By Dave Willet
This weekend’s MXGP of Jacksonville has been hyped up to be a massive showdown between the top American riders and the MXGP regulars following Jeffrey Herlings’ incredible performance last weekend in his AMA National debut.
Herlings broke the mould by beating the top AMA riders on a borrowed, US-spec bike and track he hardly knew to win both motos in Indiana. After his hopes of becoming world champion looked very slim after a DNF in Sweden, killing his winning streak, he decided to go and race the best America have to offer.
The Bullet schooled the field – but can he do it again? In Indiana he was motivated to win, with nothing to lose, while Eli Tomac had an eye on the championship. And the cool conditions suited him, too. But this time it’s not just the Americans he has to race but also his MXGP competitors.
Herlings has been preparing himself with top American coach Aldon Baker at his ranch facility in Florida, getting used to the heat and humidity. Romain Febvre has been riding Stateside too and even Tim Gajser has been at Ricky Carmichael’s ranch in Florida to get himself ready. All these riders have been adopting to the heat and humidity.
But the current world championship points leader Tony Cairoli went training at Lommel in Belgium, as he usually does. Now if he goes and wins like he did in Italy with a stand-out performance, this will be a massive statement as to who really is the best. Something he surely would be keen to do. And as the track in Jacksonville is sandy, it should suit him.
If Cairoli does win, you could draw parallels with what Jean-Michel Bayle did when he won the USGP almost 30 years ago. He refused to practice at Glen Helen then turned up in timed qualifications and put the fastest lap in. He went straight back to his California home only to return the next day to go 1/1. That’s what legends are made of!