Antonio Cairoli – still world class speed from the legend!

Antonio Cairoli showed he is still at a world class level as he won the International at Balen against two of his own Red Bull KTM riders, Liam Everts and Sacha Coenen as well as factory Yamaha man, Rick Elzinga. Cairoli went 2-1 and brought back memories of his wilder MX2 days as he threw the little 250 around like a toy and still had the fight in him, refusing to let Liam Everts by in race one and showing the raw speed to get out front, sprint away and win race two!

Amazingly, Cairoli has raced two generations of Everts, racing Stefan at the end of his career in MXoN and then Liam at Red Bud MXoN and this week in Balen, underlining just what a talent Cairoli is to be that fast for that long. Sacha Coenen wasn’t even born when Cairoli won his first world title yet this week Cairoli was racing him and winning!

Now in his late 30s, Cairoli showed just how much talent he has to be able to go into a one-off race and win against some world class rivals. In fact, it raises the question, if there was no U23 rule in the world championship, and it was just for EMX250, could Cairoli have went back to MX2 and got that tenth world title?

Back in the day riders often went back and forward to different classes regardless of age, Mike Brown won his 125 National title at 30, Dobb the 125 world title at 29 and Alex Puzar went back to the 125 class despite already being a 250 world champ in 1990 to win his second world title in 1995 in a final round shootout with Alessio Chiodi, it added some intriuge to the class and the youngster got to learn from experienced riders (something that both Everts and Coenen will now doubt taking from this week).

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Jamie Dobb had this to say on the age rule when we spoke to him at WSX: “think the age rule is the most stupid I have ever seen. Take it away, what are you gaining from it now? If you want to guarentee people to go to MXGP, simply put a salary cap, if you want to make the big money, that’s where you need to go. The problem is the young kids coming through, they would still win. Jeffrey won when he was 16, Ken won when he was 16, it’s not going to stop anything but the other kids, they aren’t learning a race craft of how to actually race by riding with the older guys.”

Of course, the flip side is the depth is phenomenal in MXGP with everyone moving up it provides intense competition throughout the top 20, and it is the toughest class in dirt bike racing, but imagine Cairoli going for a tenth world title against Geerts, de Wolf and Vialle in his mid 30s…

Either way Cairoli’s status as one of the greatest to ever throw a leg over a bike will remain and is only enhanced by his performance this week. And the riders he is in charge of now certainly can’t question anything he says this weekend at Arnhem – maybe he should go to the USA and race the final AMA event on a 250 and help Vialle set up the bike!

What a rider!

Article: Jonathan McCready

Images: Danny Relouw