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MXGP – Looking Forward

While the 2017 season might not have lived up to that of 2015 or 2016 as far as drama and excitement goes, it was a year for the ages, as the current king of world motocross, Antonio Cairoli picked up his ninth world motocross championship. Truly an amazing career and one that seemingly is a long way from being over.

Cairoli was the man of 2017, and despite the late charge by Jeffrey Herlings, where he clearly showed his intentions for 2018, you can’t discount the Sicilian for another title in 2018. Sure, his end of season form wasn’t that of the Dutchman, but we all know Cairoli is the king of mind games, giving people hope, when in fact, there is little chance of beating him over a full season.

Has his average end of season form given Herlings extra confidence for 2018? It’s hard to know, but what I am sure of, the confrontations between the two in 2017 have given Herlings experience that is worth more than just 12 months. He learnt a lot from Cairoli this year, and in my opinion, his race craft this year, was very similar to that of the Italian.

Once Herlings realized that Cairoli could play with him a little, tease him with an opening, then close it, and drain the three-time world MX2 champion of his energy and his rhythm, Herlings changed his game plan, learnt to wait, and then pounce, raise his level, and walk away with race win after race win. But that doesn’t mean it will be the same in 2018. Cairoli will raise his game to another level, and be ready for anything Herlings has for him. How Herlings will response, will probably decide the 2018 champion.

This could be a rivalry that lasts another two or three years. I for sure won’t write Antonio Cairoli off ever again. I did it in the last two years, and like so many of us, ended up with egg on my face as the legendary rider from the south of Italy clicked away GP wins and that beautifully orchestrated ninth world title.

It’s no secret I am a Herlings fan, what is not to love about his riding style, and his openness to the press. There have been riders I have loved watching in the past, be it Stefan Everts, Marc De Reuver, Josh Coppins or my fellow Aussies, Chad Reed and Andrew McFarlane, but Herlings to me has something even these guys didn’t have, and I know that is a bold statement, but nearly every time Herlings races, it’s just amazing to watch. Sure, his bad starts have made it interesting, watching him clearly faster than his rivals coming through the pack. His corner speed is something I have never seen, and the way he works the bike in the rough sand, it’s just beautiful. Only a real motocross fan can enjoy it.

Is he the fastest rider in the world, I think he is, although when they say your last race is what counts, then Max Anstie is the man. Right?

What about Max Anstie? His end of season rise, winning the MXoN with 1-1 results, his final round GP performances and the way he works so well with the Antti Pyrhonen Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team. If he has a brilliant off season, don’t be surprised to see him come into 2018 with ideas of a world championship, or at least a handful of GP wins. It’s hard to see it now, but he has for sure risen to another level in the last two months.

No English rider has won in the premier class since Kurt Nicoll in 1997, and it was in 1994 that Max’s father Mervin won a Grand Prix in the 500cc class. It’s hard to not see Max joining the list of GP winners in 2018.

As I mentioned, 2017 has just finished, but in around three months, guys like Cairoli, Herlings, Gajser, Anstie, Paulin, Febvre, Seewer, Lieber, Desalle, Van Horebeek, and Coldenhoff will be lining up in some pre-season race, probably in Italy, and their challenge to another tough MXGP season will be just around the corner.

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