Already we have a good indication of how the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship will play out, after just three rounds. Obviously the series standings tell the full-story. Both of the riders that possess the red plate (Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings) are sitting comfortably already. Is it surprising? Although I am not surprised at all by the fact that they are both at the front of their respective classes, I am surprised by the lead that they have following three rounds. This is the World Championship; should the gap at the front of the field be that much so early?
Unfortunately, this is the result of domination. This is something that every sport deals with; even the American series are currently facing it with Ryan Villopoto. Prior to the beginning of the year, it was a foregone conclusion that Herlings would runaway with the MX2 class. But I did think that Antonio Cairoli might be challenged in MX1; however aside from the odd moto his competition has struggled to keep him in their sights thus far. Clement Desalle, Gautier Paulin and Ken de Dycker must have come into the season wanting to be World Champion; but that goal is already starting to evaporate for these riders.
I do wonder whether these guys accept second place a little more than Cairoli would. Perhaps they have become accustomed to getting beaten by Antonio; the Sicilian has runaway with a GP countless times. Although Desalle desperately wants to garner a World Championship, he has already slipped into his normal position of second place. Currently, there is a twenty-six point gap between Clement and Cairoli. But Desalle does not seem disappointed about this, he seems accepting of the fact. Therefore, I do wonder what the goal is exactly for these riders?
In his podium interviews, Clement Desalle does not seem too disheartened. However, when he wins he does not seem too elated either. Perhaps this is because of his personality rather than his desire to win. In fact, none of the three riders referenced really give too much away in interviews; perhaps they are frustrated behind closed doors. If you compare the post-race interviews of Antonio Cairoli and Clement Desalle, there is a key difference. When Toni ends up in second, he will always say that he wants to win the next race. Obviously for the Sicilian this is the ultimate goal, as it would be for a six-time world champion.
If Clement finishes up in second, he makes no reference to wanting the win or attempting to reclaim those points lost; perhaps this links to some issue with his self-belief? Ultimately this could be the difference between these two riders. Antonio Cairoli races for the win, whereas Desalle is content with landing on the podium each week. Maybe this is because he has not tasted the success of winning consistently; his wins have happened occasionally, rather than frequently.
So back to the original question: What is the goal for these riders? Ultimately, I would argue that Clement Desalle does desperately want to be world champion. Although the mentality of landing on the podium each week is the key to success for most champions, when you’re battling against Antonio Cairoli you have to be on top of the podium consistently. Perhaps it is not a fault of Clement that he is not frustrated that he is not winning each week, the issue that he faces is an unstoppable force in the form of Antonio Cairoli.
However, the result is still the same: none of these riders can realistically take down Antonio Cairoli at the moment. In fact the only force that has stopped Toni is that pile of mud in Sweden last year. How many times have we seen someone beat Cairoli straight up in recent years? You could argue that Desalle only won the first moto of the year because Toni had to overcome a bad start. Admittedly, Ken de Dycker did pass Cairoli in Valkenswaard and go on to win the moto. However, Antonio came so close to passing him. Arguably, Toni could have won the moto if he had sprinted a lap earlier. But that is all speculation; de Dycker deserved that win, there is no denying that.
However is Ken de Dycker heading into this weekend looking to win again? I doubt it; Arco di Trento is the home GP for Toni, so he will be on top form I believe. I am sure that this will be in the back of the minds of his competition, but that should not be a concern. Antonio Cairoli does not head into the GP of Belgium thinking that Ken de Dycker and Clement Desalle could be too strong. Whatever the GP, Antonio Cairoli believes that he can win. Perhaps that is why he has been so successful for so long?
Words by Lewis Phillips