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Interview: Camden McLellan talks Triumph Racing, working with Desalle and the level of MX2

Interview: Camden McLellan talks Triumph Racing, working with Desalle and the level of MX2

For the 2024 season, things are all new for Camden McLellan as it is his first season with a factory team and the team is a new brand in the from of Triumph.

After two rounds of the MX2 World Championship things have been going well so far as he sits ninth in the championship standings but he wants more.

We caught up with McLellan to discuss the new Triumph bike, the level of MX2, working with Clement Desalle and more. You can watch/listen or read below:

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GateDrop: Only your second GP with the Triumph and it’s progress, progress, progress… I think that was a very solid weekend for you, you must be happy with it…

McLellan: Yeah, like you said, a lot of progress. It started off pretty rough and pretty tight. I didn’t have the best approach in the free practice and that kind of ruined my Saturday overall. I was tight from the beginning and then in the qualifying race I had an early crash on first lap so came from the back but in general I didn’t feel great. I was not in the best of moods and then today was different. You know I was kind of pissed off (I don’t know whether I can say it or not, sorry (laughs)).

I was not very happy coming into today with my Saturday, so I was determined to make a good result and I had much better starts, much better starts today. In the second moto especially, I felt good so every session I improved. I still have got a lot of work to do, you know there’s the front three that are quite a way faster than what I am and that’s where I want to be, you know. So, we have some work to do.

GateDrop: Obviously you had a pretty good team with Jacky Martens last year, but this is your first time being a full factory Rider and it’s a new factory team. Just what has it been like working with these guys at Triumph, they seem legit even though it’s their first year in the paddock…

McLellan: Yeah, 100%. Everyone has experience there so it’s not necessarily their first year in the paddock, it’s Triumphs first year for sure but they’re very very experienced, very knowledgeable and smart. You know, they know what they’re doing, very hard workers. They have long long days; I can tell you that so it’s good for me. You know it kind of holds me back from being accountable if I don’t want to do this or that. I think I could also be one of them you know working 18-hour days so it’s good it holds me accountable that they know what they doing. I have a good bike good setup, you know, smart people around me to help me on the weekend like Clement (Desalle). He’s a big, big help for me so it’s a very good team. There’s a lot of expectations obviously and a lot of pressure but I’m really enjoying it.

GateDrop: I believe you actually signed the contract without even riding the bike and that could seem a bit of a risk but obviously you knew you were behind this project and the people involved, it goes to show it was worth the risk because already 2 GP’s in and the bike looks mega…

McLellan: No, 100%. It’s obviously a new bike and there is always a risk but with my manager you know, we took the risk. A factory team is always where you want to be and my manager kind of knew the team and who was going to be there and who wasn’t. He knew the guys were all really good at their jobs so in that kind of environment you know whether the bike is going to be good or not.

They’ll get it right because they are smart people and they know what they’re doing, they’re motivated as well. There was slight less risk I would say in that because my manager knew what we were getting ourselves into and like you say it played out perfectly that the bike is already a very very good bike.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: When you first got on the bike, how did you feel on the bike and was it different than anything you’ve rode in the past and have you made many changes throughout the winter from the start to now?

McLellan: I don’t know necessarily what it felt like. The first time I got on it, like you can’t really relate it to any other bike. It’s very much a mix, it’s almost like a tall Honda I would say, you know it turns really well and is very maneuverable. But at the same time, it is definitely not a Honda, it’s something else so I’d say it is very much its own bike.

It has a lot of personality and a lot of different traits compared to the other bikes I’ve been on. I haven’t necessarily made any big changes, I’ve gone harder on my springs because my pace has gone up but for the rest there’s been nothing major. I was on and off with the start devices, the holeshot launch control, whatever you call it. I was a bit on and off with that but for now I found a good solution with that. I would say that’s been the biggest question mark in change for me but for the rest there was nothing.

GateDrop: What was it like over winter? I think you spent quite a lot of time in Spain riding with Mikkel Haarup and obviously he’s more experienced than you… What was it like spending a lot of time with your first factory team over winter and having Mikkel as a teammate – he’s a pretty good reference for you…

McLellan: 100%, you know he was on the podium in Argentina. He’s one of the faster guys in the class and arguably he belongs in that front group you know with Kay and whoever else. It’s been good I’ve kind of had a target on him whether he likes it, I don’t know, do you like it? (he shouts to a passing Mikkel).

It’s been good to gauge where I’m at you know and he’s like you see, he is cool and he’s a nice teammate to have. It’s a relaxed environment around the whole team. Everyone is chill and cool friends, so it’s been good.  We had a long long winter but it was in Spain with good weather, good tracks so that was also kind of a relief. You know you could set a week plan and you would never be screwed by rain or this or that, not like if you were staying in Belgium, you know if tracks closed for 3 months so it was a very very good decision from the team to be down in Spain.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: You mentioned Clement Desalle earlier, just in what way is he able to help you and what things has he been helping you with? Obviously, he’s been there, done it and won plenty of GP’s. Unfortunately, he never got the world title, but he certainly wasn’t far away…

McLellan: No, no, like you say a lot of experience and as I’ve learned him, I’ve learned stories about him and what he’s come from and he’s kind of done everything himself. So, he has really experienced every single thing so no matter what kind of questions I have or question marks on the track or anything he can kind of tell really well because he’s been through it all by himself.

So, he’s learned it himself and he’s very hard where I would I’m the complete opposite character. I’m more laidback and don’t really care much about this and that in organization and whatnot whereas he’s a complete opposite so he’s played a big part in like he says wining the little battles you know. Being organized, having everything ready for whatever might go wrong whether if’s there’s a 1% chance or 80% chance you always have to be prepared so he’s kind of got me into that mentality that I need to be ready, organized and prepared for everything. Then obviously on the bike there’s so much that I thought I knew, I thought I knew a lot until I started training with him. I have a lot to learn and that was really really surprising.

GateDrop: Obviously last year was your rookie season in MX2 but you missed the first half of the season so it’s nice you’re able to start this season, it’s your first full season really in the class but what’s the level like this year in MX2? There’s some rookies that are fast and I think starts are very very important but the Triumph looks good out of the gate which is a positive…

McLellan: Yeah, exactly… It’s good out of the gate, the rider not so much (laughs). Sometimes I mess my start up, but the bike is luckily good out of the gate which has obviously been a big help. At the moment I have to say, maybe it’s a bias thing or not, but like the level at the moment in the class is unreal. Like you say there’s these rookies coming in Rossi and Zanchi. They are very fast; they are on it and not scared that’s for sure. Then you have Mikkel who is 23 in his last year, he is experienced, fast, and not scared.

I feel like there’s so much depth compared to the years before where it was just Tom and Jago kind of in their own level although we see now de Wolf and Langenfelder, they also have their pocket of speed that no one really, well Lucas (Coenen) and Andrea (Adamo) is there too. There’s a couple more contenders this year I would say previously and especially last year. Last year I thought I was good already and I’ve improved a lot over the winter and I’m still seventh as of today… Seventh place guy so it’s shocking and I don’t like it. I want to be at the front you know so I’d rather have everyone kind of be slower and less competitive, but it is what it is.

GateDrop:  You’ll have to work harder!

McLellan: Exactly!

GateDrop We’ve got Rola next in the gnarly sand, have you done much riding in the rough sand and how do you feel with the new bike in in the sand?

McLellan: No, I think we’ve done three or four days, maybe five so that’s the plan between now and Riola. We’ll be in the sand for these two weeks but anyways with Jacky, l was often in Lommel and then the years before even just been training the sand throughout the winter so honestly, I consider myself more of a sand guy these days.

I’m really looking forward to Rola and I did have two days in the sand before coming here last week so they were good. They were very good speed wise, physically wise I’m really really good at the moment. I know the two moto’s at Riola should be good so I’m looking forward to it. I kind of feel like that is a separator from the men and to the boys so I look forward to that.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Ray Archer