Video: Roger DeCoster on Webb, Herlings, Vialle and legends of the sport
Roger DeCoster gave us ten minutes of his time to discuss Webb winning in Tampa, Vialle’s adaption to supercross, his view on some of the greats of the sport and his thoughts on Herlings coming back after a year of injury. Watch or read the interview in full below:
Roger, it was a tough 2022 but 2023 you have finally got the win with Cooper Webb and Aaron Plessinger back on the podium, you most be relived and really happy
Yeah, it was time for our team to get a result like this. Now we are back in the hunt. It is only a four point gap between first and Cooper in third and two points between us and Chase Sexton, so we are back in the hunt.
And how much work has went into getting this bike supercross ready and winning? And Cooper on his heat race said it was awful, how did you get him to change that performance?
The main thing in this sport is still the rider. We can do a little bit to help the rider and make sure the bike stays together and all that, but all the bikes are pretty good these days and the rider is the one that makes the difference.
What are your thoughts on Tom Vialle, he has been pretty impressive the first two races, two different races from him as well but he seems to be learning quickly?
Yeah, people don’t realise how tough supercross is these days. He has never raced supercross in his life before he came here and he is doing really well, his attitude it good, he is a hard worker and he doesn’t come up with any excuses. He realised he has to get better with technique and learn supercross. I hope he can get through the season without injuries and get to the Nationals in good health and build his confidence for next year and then he will be ready to fight it out for supercross as well I believe.
The Belgians are starting to produce a lot of good riders again, Liam Everts and Jago Geerts but the Coenen brothers, I am sure you know all about them, they are trying to come to America very soon, have you put that in motion?
Yeah, there is some new hope in Belgium which I am really happy about. Liam, like you said, is getting better and better, and the Coenen brothers, from everything I hear, they are for real. There is hope!
Just from your experience from all the riders you have raced, that you’ve managed, who are the greatest riders that you feel have been in the sport? You’ve worked with the likes of Ricky, Bayle, and know Everts, what makes them so great?
I have been lucky to have worked with a lot of really good riders. I firmly believe that a champion, a dominant rider in one generation, would do the same thing if he grew up in the next generation or the generation before. Winning and champions, it comes from the mindset and will to do the work and willing to do whatever it takes to get there. That changes a little bit over the generations, today the riders have a lot more support than in me generation, but there is also a lot more pressure. Like I said, I really believe the difference between the good riders and ones that win multiple championships is the mindset and the will to do the work.
Is there anyone on your team that reminds you of your mentality, because you are still winner and want to win after all these years!
That was so long ago! It was so different in my generation. You had to organise your trips yourself, you had to take care of your Visas to the Eastern block countries. You had to drive from Belgium, England or Ireland, it took a week’s drive to Russia to do the GPs there. The only training we did was along the road, in Germany, Romania or Hungary, we had somebody else drive the car ad we would job for five miles or so on the side of the road then jump back in the car and keep going! That’s the way it was and that’s what you had to do then.
Now it’s different, they get to ride four or five days a week sometimes and they fly in and the bikes are there already, the mechanics are there. There is somebody there to prepare the food and all that so some of the things are easier but some of the things are a lot more pressure. There is a lot more hype on them, the bikes, the rider cannot say I was wide open in third gear, because we can look in the ECU and see exactly how far the throttle was open, what gear they were in and what speed they were going! It’s not any easier.
You got some huge crowds back when you were racing, watching some old videos the places were packed, how much of a thrill was it to ride in front of such vast audiences at an outdoor venue and you were obviously one of the star attractions as well!
Yeah, it changed a lot. The biggest crowds were in Eastern Europe and in Russia at the time, we had good crowds in Belgium and so on. Maybe he Western Europe the best crowds were in France and Italy. I really enjoyed racing in Italy because the fans were so into the racing and still are today. We used to get big crowds down there.
Regarding riding styles, who do you like watching the most? Do you like a Jean Michel-Bayle/Stefan Everts who were so smooth or do you prefer watching a really a really aggressive rider like a Ricky Carmichael? What do you get most enjoyment from as fan watching?
I enjoy all the differences. It’s fun to see Barcia rider with a lot of commitment and all that, it’s funny because when you see him in the week and you talk to him, he is one of the nicest kids that you can meet, but once he puts on a helmet, he becomes a different person!
Stefan was fun to watch because he was so smooth and it looked like he was going slow, but when you put a stopwatch on him, you realised how fast he was going! Ricky was fun because you went to a race with him and you were certain he was on the podium. Bayle was fun, he was the first rider to blitz the whoops in supercross, he would do things completely different from that time. After the Americans really took over motocross and supercross , he was the first European rider that was able to beat the Americans. That was fun to watch and how he was doing it and his mentality. They are all different. Cooper today, he is fun to watch because when he is on, he can push himself at the end of a race like not many people can do.
Finally Roger, just on Jeffrey Herlings, you worked with him a little bit when he did that race in America, he is coming off a year of injury. What are your thoughts on him as a rider, his mentality and maybe how difficult it’s going to be for him to win this year after injury, which I am sure you know from experience what it’s like.
Jeffrey always seems to have the speed, he never seems to lose the speed after an injury. I hope that he can race without too much pain from his old foot injury. From what I hear, it’s a lot better, it still bothers him a little bit but hopefully that goes away when the championship starts. If he is able to race I think Jeffrey will always be able to push himself to battle for the win.
Is his mentality similar to Ricky’s where it’s just want to go, go, go and dominate?
He just can push himself to go that little extra that it takes to do whatever it takes.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
Images: Align/Juan Pablo Acevedo/Jonathan McCready