Interview: Valentin Guillod – comeback season!

Valentin Guillod didn’t ride the full MXGP season in 2022 but at the rounds he did compete in he made people take notice of his speed! The former MX2 GP winner hadn’t been able to show that form on a 450, but this season he was giving more and more glimpes of the ability that made him an elite MX2 rider.

Guillod showed his true ability yet again at the final round in Turkey, holding third in race one right until the last lap when he hit the deck trying to hold off world champion, Tim Gajser, eventually finishing sixth, in what was maybe his best ride of the season.

We caught up with the Swiss rider to find out what has made the difference to his return to form in 2022 and get his thoughts of going to Red Bud for team Switzerland.

Your speed this season was impressive and you were a lap away from a third in Turkey, battling with Tim Gajser, that must have felt good! 

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Even 4 corners to go, ahahah! It feels good to be battling against factory riders with my own structure, with a full 2021 standard bike and 98 fuel from the fuel station. Even I’m close to bankruptcy, it’s funny to see this happening. And by the way, I would like to thank my mechanic Pascal who did an awesome job on the bike, to manage my own team, without him wasn’t possible to make it this year.

What has changed for you this year? The turnaround has been great to see but it can’t have been easy to come back to this level after some tough seasons, mentally and physically, after MX2?

21st December 2021, I contacted Yves, to asked him if he would like to train me for 2022. On the 3rd of January, I moved to the south of France at Yves place with my mechanic and I was just following his program day by day. Injuries, no results, seeing blue flags at every race from riders that I was beating, it’s turning around in your head. Once I walked upstairs with my 90 year old grandma, I was breathless, pain at my legs and she was fine, that was hard to accept for a professional athlete. Yes, I burned out, mentally I was done. I touched so deep the bottom, it’s sad that I took this way but it’s the way of my life… I learned so much this last 5 years.

Yves Demaria seems to help you a lot – what does he bring to your program? He raced and beat some of the best ever in his day, so he obviously what it takes.

It’s more than about helping me with the program, I’m getting in a 100% zone of confidence with him. I’m not asking myself if I did it right today. I give my best and I focus on the next training session. I thanks Yves to be here for me, to give me this chance to come back and I know it’s a big motivation for him as a coach to bring me from the bottom to the top.

Did you ever doubt you could come back to this level? Especially this year when you aren’t even riding all the GPs, to then come in on that top ten pace with the intensity?  That’s impressive. 

Oh yes, I doubt, I really doubted until the 3rd of January 2022, after the first training, I felt that we were doing a 2.0 version from 2015. From this time, I didn’t have any doubt anymore, we plan to reach some goals and we were focusing on it. We did it with the time we had.

Have you any offers for next season? I presume you would love to be back in MXGP full time?

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Yes, I have few offers and we are very good speaking. I worked hard this year to show to peoples that I’m on the way back and they can count on me for 2023 in Mxgp class full time. 

The MXoN isn’t far away and Switzerland have a strong team. What are your expectations for that event? You might make a name for yourself in the USA in your current form! 

First of all, it’s to try to organize a very strong 250 bike to be able to fight hard out there. I don’t expect something, I will give my best for my country and we see on Sunday evening. Concerning making a name in USA, my goal was to go race in Ironman 250 outdoor, unfortunately I couldn’t organize a bike, sad they didn’t know my level. But one time I will do an outdoor race, to add at my Wishlist. 

Those MX2 winning days was you at your best, do you feel you are close to that level again and can take another step this winter? 

This year, was a year to rebuild myself to create a good base. So, I’m still far from my real level, because after 5 years of holidays, it takes wait longer than 8 months of training and racing to reach my best level. But mentally I’m way stronger as 2015. So yes, this winter I will make more than a step. Just let us time.Thanks to hostettler Yamaha Suisse, Tissot, Vika, 6D, 100percent, Ixs, Alpinestar for them support. Last but not least, I really want to thanks my parents, my godfather, my family, friends and all my private sponsors to keeping me support in those bad years and to make this happened. Without them, I should be working a normal job… 

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Image: MX July