Interview: Jeffrey Herlings on his injury and life without racing

Jeffrey Herlings has already clinced one title this year by winning the Dutch Masters of Motocross but it’s the MXGP World Championship he really wants.

The Factory KTM rider had a commanding lead in the championship with over a fifty points advantage but then broke his collarbone which meant he needed to miss Ottobiano. Cairoli won and took fifty points there which meant the points gap was down to just 12 points.

However, you can’t knock Herlings determination, he came back in Indonesia and after the two rounds there has a 24 points gap in the championship.

We caught up with Herlings to discuss his injury and also plans for the future.

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Gatedrop: Jeffrey, that looked like a stroll in the park for you. You must be really happy with how the Zwarte Cross went for you?

Jeffrey Herlings: Yeah, it was good. It’s a special race, it’s not just your normal, average championship so it was something different. I really enjoyed it and to go 1-1. Obviously, not all the big dogs were here but a few of them were like Gautier (Paulin), Glenn (Coldenhoff), Max (Anstie) and Romain (Febvre) was here yesterday. There were a couple of good guys but the main guy wasn’t here but I’m looking forward to next weekend again. This weekend was just a practice race let’s say. You know I’ve been out with a collarbone injury for a few weeks and this was the first week I could get back to training. At the moment I feel good but I still don’t feel 100% like I was but I think that’s normal. We will keep charging and keep trying our best – there’s still a lot of racing to do.

Gatedrop: It’s around four weeks since you broke your collarbone, did you expect to be this fast already?

Jeffrey Herlings: Obviously, I had it before and I know when you break your collarbone how long it takes and when you can expect to be back racing and stuff. I’ve done it three times now so it’s becoming the normal thing for me to break my collarbone and get back to racing. I feel that this was the worst one because they couldn’t put a small pin in it, they had to put an extra-large one in it let’s say. The bone is fully plated now and there’s not much bone left to break next to the plate. I also have a bigger scar and the scar took a bit of time to heal, it was stiff because I also broke some ribs. I hurt my lung and everything so this one was a tougher one to come from than normal but we made it back to Indonesia and we went 2-1 1-1 so we certainly can’t be disappointed about that.

Gatedrop: I believe that yesterday after the qualifying race you went back home and put in the laps to a track near your house. You seem to really enjoy riding a lot, do you think that’s what makes you so good? Guys you work with and have worked with in the past like Everts have probably told you that you ride too much!

Jeffrey Herlings: Yeah, he always used to say that I was riding a lot but I mean everyone has a different opinion. I know the more you ride the bigger the risk is to get injured. If you spend 10 hours on the week or 6 hours, that’s a 40% bigger chance to get injured. But I really do love riding my bike, I don’t really have too much else. I don’t have a girlfriend, I don’t have too many other things so I love riding my bike, I love just spending time with the team and riding. You know, when the results are there, you don’t mind waking up every morning early and go train, get back to your house and then go ride a dirtbike.  I like riding a lot and maybe it makes me who I am today but also it’s cost me some championships in my career and some broken bones.

Pic: Niek Kamper

Gatedrop: Are you going all in to clinch your first MXGP title and then maybe calm down with the riding a little bit or do you think you’ll keep this approach throughout your career? You could maybe burn yourself out by the time you get to Tony’s age.

Jeffrey Herlings: Yeah, I’m not really planning on riding as long as Tony is. I’m not going to say I’m going to quit at 26 or 28 but when you’re like Tony and myself. We started racing GP’s so young, I think he was 16 or 17 and I was 15. To do it from 15 to Tony’s age, he’s almost 33 and resigned for another two years. Man, that’s going to be tough but who knows. Maybe in 10 years I’m still standing here and enjoying what I’m still doing, still putting in the same effort and getting results – I’d probably say, yes let me do another few years. It will depend on how things are going and how the results are but for now I’m 23 and he’s 32. Yeah, we’re a bit different in that because he’s more experienced and maybe seen things in life to get different interests but for me at the moment, it’s just motocross but still racing is his passion. He loves winning as well just like I do.

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Gatedrop: You say Motocross is everything to you, in a way that might make it harder to quit! What will you do will you stop? Maybe stay in the paddock as a team manager or something?

Jeffrey Herlings: (laughs) I don’t know, it’s hard to say man. There’s so many things I can do or possibly do. I mean you cannot race all your life, a guy like Tony, he will not be racing when he’s 40 or 50 so you are going to have to retire in the end anyway. So will I, at one point you have to do something else even if it’s 25, 35 or 45, whenever the time is going to be. You will have to do something else, you can’t race forever.

Gatedrop: I’m guessing the goal for the rest of the season will be to win the MXGP World Championship or you won’t be a happy bunny!

Jeffrey Herlings: No, you know, I’ve worked so hard and I’ve came so far now. I’ve just sacrificed everything to make it happen. If I’m going to win the championship it’s going to be such a relief because last year I felt like during the second part of the season I was also the main guy but I ruined the chance at the beginning of the year breaking my hand. Now I had such a big lead but I had some bad luck with the collarbone and stuff so I feel like the championship really belongs to me. But still you know, it needs to be done. There’s been 13 GP’s and I’ve won 10 of them while Desalle won one and Tony (Cairoli) won two so it’s tough if I will miss out on the championship. We are going to do our best and may the best guy win, I mean if Tony wins he’ll win for a reason, nobody wins the championship with luck let’s say.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Niek Kamper