What more can actually be said about Jeffrey Herlings at this point? After taking his twenty-fifth moto victory and thirteenth overall win of the season at the Grand of Switzerland, he is now sat on an incredible advantage of fifty-eight points. Remember that he actually missed a round! All of that is discussed in this exclusive MX Vice interview from Frauenfeld-Gachnang. This interview was originally posted as a podcast and listening to that adds another element.
MX Vice: Another 1-1 and similar to every other week, just dominant. Talk us through your races that were obviously picture perfect.
Yeah, if you get a result it looks picture perfect. A little crash in qualifying, but it is not a big thing. Today was good. Two good starts. Put ourselves in a good position and managed to win both motos and, most importantly, extend the championship points lead.
That qualifying race yesterday was great to watch. Obviously, it sucks that you crashed in the second corner and you do not want to have to do all that work on a Saturday. Do you enjoy the challenge though? Every single race seems to follow a similar pattern for you. Start fourth or fifth, get into the lead lap three or four. Just doing something different, is that fun?
Most fun is just holeshot, check out, do not look back and win the GP. That is the most fun. It is racing. You cannot plan things. It is the same in life. Things are just happening. I did not plan to crash there. It is racing. Nobody expected, for example, Tony [Cairoli] to go 8-5 or 8-6 today. Just things like that are coming unexpected and the same with my collarbone, so that is why I also do not want to plan too much for the championship.
Just look race to race and do our best possible. It is hard to keep improving, but we try to still improve. The competition is not slowing down. You see the Yamaha guys and the Kawi guys. They have been working on the starts and trying to get closer to our bike, also us at KTM. Even though we’re really strong currently, me as a rider but also as a team, we need to keep improving to stay at the top.
Obviously, you came back to sixth in that qualifying race on a track that maybe tightens everyone up a little bit. Were you surprised by that? If it was a full-length moto, it’s easy for me to say stood in front of you, I honestly think you could have won it. You were only fourteen seconds down at the end, so I think it could have been possible.
I think if I would not have crashed I definitely could get up to second or third. Tony started up front and if he would have saw me coming he could maybe give an extra push. I had to still pass five guys and the further you come through the top guys, the more difficult it gets to pass. I am strong physically I think, obviously, so I am good in the end of the motos still, but I got sixth. I do think if it was a full thirty-minutes plus two I would probably get up to second or third.
In that second moto it obviously took you a little while to get into the lead and you were involved in quite a tight battle. Was that just a calculated race on your part? Just kind of bide your time and wait for the right moment?
I was trying to find some lines. There were plenty of lines. They did a good job on the track, I think, but there was only one fast and good line, so it was hard to overtake Clement [Desalle]. He is known as a rider who is not a dirty one, but hard to overtake. He puts his elbows up and he is a tough guy to pass. He rode really great. He took good lines. He did not ride dirty or anything. He just was riding strong and good.
I also need to be on a good day to pass those guys on those types of tracks. I was just focused on Tony, where he was. I saw I made a bigger gap towards him. At one-point Romain [Febvre] came back and started to push me, so then I knew that if I was going to win the overall I had to shift a gear up, overtake him and try to put a little gap.
I think you have got a gap of more than fifty points again now, which is obviously nice to have. I have heard you mention it a few times, but just talk about the amount of work that has gone into that from eating, training and everything. It sounds like you just have not let off at all this year.
No, I started on the first of December and I think we are August 20 almost. It has been long. I just cannot wait for the season to be over with. I know it is seven weeks until ‘Nations and six more until this championship is over anyhow. There is like a finish in sight. It was tough mentally and physically to do it every day, day in and day out. Wake up, go train, come back, eat, go train again and always make the sacrifice for the food and eating all that god damn salad every day to try to lose weight. I am only human.
Tony, for example, he is smaller, so for him… He probably also watches his food, do not get me wrong, but for me I am a taller guy, so I need to watch it extra to get a good start and things like that. I am not a good starter for myself, so I need to work on everything. If you are not a good starter you also need to have a good physical [level] to work your way up through the front, so it was many things and reasons why I had to do it. If I do not win the championship, I just want to go to bed on September 30 and say, “Hey, I gave it all I could. I was not good enough, something happened or whatever.” I just want to go to sleep then and say, “Hey, I gave it one hundred and ten percent.”
Is it actually weighing on you a little bit now then? Obviously physically it does not look like it. You are still just as strong as ever, but mentally maybe?
Yeah, mentally it is tough. Whenever I pass a McDonald’s, I go past it with my friends and they are like, “Hey, let’s get some food.” I’m like, “Let’s get a salad!” They are eating the big hamburger, Coca Cola and stuff like that. It is part of the job. I have seen it and learned it with Aldon [Baker]. KTM gave me the chance to go there for two weeks and experience that, so it was nice to see how those guys work. I try to copy their system to try to make it even better for myself and do a personal thing, but I like Aldon’s way of working. If he would have been here I would definitely work with him, but he is in the US so it is not really possible. I try to copy his system.
We are going down a path a little bit now. The two weeks you spent with Aldon, it sounds like it really meant a lot to you? You really took a lot from that, right?
Yeah. I learned a lot. I have heard about it, but I never witnessed it. To witness it, it was nice. Once again, I have to give it up to KTM for giving the chance to me to work with Aldon for only a little bit of time, but I learned a lot. I think that’s one of the reasons I am pretty strong this year.
Finally, since the last time we spoke, the ‘Nations team was announced. It is looking pretty strong. I might even have to become Dutch for the event! I like your chances. It sounds good! It all looks good on paper.
Yeah, we are looking good I think with Calvin [Vlaanderen] on board. He is maybe half South African, but he is Dutch for the weekend. Let’s keep it that way. I think we have got a really strong team. I think we have got one of the best chances ever, but we should not underestimate France and definitely US. The US guys on home soil, they are always fast. From my feeling, they always have something extra on their home soil, so we will see. It is going to be tough. I am just going to do my personal best. Our main priority is to obviously win this championship, but I definitely want to go there and do my best and fight those guys.
Win or lose at the ‘Nations, an In-N-Out Burger at the end of the day sounds good right now, hey?
If I drive back from the ‘Nations, win or lose, I do not really care. Just best thing to go and sit there and get that big McChicken burger or whatever. I will definitely feel good, even if I lost that day. To finally have some time off, because I have not planned to do any races after the ‘Nations until next year in January or February. If you would see me at the end of November, you will see me like big and fat probably.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer