2020 MXGP preview – The title contenders!
Here we go! The start of the toughest and most competitive dirt bike series in the world will commence this weekend in the first of 20 gruelling weekend’s of MXGP racing across different counties with the most diverse tracks and the deepest field of top tier talent in the sport – even getting points will be tough if everyone stays healthy in the premier class!
In this section we look at the elite, the best of the best ready to do battle to be crowned world motocross champion.
Tim Gajser: Tim Gajser was unbelievable last year, taking it to Cairoli and giving the fans some amazing battles they will never forget. He deserved his third world title but he had some huge crashes that on another day would have seen him injured and out of the series. Gajser had things all his own way when Cairoli got hurt but when Herlings came back Gajser started crashing again – was Herlings in Gajser’s head? Will he feel the need to prove he can go toe-to-toe with Herlings on speed this year especially at the start of the season to stop people saying he won the title because Herlings was injured? Gajser has started the year impressively on the brand new HRC Honda, word is he loved the bike from the moment he jumped on it and his pre-season results attest to that. It might also give him a bit extra comfort to ride faster without being on the edge like last year when he was pushing the limit against Herlings and Cairoli. Gajser is also incredibly determined and intimidated by no-one, he is one of the few that won’t think Herlings has him on speed. The champ won’t be afraid of the fight with Herlings in order to defend his world crown.
Jeffrey Herlings: The Dutchman has been the fastest man on the planet for years, his win tally tells you that alone as he looks on track to beat Everts’ 101 GP wins but injuries have cost him a few world titles now leaving him on four with 2020 his chance to equal Roger Decoster, George Jobe, Joel Smets and Eric Geboers on five as he edges up the list of all time greats. Herlings has described the 2019 season as the worst in his career and says he has changed his mindset so that not winning a moto isn’t the end of his world. He wants to be there every week and not risk too much for a win on a day he isn’t feeling it. That’s good in theory and of course the right approach, the test will be if he can execute that mentality under pressure with the win within touching distance. Herlings, for most people will be the favourite if he stays healthy, he has the raw pace, he is good on virtually every track and nearly unbeatable in the sand. Like most years you feel it’s Herlings to lose but if he isn’t riding as close to the edge will that give the competition more hope and chance to get on his pace? It’s a balancing act, but if Herlings executes it correctly no-one will be surprised to see him crowned as the 2020 MXGP world champion.
Tony Cairoli: Cairoli is perhaps a bit of a question mark coming into the year in terms of his raw speed and race fitness at the first few rounds, admitting he isn’t quite where he wants to be yet after a serious shoulder injury ended his chance of a tenth world title last year. One year older but with no less hunger, Cairoli is truly remarkable. Some of his best speed has been in the last couple of seasons against the next generation and even losing the title the last two years, it has still added to his legacy purely by the fact he is still running with and finding even more speed approaching his mid 30s and finding the motivation to do so. Again for 2020 Cairoli has shown that motivation to get back from a badly dislocated shoulder, he might just play the long game at the start of the year but at some point Cairoli will go for it and will be in the mix for race wins. The guy can never be counted out of a world championship assault.
Jorge Prado: A broken femur was supposed to keep the sensationally technical teenage talent and two-time world MX2 champ out of the first few rounds but when you are 18 you heal fast! Prado is going to line-up this weekend at Matterely Basin after just two weeks back on the back in a bid to get some points to keep his title hopes alive. Prado 100% believes he can challenge for the title this year, he is very confident but not cocky and doesn’t run his mouth, he just does his talking on the track. Limited preparation won’t help him in the first few rounds, especially in his first year in the class and he learns the intensity but his starts should help him learn the speed at the front without having to battle through the middle of a boistrious pack, but Prado knows how to ride smart. His title hopes have taken a hit with the injury but if he can stay consistent early and come into form who knows where he will end up at the end of the year, especially if some injuries or DNF’s affect his title rivals.
Glenn Coldenhoff: After his performances at the end of last season it’s hard not to put Glenn Coldenhoff on this list now! Now working with Ryan Hughes and no big injuries this winter unlike last year, Coldenhoff should be coming into 2020 with huge confidence and momentum. The most impressive thing about Coldenhoff at the end of last year was his ability under pressure, whether it was Herlings chasing him down at a GP or leading Holland to the win at Assen to win their first ever MXoN, Coldenhoff was flawless, even if he was passed. He doesn’t get rattled and make big mistakes in the intense moments and he is good on every surface. Does he have the raw speed of Herlings or even a wide open Gajser on hardpack? Possibly not over the course of a season but he is closer than he has ever been on raw speed. Now he has to deliver that level for 20 Grand Prix races, if he can he might not be far away from the title!
Article: Jonathan McCready