He’s a nine time world champion and Antonio Cairoli is fighting hard to win his tenth title. Unfortunately, during Indonesia the Italian picked up two fractures in his thumb which meant he wasn’t as close to Herlings as he’d have liked to be in Loket.

There’s one thing about Cairoli though and that’s his determination, he won’t give up on the title this year without a fight. For 32 years old he’s in a superb conditions and possibly riding the best he ever has.

We caught up with Cairoli in Loket to discuss the GP and his battles with Herlings.

Gatedrop: Tony, overall considering the injury it wasn’t a bad day for you going 2-2 but at the same time it must be frustrating to lose more championship points to Jeffrey? 

Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, sure. I mean after Indonesia I was sure that I would have healed 100% for this race so my plan was to attack and put some pressure on him. I tried to stay at the front but this week I tried to ride and my thumb was in a bit of pain. We made a special scan and I found out that there’s two fractures so I couldn’t ride for two weeks, I was here and didn’t know what to expect. Yesterday the track was a little bit more flat and not so sketchy. From the rain the track got a little bit more sharp, the bumps and today I wasn’t feeling 100%. It was quite sketchy and I was battling to hold on in parts with my thumb. I really didn’t want to crash so okay, the first moto I give up – second was good.

For the second moto my plan was to stay out more close with Jeffrey and I did for 20 minutes. Then I really couldn’t keep the speed you know. I was risking a lot and I didn’t really feel safe while riding. He is for sure in a good shape again and you can see from his laps, always good lap times. I dropped my time the last ten minutes because of the thumb but it is okay. I mean for the championship it’s not the best way but there’s still some races to go. The championship is not done until the chequered flag so I’m really motivated to keep training. With my thumb, for sure I need another week to rest, that’s what the doctor said. Before Lommel I will train a little bit and see what we can do there.

Gatedrop: You’re clearly not 100% fit but how far off are you off 100%? Are you riding with pain out there? 

Antonio Cairoli: Physically I am good. I’m pushing very hard with the physical training and this and that. If you don’t ride the bike it’s not enough racing at this level with Jeffrey. You know we are on full speed and it’s difficult to keep that speed. We drop the speed to the third guy quite quickly so I’m happy with the speed. We just need more consistency with the training days.

Gatedrop: It’s no secret that Herlings rides so much, almost every day sometimes and that works for him. However, you don’t seem to ride as much and that seems to work for you! 

Antonio Cairoli: I mean he’s young, he’s more than ten years younger than me. For sure he rides every day, it’s normal. That’s what I did also ten years ago. My training schedule is a little bit different, I ride less but I do a lot of physical training. It’s kind of different, I need to adapt to the riding style from him, he’s put a new rhythm so it’s challenging. For next year we are going to be a little more prepared. This year he has put the level a little bit higher so I wasn’t really prepared for this but there’s also time to learn and I’m enjoying the battling for sure. If I am 100% and fit I can be more competitive. Hopefully before the end of the season we can have more battles.

Gatedrop: In your private life you seem happier than ever and you’re recently married to Jill of course! 

Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, for sure. It’s unbelievable and I am really happy. Everything is going very well, we are enjoying everything and really happy about everything else.

Gatedrop: You’re nearly 33 now and you’re obviously going to retire at some stage. Have you thought about what you might do after? 

Antonio Cairoli: No, now at the moment, nothing. It’s just another two years of contract so until 2020 we are racing and afterwards we will see.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Niek Kamper

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