Our European contributor, MXlarge's Geoff Meyer, caught up with the world champ after his GP win at Valkenswaard.
With his third straight Grand Prix victory at the Valkenswaard circuit in last weekend’s second round of the MX1 Motocross World Championship, Red Bull KTM Factory rider Antonio Cairoli proved that it won’t take an injury to slow him down.
Not looking at his best and understandably so, the Italian went 1-2 for the win in Holland and now heads to the U.S. GP at Glen Helen with the chance of taking another step up the all time GP winners list.
The Italian legend also took GP victory number 38 and he marches towards Eric Geboers and Joel Robert who have 39 and 50 wins apiece. Next up would come Joel Smets with 57 GP wins and of course the seemingly out of reach Stefan Everts with 101 GP wins.
We caught up with Antonio this week and asked him about his win at Valkenswaard and also what the future brings with his knee injury.
Antonio, congratulations. How does it feel to win again, especially after your knee injury in Bulgaria?
I am really, really happy, like I said that the press conference. I never expected to be on the podium after the problems I had after Bulgaria.
I felt really bad the whole week and I couldn’t walk the whole week, then a few days before the race I could ride one day and I cycled a little and tried to ride the bike on Thursday, to check how it was.
I was struggling a lot because I didn’t tape the knee, then for the races last weekend I taped my knee. I didn’t have too many problems, only when I over jumped the jumps or put my foot on the ground.
After knowing you couldn’t train all week how motivated where you for the weekend?
Very motivated. I like the sand and I showed I can win in the rough conditions even with my injury. I have never seen Valkenswaard like this, so rough conditions, but I really liked it. You can see the preparation of the top guys on this type of track.
I mean in Bulgaria everyone was going fast, also the guys who didn’t work hard in the winter. I like the tracks that show people are putting in the preparation during the week, and in Bulgaria you couldn’t see that. That doesn’t help for the mentality of the riders.
You seem to have a love affair with Valkenswaard?
This is the third time I have won in MX1 here, but I did struggle a bit. Normally this track is a lot of fun to ride but today I tried to be more careful with my injured knee and I tried not to put it on the ground so much.
Today we could also close the gap in the championship points and I hope it’s not too long before we get the red plate back again.
You didn’t look like the usual Antonio Cairoli in the sand – you looked like you were riding very careful.
Today I was riding with my feet up a lot and last year I rode much better, I felt strong last year and really fast, but I made some mistakes last year. I didn’t enjoy it much this year. I struggled a lot.
I was not balanced well on the bike because of my knee and sometimes the front end would kick me and I struggled more than normal. But I am happy to be on top of the race.
I was speaking to Georges Jobe (five times world champion) on Sunday and he mentioned that great riders like you might find an advantage in riding injured. Do you agree?
Yes, on one side for sure, because you want to show people you are strong and can win, but on the other side you don’t know what can happen, do you twist it again.
In one way it makes you more focused to not make mistakes because you don’t want to hurt it again. But the problem is you don’t know what happens if you hurt it again.
You mentioned it was tough getting back on the bike last Thursday and you didn’t feel that strong. Was there a moment when you thought you maybe couldn’t ‘ride in Valkenswaard?
The scary thing when I rode on Thursday I couldn’t jump, but I rode okay, it’s not like 2008 when I just couldn’t ride anymore, then it was over. With this injury it’s possible to at least ride. I expected to be inside the top ten but to go for the win, which surprises me.
What is the prognosis from the doctor, what will it take to make your knee okay again?
I have to be off the bike and rest for like 30 days, that is what the doctor told me, but that is impossible. I will keep training and try and do my best.
Signing with KTM again is a big bonus for you and for KTM.
For sure we decided to continue together already in Bulgaria, we have a new two year contract, so for me it’s just focus on the championship. I don’t need to think about which team I ride for this year.
Next up Glen Helen, you must be excited to head back there and maybe race some of the AMA riders?
I am really excited, I have a lot of fans in America now, and it’s cool to see the people I rode with in the winter. I like Glen Helen the circuit, it’s got some nice lines and good jumps, so I am really happy to go back there.