Tony Cairoli had to battle with a very fast Tim Gajser all weekend but still came out on top with some smart riding despite a shoulder injury sustained during the week.
Cairoli put two more points on Gajser to take his lead to eight points after two rounds as he aims to win a record-equalling tenth world title.
We caught with the legend after his win to get his thoughts on the day.
Gatedrop: Tony, not the perfect day for you as you didn’t go 1-1 but I’m sure you can’t complain with winning the overall?
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, not the perfect weekend but I am happy because I had some problems with my shoulder and my neck during the week. I couldn’t really express myself how I wanted, especially at this track which I really like, so I was not really happy with how I was riding – especially the first ten minutes of both races. I was a little bit stiff and had some arm pump, I wasn’t really flexible on the bike so I was really struggling. I managed to have really good starts, I know that Tim is really fast at the beginning of the races which are his characteristics. I really tried to play it smart and don’t risk much, I know that the championship is very long. I know I need to stay focused and concentrated for all the 19 races – that’s what we did today and I’m really happy with the result.
Gatedrop: You mentioned you had a shoulder and neck problem coming into the race. When did that happen and I’m assuming it was from a crash?
Antonio Cairoli: No, I just landed too far in one bump in the sand and I stretched my back and neck quite bad. I had a bit of compression, it’s nothing serious but I had some sore muscles. I had some therapy which is okay and a massage which helped make it loose. I was not really feeling 100% and on this track which was very sketchy, especially in the second moto with the sun that was low. There were a lot of ruts and the track was quite hard underneath with some kickers on the ramps. I was quite careful the first ten minutes but that doesn’t help when you are after someone like Tim who pushes very hard at the beginning of the race.
Gatedrop: Not only were you not feeling 100% but did the shoulder problem affect your preparation coming into the race?
Antonio Cairoli: No, because in one week the preparation doesn’t really matter. I just had the problem on Wednesday so nothing to worry about in terms of preparation. I’m really happy about the overall result.
Gatedrop: You only won a few GP’s in 2018 and you’ve already won two from two in 2019, is it nice to get that winning feeling back?
Antonio Cairoli: I mean, I want to win when everybody is behind the line. For sure, this is my goal. I was preparing this year to have better results than last year. I feel better than last year and also the bike is setup better, I feel more comfortable on it. I was ready for the battle but when you ride at this level, the problem can happen in one second and it’s always around the corner. You see Tim in the first moto took such a huge crash and he was lucky to get out with nothing. It’s a really really high speed at the moment. When we pushed, me and Jeffrey last year, we always made a big gap to the rest and this year it seems that Tim is a little bit faster than last year which would be good for the championship. If Jeffrey was also here we could mix up somethings but we are on our way to the next one in Valkenswaard. It’s a track that I like but of course the sand is not the best for the problem with the shoulder and the back – you work a lot with this but overall it’s all good for this weekend.
Gatedrop: In the second moto there the gap between yourself and Tim hovered at around six seconds. Was the plan for you always to launch a late race attack? It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen that from you and was it also the plan in the first race if Tim didn’t crash?
Antonio Cairoli: I mean, yeah this is always the tactic normally but you cannot use with everybody this tactic. Of course I wasn’t feeling good the first 20 minutes of the races so I couldn’t really push. After 20 minutes I started to feel more loose and my shoulder got more warm so I could build up some speed. That’s why in the last laps I could charge a little bit better.
Gatedrop: You were over fifty seconds ahead of third place, just how hard would you say you were pushing in that last five minutes?
Antonio Cairoli: I mean it’s good, the team have also stepped up this year compared to last year were I was struggling a lot. I think it’s nice to ride at this level and when we push, it’s always a big gap. It’s a nice feeling that I can still stay on this level for so many years. I always surprise myself so I’m really happy and this motivates me to train more.
Gatedrop: The goal this year is clearly to win that tenth world title. It’s early days but just what would that mean to you to equal Stefan Everts with ten world titles?
Antonio Cairoli: Nothing, it doesn’t really mean much. The numbers for me don’t count, I only ride to win every year and one day when I stop racing I will check the numbers. It’s not really my goal to think of the numbers.
Gatedrop: Just how many years do you think Antonio Cairoli has left racing MXGP? I believe you’ve a one year deal left with KTM on the contract..
Antonio Cairoli: I have another year contract with KTM for 2020. If I can still ride at this level then why not race some more years?
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Pics: Nigel McKinstry