Interview: Thomas Covington – I’m healthy but it takes time to get that fitness back
Midway through 2018 Thomas Covington was picking up form. The Grand Prix of France delivered the first of five MX2 podium results in the next six races and would represent the purple patch of nine trophies and a victory that year. That weekend at St Jean D’Angely he also confirmed that he would transfer works Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teams from MXGP to the AMA and head back to the States for the first time in more than half a decade. Injury and illness meant that Covington – who would have had one more year of MX2 eligibility in 2019 – meant his first season as an AMA Pro was a write-off. Marriage to a Brit and the chance to return to Grand Prix as an MXGP rookie with the Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha brought Covington over the Atlantic once more.
As one of the only Americans attempting to find his way in the FIM World Championship, Covington is still a novelty and faces yet another fresh start in his career. Can he (or we) expect much from a tentative first step in 2020?
First of all: sum-up the Husky experience in the U.S. It just didn’t work out for you…
I would have liked to have stayed for my last year in MX2 but the way things were there was not the chance to remain with Husky for a 450 ride at that time [for 2020]. So, I’d rather agree to a two-year deal in America than maybe nothing. Looking back, I maybe should have stayed but I learned a lot over the past year and I’m glad I did it regardless because I’d always wonder ‘what if?’ otherwise. It was a bummer the way things went with the illness and a few nagging injuries as well as moving everything back home and getting used to supercross it was a lot to take on at once. It was a hectic year for sure. All-in-all I’m happy to be back in Europe. I got married last year and that was great. It is good to be back ‘home’ around family in England. I’m enjoying it.
MXGP, Yamaha and more new adventures, so you must have stood at a big crossroads again at some point…
Obviously, it was a difficult situation with Husqvarna. It was my first year in America [as Pro] and they expected a lot more from me. Things were not going well with my racing and they were not happy. I missed racing in Europe for sure, so when the opportunity came up to possibly do something with Yamaha that was really interesting for me and I decided to go for it. I have always like the 450 and raced it at the Nations a few years ago. I think it suits me…and I was ready for a change.
You moved from a factory team to a blossoming privateer team: is that something else to get your head around?
Yeah but it’s not been a really big deal because Gebben have been really good in providing anything that I ask for. There are a lot of positives because the guys are really eager to get the bike dialled-in and are listening to what I say about it while I’m learning.
You’ve faced some adversity the last few years – and it must be character building – but being a rookie in MXGP must be like starting over…
Definitely a new challenge and the field is very stacked, especially this year. It’s pretty crazy. I feel that if my fitness is good and my bike is dialled like I want it then I can put in some decent results. Obviously, I’m not expecting to light the world on fire in my first year but if I can get some consistent good results then I can build from there.
By the end of your stint in MX2 you were disappointed if you didn’t make the podium, so what do you think MXGP will be about? Top tens?
Yeah, especially this first year. I think the top ten will be good for me. That’s probably my goal; to be in that top ten as much as possible and I feel that it’s realistic.
Physically are you 100%? Will you go back to the old GP training programme?
Yeah, exactly that. In America I was on quite a different programme and I drove myself into the ground with all the pressure as well. I did everything and anything I had to do to be competitive in that outdoor championship but I think I pushed my body too far. It took about six months – after consultation with doctors at the clinic – of doing nothing to get back to feeling better. Now I’m healthy but it takes time to get that fitness back. With a regular injury – to your hand, arm, whatever – you can still do some basic training but with this it was a case of ‘do nothing’. I’m working again with Joel Roelants and building myself back up. I wish I had a bit more time but hopefully at some point into the season I’ll be back to my full potential.
You’re based away from the U.S. again but perhaps more settled than ever?
Yeah, that’s true. I see myself staying over here for at least the rest of my career and maybe even after that too. It is definitely a different mindset.
You’ve had a question mark for most of your career, such as ‘can he do it on this bike?’, and it’s still there. Does that feel heavy sometimes?
At times I guess, last year it did get pretty heavy. I had so much time on my hands to do nothing and you start thinking about those things. But that also forced me to grow up too. I don’t really care any more about what everybody is saying. I will just do the best I can and what is best for me without worrying about other opinions.