With Jeffrey Herlings’ injury, Tony Cairoli now goes into the season as favourite to win the world championship and if he succeeds, he will join Stefan Everts as the greatest motocrosser of all time statistically with a record equalling ten world motocross titles.
That’s a lot of work, a lot of laps, a lot of different countries and a lot of wins! Cairoli told us at the MXoN that he knew what he needed to work on to run with Herlings in 2019, and now he will get at least a round advantage on the Dutchman. And, even then, Herlings will come into the season without much bike time since his injury – that’s if he returns and doesn’t end up racing the US Nationals!
Cairoli has been the complete package for a number of years, he has a lot of raw speed but uses it wisely to avoid injury, he usually gets the starts and chooses his attacks so they have maximum affect, usually at the end of the race! His speed in the sand was unparalleled until Herlings moved up and he has improved his hard-pack riding in the last few years, leaving very little weaknesses, as even the great US champ Ryan Villopoto found out when he tried the world championship – he only beat Cairoli once in eight GP motos contested!
Even when Cairoli isn’t winning, his bad days are usually in or around the podium each weekend. Like Everts before him, his race intelligence and ability to ride the speed of his competitors with less risk than them allows him to compete well into his 30s. Then when he turns it up to 100% the guys who thought they had him covered are suddenly forced to ride over their limit.
Cairoli even took on Herlings in 2017 and took that title amidst some brilliant battles and was still the closest to the Dutchman in 2018 despite his advancing years. Cairoli has raced and defeated the best the world can throw at him in his career but a tenth world title would further secure his legacy.
Having no Herlings at Argentina will also have motivated the likes of Tim Gajser and Romain Febvre to add another world title to their CV – they won’t be intimidated. But this looks like the ideal time for the Italian legend, at 33 years old, to finally get that coveted tenth world title, in what would be some nice symmetry – as it was the same age that Everts won his tenth title!