By Dave Willet.
All racers have the fighting spirit – it’s in their DNA. The will to win and overcome all the odds is what separates one rider from the next. For example, let’s look at Jeffrey Herlings’ battle at the moment.
He’s in a hard place and he’s clearly analysing everything after his injury leading into the first MXGP and his subsequent lack of form.
And if you’ve seen any of his recent interviews, it’s clear Herlings and the team are focusing on the different characteristics that 450 offers over the 250 he’s raced for best part of a decade.
But what’s most interesting is his progress. An 11th then seventh gave him a ninth overall in Argentina which is his best MXGP finish so far. He followed that up with his first race win – against a lot of top-notch MXGP rivals – in the Dutch Masters race last weekend. That’s a massive achievement when you look at the competition, such as Shaun Simpson. Max Anstie, Max Nagl, Gautier Paulin and more.
Herlings has a never-say-die attitude and his MXGP journey this year will be an interesting one. For obvious reason it hasn’t started the way he’d have like it to, but he’s taken it on the chin. Instead of playing the injury card by saying if he’s not fit enough to race at the front, he’s not riding, Herlings has been sticking it out in the hopes his efforts could pay dividend come the end of the season with a few more points.
Herlings has been a public figure from the word go and he’s used to such pressure as most of his career, winning has been expected of him. Since Ken Roczen went to the USA, he’s won just about every MX2 moto or championship he’s entered apart from when injured.
That wasn’t given, it was earned. And if you look back, he’s used to fighting. He’s been fighting hard since the 85cc days with Max Anstie and Ken Roczen. His fight continued with Ken in the European championship where the older Christophe Charlier won the title. The fight with Ken carried over to the MX2 world championship and Ken and Jeffrey were team-mates.
He’s fought hard with Tommy Searle and when he earned his right for domination, he got hurt and had another fight with a broken leg. With such a big lead he raced when he shouldn’t have to try and keep his title. And the next season he had injuries again. But he came back and won in 2016.
Jeffrey is made of tough stuff and he’s no stranger to being in a hard place which he has always overcome so far. And there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that he will get to grips with the 450 and be a race winner and potential champion in future.
If his previous form is anything to go by, we won’t have to wait long as he bids to turn his 2017 season around. Taking a maiden victory at the Masters and getting the taste for winning again means he’s going to be one to watch, that’s for sure.
It’s hard to imagine the pressure he was under to win in the sand in his home championship. Nothing but a win would have been good enough for him. So a fifth in moto one would have had many riders hanging their heads and looking for excuses. But the Bullet came out swinging and took the win in moto two. This is a massive turning point for him and he’ll keen to carry that momentum into Mexico this weekend. Watch this space!