakes, but he started making a bit of mistakes. That gave me the advantage to come a bit closer quicker.
What about the other way, looking across the whole season is there one race that sticks out as one where you rode the best you had all year?
Honestly, the races are always very difficult. The race I would say I finished the best was Assen this year. For sure I was a bit nervous the last laps, because with so many lappers I just could not pass them. I was like fifteen seconds in front and then after four laps they were like three seconds behind me. I was like, “What am I doing now?” I could push and make another gap. When I finished the second moto, I said to my father that I could make another moto. I was not tired at all.
It was just lappers and everything, it was crazy. Probably that race was not easy, but I could finish the moto pretty fresh. Then I had hard-pack races that I rode well. Teutschenthal I rode very well. Switzerland very well. I would say Bulgaria too. Pauls was really fast in Bulgaria, but I could manage to take the win. A few other races I rode very well, but the competition is very strong.
There is one thing that is clear from talking to you all season: You are obviously happy you won the world title. Take the results out of the equation and it just seems like you have really found home. You are just really, really happy with the way that everything is kind of laid out for you at the moment.
Yes. Right now, I am very happy. The team is very happy. I am in the perfect spot. I could not ask for a better place. Right now, I feel good and let’s hope we stay for a long time together.
This brings me onto what I wanted to talk about. At Teutschenthal, you told me that your American dream… You have kind of forgotten about it a little bit and changed your focus. Is that still the case?
After ‘Nations, the Europeans beat all the Americans. We beat everyone. Okay, it is one race. It is difficult to compare, because of the conditions of the track and so many things. I am not the best guy riding the mud, but I won the MX2 class. Jeffrey [Herlings], Tony [Cairoli]… They all beat the Americans. I even beat some 450s. Okay, it is one race. Difficult to compare, but if you see that… It is like, the level in the world championship is very high.
It is hard to say. I would like to go and race supercross. It’s almost a different sport. It was always my dream to go there and race supercross, but right now I like to stay in Europe. In the future, I don’t know in a few years or two years or next year, it would be good to go and race supercross for sure.
It’s always been obvious that supercross is your dream. You probably don’t even remember, but we were at a practice track in California with you like four years ago, when you were trying out supercross, and you were so happy just to be doing it. I guess that excitement is never going to go away, even if you never go.
Yeah. Supercross is so much fun! The feeling going through the whoops, it is just so nice every single lap. I think I am very good at it. I did some practice, 2015, just when I passed to the 250F bike. I felt very good. I was training with the TLD team. I was not too bad compared to the pros that year. Supercross could be an option for me as well.
If you had to kind of put a percentage on it then, what do you reckon the chances are that you do go to America at some stage? It is obviously not zero, but then maybe it is more likely that you will stay and be on a 450 in MXGP?
Yeah, we still need to see. For sure I would like to move to the 450F with Claudio. He has a lot of experience, so he can help me a lot with bike set-up and physically as well. I would like to move to the 450F class with Claudio.
Obviously now moving into next season, you have done a year with Claudio. You have figured out all of the bugs in your programme. Is there anything that you would want to change going into next year? Is there anything that in your mind you know you need to fix? Even with riding, training or anything at all?
Just improve in all little aspects; physically, on the bike and inside the physical preparation. We can work in different things and improve. We always can improve everything. Claudio knows very well where we need to improve and where we need to make a change, if we need to make a change. I think we can make a good programme this year as well.
Do you think that you have one weakness then? I would say at the start of the year, Pauls was better than you on hard-pack and obviously you changed that as the season went on. Do you feel like you’re quite a consistent rider across the board?
I won Arco and that was the fourth round. The first three rounds were kind of sandy, let’s say. This year I was very good all-year round in hard-pack, but it is true… At the end of the year I was feeling very good. Even if the track was very hard and slick, I felt very confident. I have been training on a lot of hard-pack in Italy, so for next year sand or hard-pack doesn’t really matter for me. For sure in sand I am a bit more comfortable. but I enjoy riding hard-pack a lot.
One thing that everyone seems to want to know, and I don’t know why everyone cares about this so much, but everyone wants to know if you are going to run the number one plate. Have you even thought about that?
Yeah, but no. I will stay with the sixty-one. Pauls was riding with the number one this year, so every time I see number one it’s like… “Remember me, Pauls?” That is one thing, it is just like a joke. The number one I was thinking about it and I was like, I cannot ride the number one. Jeffrey should ride the number one. He is the best. Okay, I could be the best in MX2, but the best of the best is Jeffrey. He won the biggest class, so it means that he is the best. I still cannot ride the number one. For myself I still need to ride the sixty-one.
I haven’t really spoken to you about ‘Nations too much. You mentioned it there and it was clear that you are very happy with how it went. Obviously, as a rider in your position, you would have been watching riders like [Eli] Tomac and [Justin] Barcia on TV before you turned pro. In a way, they are your heroes. For you to beat them on that weekend, obviously it would not happen all the time, but on that weekend you did. That must have just been a really cool thing for you to say you have done.
Yeah. It was a very, very strange weekend because I came after Imola. All that week I was so busy I did not even train, nothing, just got on the plane to go to the USA. Then on Saturday I was feeling kind of tired all the week. I even slept between practices in the afternoon. I was sleeping all day, just to recover from so many things that I had to do in the week. On Sunday I woke up a bit better and did a good warm-up. I said, “Okay, I need to try to push a little bit in the warm-up to get that bit of rhythm.” On Saturday I really did not feel perfect, so on Sunday I felt more comfortable on the bike and everything.
Like you said, in the first moto Tomac was riding. I had a good start and was leading for twenty minutes. Finished in third. Very, very happy. It is crazy. Guys like Tomac and [Ken] Roczen, I beat those guys! It is one moto, but I beat them one moto. It is incredible. The circumstances of the start also, starting good. I have been always watching a lot of American races, like pro motocross and supercross. I have been always watching Tomac racing and beating these guys. I was like, “This guy is so good.” He is still good for sure, but it was very nice to beat those guys.
That was perfect. Were you at all disappointed that Spain could not get in the top five or podium? It was looking really good after the second race. If they could have maybe put you in [Jose] Butron’s gear and stuck you on a 450F, maybe you could have done something?
Yeah. Every time I was on track, like for instance in second moto I could kind of get the points a bit lower. I think we even got first in one point. We were leading and everything. It was crazy. I think everybody in Spain started to take pictures of the standings. It was so funny. I knew that could not last for long. Just the results were from my side very good. They all did their best. It is hard. Butron did the best he could. Carlos [Campano], same and had some bad luck. For sure, if I could get into that third moto even with my 250F, maybe we could have been top five. Fifth or sixth.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer