When the Ironman National concluded yesterday, fans across the globe were eager to hear from Jeffrey Herlings. Thankfully a press conference is held following each event, which gives the podium finishers a chance to answer a variety of questions from those who cover the sport. The questions and answers from that session can be found below.
Question for Marvin Musquin. What was it like to have all of the orange bikes up on the podium today?
Marvin Musquin: Yeah, I was just telling Jeffrey that that’s awesome. Actually I thought about it after the first moto and even in the second moto. To have all three KTM riders is pretty cool, you know, and it makes me think about back in Austria, where everyone is working really hard for us. I’m sure that Pit Beirer and everybody else are really happy right now.
Question for Blake Baggett: You and Marvin came into here very close in points, take us through a little bit of your day today.
Blake Baggett: I just tried to get good starts. I know that Marvin’s been on a roll lately and is going to be there. I knew that was the case and that I needed to ride my best to be there. I came up a little bit short, but I gave it my all this season. I just wasn’t able to get it done. I’m proud of myself that I was able to grind through the injury, keep pushing and take it to the last moto. Marvin and I didn’t get the title, but at least we made it come down to the last moto before Eli got it. He definitely deserves it and, yeah, I thought it was a good season.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: How long ago did you make the decision to come here and race this event?
Jeffrey Herlings: Two days. We were in Sweden last weekend, for the World Championship, and obviously I broke my hand at the beginning of the season. The first four rounds in Europe were terrible, because I had so much pain and could barely ride. I was so many points back and, like, twentieth in the championship. I have fought my way all the way back to second and actually I was on a winning roll. I won two and was going for my third win in a row, but I had a DNF. I was closing in on the points and was winning the GP, but did not finish.
With three rounds to go, the championship is over. I spoke to Pit Beirer from KTM in Austria, one of the big bosses, and I said that I was flying into the USA on Tuesday anyway to go to Aldon Baker’s place and get used to the heat for the GP. I asked what he thought about me racing that race and he said that I should let him think about it.
We started making some plans and phone calls. Obviously the American bike is different, so we came in on Tuesday and rode for the first time on Wednesday at Aldon’s place. It was a completely different bike. We had a couple of hours to set up, because if we wanted to go we had to ride press day. It was a brand-new track and we wanted to get used to the track, at least, so that is what we did. I was actually super happy with the bike straight away so, yeah, that’s it.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: We know that the MXGP series has a works bike rule, whereas our rules are a little tighter. How much different is your bike over in Europe, which you’ll be riding next week, then what you rode here today.
Jeffrey Herlings: You have to set your bike up different. The track here was absolutely amazing. How the make the tracks here is so good. Back home the tracks are small, narrow and pretty tough to pass [on]. I’m not saying it’s bad, but if you crash in Europe like I did in the second moto then you are almost unable to come from last to first. The track’s don’t allow you to go that fast or have that many lines to pass. It’s just two different worlds, but I like the American style.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: Would there be any chance that you want to come here to America to race?
Jeffrey Herlings: Well, not really. This was just a one-time thing. I have my contract for Europe for three more years, so I’m pretty happy. I like it there. But, still, the racing here is on a different level maybe.
Question for Blake Baggett: Blake, just tell us the status of where your thumb finally is after doing this for seven races. How bad is it?
Blake Baggett: I just have no hand strength in it. I’ll have surgery on Tuesday to try and get it fixed, then I’ll be out for around two months. There is just no ligament, as it ripped off the bone, so I’ve just been running and trying to do the best that I can. Evidently, I need to go to Europe and do some riding – this guy took us to school. I’m going to get my pad of paper and my pen out to take notes. He definitely served us justice today.
Question for Blake Baggett: I don’t think we ever had a chance to ask you about Red Bud, because you didn’t finish on the podium that day. Could you take us through your perspective of that moment that really ended your hopes. You stayed in it, but it changed your season.
Blake Baggett: I just got caught off guard. It was a racing mistake; I was in the rut, committed and just could not get to the brakes. I ended up running into the back of the guy and going down. I just put my hand out, like everyone does when their falling, at the wrong place and wrong time, so it wasn’t my year this year. I tried to do the best that I could to keep Marvin and Eli honest, then be there at the end. I came away with third. I’m definitely happy with the whole season and progress, my supercross has improved a lot and to come into outdoors and get some wins in the 450MX class. To get good starts and battle with the front guys is the goal that you always want to do. I’ve had fun doing it too.
Question for Blake Baggett: How many times have you replayed that Red Bud moment in your head over the last few months?
Blake Baggett: It’s in the past. You just try to not let that happen again, but there are many mistakes that we make throughout all of our careers. I’m sure that if we could rewind time we would [stop it]. It doesn’t work like that. The other guys gain on your mistakes and that’s what motorcycling racing is about.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: Jeffrey, could you talk a little bit about the expectations that you had or where you thought you’d be? It was pretty impressive, as right away you set the fastest qualifying time, so did you believe you could be the overall winner today?
Jeffrey Herlings: It’s hard to say, as everything was new. That is why we also did press day, to at least get used to the track. Back home we have all of Saturday to do warm up, time practice and a qualifying heat. You have a warm up again on Sunday, then the two motos, so by the time that it is race time you have already spent two hours on the bike or something. This morning we had ten minutes practice and then just fifteen, so it is completely different. Everything is pretty chilled at home. You just enter the track when practice is already going, but here it is like a race. It is pretty insane.
My expectations? I don’t know. When we came here I thought that Eli would be fast, Marvin would be fast and Blake. There are also guys like [Justin] Barcia and [Justin] Bogle, so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought that anything in the top five I would be happy with. I went out and did the fastest time in the first practice, then in the second one, so I thought that if I could get some decent starts then we could come out on top. In the first moto I got a decent start, I was second, and then worked my way into the lead on the first lap. I had a good battle with Marv and managed to win the second moto.
The second moto made it a bit tough, as they watered the first and second turns a little bit. My front end washed away and I actually got a bit lucky with Marvin making a small mistake. He actually gave the win to me, but it’s racing. I crashed and so did he, so it’s racing.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: I’m trying to recall if you and Marvin were teammates back in MXGP. If you were, was it nice to catch up with somebody who you used to race with?
Jeffrey Herlings: Yeah, it was actually pretty awesome. We were on the same flight here and were just talking about remembering stuff in 2010. It is pretty amazing that we could still talk about the past, as he knows how it is back home. We had a lot to talk about. I think Marv is a great athlete and ambassador for the sport, so it was nice to battle with him and all of the guys here. I have respect for everybody. It was a pleasure to come here and to leave with a 1-1 is pretty amazing.
Question for Marvin Musquin: It seems like the last few weeks you have hung it out more and gone for it. Today it seemed like there was a sense of urgency and you were just sending it, so did you feel a sense of panic?
Marvin Musquin: No, I was just trying my best. The last few rounds I have had nothing to lose, so all I have had to do is try to win races. Today was just the same. To win the championship today would have been very, very lucky on my side and very unlucky for Eli Tomac. I just wanted to do my best, try to win the race, get second in the championship and win the last round. In the first moto I felt really good, because I knew Jeffrey was really fast in practice and we made it happen in the first moto.
I was feeling really comfortable and was able to put in some good lap times to close in on Jeffrey. That was pretty cool, but he was really consistent. In the second moto I made a mistake with two laps to go, but other than that I was really consistent and felt great today. I don’t think I was riding over my head or anything, so it’s good to see that the riding has been good.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: When you went down at the start of the second moto, what was going through your head? Did you think there goes your chance at the overall or just put your head down and go?
Jeffrey Herlings: I was like, yeah, just put my head down and go. The first few laps I couldn’t make all of the jumps. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but between places twenty-fifth to fortieth not all of those guys make all of the jumps. I didn’t want to jump on somebody’s neck, so you lose so much ground and so much time. By the time that I got to twentieth I was, I don’t know, fifteen or twenty seconds down and I still had to pass all of those guys. Like I said, the tracks are so good here and there are so many lines. You can just pass anywhere! That is what I really like about America, this track and probably all of the outdoor tracks. They have so many lines and are so well organised.
Question for Marvin Musquin: You’re going to ride at Baker’s for the next week, right? Are you going to be there Marvin or is he on his own? What are your plans, because he is going to be there. Are you done?
Marvin Musquin: I have been there since last November, so I’m not going to be there. It is time for a break. Right now, September is the only time that I can have off.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: Did you get to learn anything from the Baker Factory programme yet, from the one day that you had, or is there more to learn next week?
Jeffrey Herlings: It is pretty famous in Europe and everybody is speaking about him, because he brought a lot of championships with a lot of good riders. I just want to learn what they are doing and how they train. When I come here, I see that they train differently. We cannot race the way that you race here, because the tracks do not allow you to. They don’t have so much grip or as many lines, so you can’t just open the throttle and go. With the weather, in the winter it is freezing and raining. That programme is absolutely amazing for the USA, but I don’t think it’d work in Europe. The situation is way different. We have to fly to the races on Thursday or Friday, race Saturday and Sunday, then fly back on Monday. Here there is always good weather, no matter whether you are in Florida or California, so they are two different worlds, like I said.
Question for Jeffrey Herlings: You mentioned earlier that you like the way that the races over here are organised and run, what is the big difference between racing in America and Europe?
Jeffrey Herlings: I don’t know. It is just so different. The guys who have been to Europe know what I’m talking about – they are just two different worlds. There are many more positive things, but also some negative things. They do things way better here, but some things better at home. There are pluses and minuses. America is a big country, so a lot of the tracks are big, whereas at home a lot of the tracks are small. You can’t get the tracks to be like they were today.
Interviews: Press Conference | Lead Image: KTM Images/Simon Cudby