Clement Desalle will call it a career at the end of the 2020 FIM Motocross World championship, but that does not mean that he will disappear for good. Desalle makes it clear in this exclusive MX Vice interview that he is rather eager to do a full season of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in the USA. Will it happen? Who knows, but he has some interesting views on the subject and even reveals that he turned down a contract with RCH in 2014. There is so much information in this lengthy feature.
MX Vice: Today was better than Lommel 1, but I still think that your results were not as good as the speed proves they can be. The speed shows that you could be a top-five guy, but you just keep getting caught up in drama.
Clement Desalle: It’s really difficult with the track. I showed that I had a good speed in the morning. I did actually do a clean lap and it was good, without any drama and without too much risk. That was really good, the speed. It’s really intense in the race at the moment, with the level of the top ten. Sometimes I see guys really attack and take some risks. You see actually a lot of things happen, some riders go out and come back. I just try to ride safe, clean and have the best results possible. That’s of course a tough one. We know it’s one of the more difficult GPs, and actually we have three times in one week. It’s not easy. I had a bad race last Sunday and today is a little bit better, so I expect a little bit more for Sunday and also to try and recover good between.
A few riders told me that the track was less technical today and a little easier – they added that single before the waves and they knocked down the double after pit lane. Did you find it better today than it was on Sunday?
Yeah, actually, that was a big thing for me on Sunday. I had to tell them what I thought, because I was actually frustrated. I’m a guy who when I don’t like something… In one way, I’m straight and I have to say what I think when it passes a certain limit. It cannot be a good track everywhere and sometimes we like some tracks more than others. This I do not say. When I was feeling like it was like a bit more technical, Sunday was just too much. Lommel is already difficult enough with the normal bumps and in the second moto, for example, it is tough. It’s really difficult, like today. I had to tell them, because it was too over the limit and not nice. I really did not enjoy it. I confirmed that today was a bit better, so that’s good. The track was a little bit better prepared and a bit less technical. The second moto became really technical, at the same time, because it’s really bumpy. You had to find a good line to be fast and things like that.
Let’s get onto the big news. This is your last season in MXGP. We are coming to the end! I cannot believe it. You just said there you didn’t enjoy it on Sunday, so I guess that’s part of the reason for your decision?
Yes. It’s a big decision, like you said. It’s a really big decision, because I have been doing something in MXGP for fifteen years. I progressed step-by-step in the class and, to come back to what you said, it’s a part of the decision too [not enjoying it]. I do the motocross, because it’s a passion in the beginning. Everybody does I suppose, but it’s something that I really take care doing all those years. It really keeps me motivated – I really like to ride a bike. Sometimes I do not enjoy some tracks. I said I do not enjoy it a couple of times, actually. There are things to keep me motivated though, because I have a goal and the passion for the sport. I love when I come to my bike or jump on it and I have a good start on it. I love that, at the end of the Sunday when I did a good race, I’m satisfied about my job. It’s important to do what you like in life. That’s it.
It’s a point, but it’s not the only point. It’s like a combination of reasons. To be a little bit more precise, in the beginning of my career, I progressed step-by-step and then after I took that experience I said to myself that there are some rules that I would respect. I want it like this, and a few things, I’m respecting the rules that I have put to me now, because it comes to certain limits. This was what I’m doing. It’s like a combination of reasons. Injuries too, they are a part of the sport but I take this seriously. I’m feeling good, actually. I feel good that I can do really good things on the bike again. Things are also elevating in the sport and sometimes I don’t agree for some things. This is difficult for me. It’s all mixed together. That’s my decision. I have to say it’s a big, big decision of course. It’s not something you think about only one hour and then say it. The more I sleep on it, I will say, the more I’m convinced that it’s a good decision.
Are you at all disappointed that your last season is the COVID year, where everything is weird and there are no fans? Was there a part of you that was like, “Maybe I should go for one more year so I can have a normal MXGP season?”
Yes and no, because it’s true. It’s a completely strange situation with the COVID. In one way it’s really important that I respect my rules, like as you said, and listen my body also. I don’t want to do too much. Okay, it’s like a strange situation year, but in one way it’s more important for me to take the good decision right now.
In your post on Instagram, you said you are retiring from MXGP. You love riding though. That’s clear. I could see you in beach races or enduro. Hey, what about American nationals? Come on, we know you like them…
Yes! Actually I want to be clear. That’s true. All the time during my Grand Prix career, I had the US in my head. Actually one year I get proposition to go over there, but finally I decided to stay. It was 2014.
Can you tell us what team it was?
Yeah, it was RCH. Ricky Carmichael’s team. I finally decided to stay.
Do you regret that then? Looking back now, do you think that maybe you should have gone?
Not really, no. I do not regret it. Just to come back to the point, it was something that I had all the time in my head to go to US. I’m saying to myself, “If I will have a good package and opportunity, so it is correct to go there as a bonus last year…”
Something to enjoy!
A good experience and something to enjoy, yes, and to discover new tracks, I would be open for that, yes. That’s not my plan for the moment. First I have a job to finish here and I want to do it the best possible. Then I have to calm down a little bit and think about it. It’s something I’ll have in my head.
I guess this means that although you are retiring, you are not going to be the guy who is just sat on the couch and watching television,. I guess you’ll still be training. If an opportunity like that comes up, you are going to want to be ready to take it.
Yeah, of course. That I want to be clear. If I decide that I would like to go for example… If it’s a last-minute deal, because sometimes at end of the supercross it’s true that unfortunately some guys are tired and decide to not go for the outdoors or guys get injured too. Sometimes there is an opportunity that is last-minute. Then I will prepare for this last-minute case coming. I will prepare myself before, of course. I do not want to then not be prepared. That’s for sure. I have the passion for the sport that is still in me. For sure, I will have a bike in my garage forever I think.
You have got four rounds left in MXGP. Is there anything that you want to do before you call it a day? Like one more podium or something else? Do you just want to enjoy it and take stock of every moment?
Yeah, of course, I would like to, but I do not want to take risks either. I want to do it my way. In Spain a week and a half ago, I was fourth in the first moto. It’s not so far. I really believe for the podium.
This is the thing. You are not retiring because you are finishing fifteenth. You could still stick around for another three years and challenge for podiums.
Yes. It’s true. Also a small detail I want to speak about… A small detail that is a bit more precise, like I said a few things are elevating in the sport. Everything sometimes is more and more. More races and it is more intense. You know what I mean? Then in one moment also this is quite intense and tough. I don’t want to do also the thing of too much sometimes.
Let’s do one more question, because I know the fans will like this one. Looking back now, is there one season that you look back on and think of as your favourite? Is there one year that you just think, “Yeah, I really enjoyed that year?” It’s a tough one.
Yeah. Actually, the 2013 season. I won my national GP at Bastogne. That was a really nice moment, especially on that day. Also this one, because I finished second in this world championship for the third time. I was second in 2010, 2012 and 2013. This one was a good one. Also to be honest, two years that were really difficult to accept for me in my career were 2011 and especially 2015 actually. I think 2015 was the one that I had my good chance to be world champion.
I thought you might say 2012?
Difficult to accept, you mean?
Yeah, because that was the year that after you were three points ahead of [Antonio] Cairoli after Uddevalla.
No, that was 2014 I think?
2012 when Cairoli went DNF-DNF in Uddevalla and then you took the red plate?
Yeah. That was 2012?
I’m pretty sure that was 2012. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we need to go to a laptop?
Yeah. Anyway, also the injuries came. The 2015 season for me was the most difficult one, because I was feeling really strong. I did my job. I remember that in time practice at the French GP, the work was done for this session and on a slow lap a stone was in the way on the take-off. I crashed and hurt my shoulder. That was really bad. I was feeling so strong and so good, but then at one point it was like I was really there in the front. It’s like that. At the same time I said to myself, “This happens so maybe I will not have a good year.” I do not know. Finally, I accept it and it’s good. I’m thankful what the sport has brought me. When I was a little boy it was a dream for me. My parents came from nothing. We had no budget, nothing. I’m really thankful that I can be a pro motocross rider with hard work and some guys really believed in me at the right moment, of course. I’m thankful for that. The thing is that I could achieve my dream to be a pro motocross rider, then to hit a good level is another thing.
Ten years in a factory team! Not many people can do that.
Yeah, it’s true. The small thing that I did not get is the title, but I accept it. I had a good career and I am thankful for that to. It is a job that I have done, but it’s good that I could do this. I want to be clear. I’m thankful for that. Sometimes I am a straight guy and sometimes negative too. I’m not scared.
You have got to be. You deserve a voice. If you think something, you can say it.
Yeah, that’s it. It’s not for the pleasure or to be a bad boy [laughs].
You are not just doing it for fun!
No. It’s important for me to defend the security of rider and to defend the pleasure of the rider. Then sometimes I know it’s not easy to keep everybody happy, but I think if I see some points that can be better then it is important for me to say it or sometimes to show. I’m not scared to show that I’m not happy. Other times it was like this and I don’t want to change actually. I cannot put on a show and be an actor. That’s the thing.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer