Jeffrey Herlings interview

Posted on December 24, 2018

World MXGP champion Jeffrey Herlings might have won this year’s title with his dominant performance, but don’t think for a second the Dutchman is going to take it any easier for 2019. Already working hard in Spain, the Red Bull KTM Factory rider knows that Antonio Cairoli will be coming into the new season a better rider than ever, and fighting just as hard as he did in 2018.

We caught up with Herlings as he trained in Spain, and talked about many things, from the Dutch Sportsman of the Year awards, his relationship with his mother, and also about his domination of World motocross in 2018.

MXlarge: I sat up watching the Dutch Sportsman of the Year awards, with my fingers crossed and hoping you would win it, but unfortunately you didn’t get the win, and they gave it to a two time gold medal winner at the winter Olympics.

Herlings: Yes, I mean motorsports is growing and I think I help that it grows in my country, but it isn’t as popular as Ice Skating, Football and Formula One and those type of sports. It was a big honour to be at the last three picked. It was a pity I didn’t win, but I did win the big prize, the World Championship, and I prefer to win that than the sports award.

MXlarge: Watching it, and obviously what he did was very impressive, two gold medals at the winter Olympics and I can imagine in Holland a lot of the country would have been watching, but when I think what you went through, with the injury, and winning so many events, your fourth World Championship and 84th GP, then I can imagine you feel you deserved to win?

Herlings: It is devastating, but our sport isn’t as big as that sport, and the jury who voted for the winner, they are more familiar with the Olympics games than motocross. I think that was a big reason they didn’t’ vote for me and he did a great job winning two gold medals at the Olympics, that isn’t easy, and I think being in the final three, it will have made our sport a little bigger in Holland.

MXlarge: Tell me, the garbage man photo you had on your social media. What was that all about?

Herlings: It was a photo shoot for a commercial for one of my sponsors and part of that was making photos as me as a garbage man, and it was funny, so posted it on my social media.

MXlarge: I haven’t spoken with you since Nations, and I noticed very soon after the event you posted on your Instagram about being the fastest man on the planet. Did you do that because there were a lot of excuses after the race?

Herlings: I feel like the European riders have really developed throughout the years and I need to be realistic, for them, the American based riders, they focus a lot on supercross and they do motocross, but they do supercross like eight or nine months and we do motocross 12 months of the year. They do motocross for maybe five or six months. I have proven I have beaten the reigning World Champion, Antonio Cairoli, I have won 17 of the 19 races I attended, and the Nations was the only chance I had to race their national champion and I beat him three times, Saturday and Sunday. So if you look at the outdoors, I was the fastest. Even if you look at 2017, I raced Tomac in five motos and I beat him four out of the five, and now three out of three, so I beat all the top guys form the US, Barcia and Roczen and I have beaten all the European all year long. So I felt I could post that with the results, but hey, in a few days it starts all over again with 2019, and it will be interesting.

MXlarge: Have you had much time to think about what you did this year. I know you took a week or so off, and then got back into it, but have you sat down and through about the season?

Herlings: Yes, I have, because throughout the year, you are going from race to race to race and you don’t really think about it too much, just focusing on the job. Now, I had a few weeks off and I thought what I did was pretty damn amazing and winning all these races against such strong competitors. I am really happy about it for myself, but also for the team, and it’s going to be hard to better this season.

MXlarge: Obviously you beat Antonio, and around Matterley Basin you seemed to have broken him, but he also got the hand injury and that didn’t help him. He has mentioned he needs to improve his endurance, and no doubt he will be working harder than ever to get better. At his age, you would think it’s nearly impossible to be better than he was this year, but we all know Antonio, he is a great fighter, and he will probably come in better. You are 24 years old, and should be able to improve, as hard to imagine as that is. That must be exciting, because you are probably going to get a better Cairoli in 2019?

Herlings: I think, throughout the years he just got better and better and the bike is developed in many ways. Seeing him race this year, I think it has been one of the best years he has ever raced.

MXlarge: Definitely.

Herlings: If you look at his results five or six years ago, and look at the results this year, and if I wasn’t there, he beat everyone else more often than ever. He would have won nearly all the races, and he was on a high level and I know he will be focused and determined to win his 10th World title, and it’s going to be a very difficult year, but it was the same in 2018, so I will be prepared for that.

MXlarge: It is very difficult to know how much you can improve, because obviously you only know when it happens. Being 24 years old, it is very possible you reach you peak in three or four years. Do you feel there is a lot you can improve on?

Herlings: I feel like in 2018, I did almost everything right, apart from breaking my collarbone, but it is hard to say. I try to keep improving, but it isn’t always easy, and the season I had in 2018, it’s going to be hard to beat that. So to get better is another chapter, and you never know, some people say you are at your best between 25 and 30. I will just take it from year to year.

MXLarge: Tell me, those Red Bull videos, did you realize when they were making them that they would come out so well?

Herlings: That was amazing, how they did the project, and the way it was so serious and the people around it. They really put a big effort into that, but when you see the results, it’s amazing and they did a very good job. As an insider, it is amazing, so I can’t imagine how good it looks for the outsider.

MXlarge: I loved the bit when Jill mentioned about the crowd, following the riders around the track, and the noise of air-horns. When she said that I got goose pumps and straight away had to think about Lierop, where they came out of the forest. What did you think of that comment?

Herlings: That is true, Lierop was the same as Namur, when they go into the woods and you just wait for them to come out and I remember in Lierop in 2012, you can hear the fans all around the track and that is what Jill said and Lierop was a special race for me on the calendar.

MXlarge: Just a couple more questions. Obviously you mentioned your mum and the sports awards, which was really nice. Also a nice video made with your mum for when you won the championship. I loved the bit when they mentioned about girlfriends and your mum said no gold diggers. What does your mum mean to you?

Herlings: She means the World to me, and she has been there since day one, actually both my parents, but obviously I am closer to my mum, even though I love my father a lot too. I have a special relationship with my mum, she has been heavily involved in my life and my sports career. I am very thankful and happy with what she has done for me and what we have accomplished. It isn’t just me getting the results, I have a great group of people behind me, who have been there a very long time. All my sponsors and partners, they have all been great to me. It started with my family, but I really want to thank Red Bull and KTM, and all my sponsors, for helping me get this far.

MXlarge: How has it been going the last weeks?

Herlings: Obviously you live in Holland and you can see the weather isn’t that great. I am at redsands now. Just testing and preparing for the season. We will stay in Spain, and depending on the weather maybe a bit in Holland. I will do the same training as I did in the 2018 season and last winter I prepared a lot in redsands, they have a great facility and the owner of redsand really takes care of me. KTM also like me being in Spain, where I can train how I like, in good weather. We will just prepare as well as possible. I will do Mantova in Italy, Hawkstone Park in England, and Lacapelle in France.