Red Bull KTM Factory rider Jeffrey Herlings is burning to get back on the GP scene. A midweek collarbone injury dropped him out of the Italian GP last weekend, and the Dutchman knows that it will be tough when he arrives in Indonesia in a weeks’ time. He also knows that the season is for another three months, and whatever he gets out of the two Indonesian rounds will be enough to carry him into places like Lommel, Assen and Imola, where he will see his beloved sand.
One thing is for sure, his self-belief won’t be covered in self-doubt, because if there is one thing Herlings likes it is a challenge. We all know his biggest rival, Antonio Cairoli, will be waiting for the battle to continue.
Geoff Meyer caught up with the KTM rider today and asked him about his injury and recovery.
Jeffrey, sorry to hear about your injury last week. Just tell me what happened?
Well, I was just practicing and crashed. It is never nice when it happens in the middle of the season and leading the championship in a good way and having this happen. Obviously, it was a small crash. I was just going into a turn and the front end washed way and I crashed on the shoulder. Just a small crash and that is a small bone and it breaks pretty quickly. We had it broken, but its healing good and the break was a good one the doctor said. It is very straight, next to the plate from the old break. The doctor just took the old plate out and put in a new one and changed the position of the plate. We are resting up. I’m back on the road cycle, but riding a dirt bike is a little different and we just rest up. Make sure not to come back too quickly. We will be in Indonesia for sure, but I will see the doctor next week to see when it is possible to start riding. Maybe before Indonesia, or in Indonesia. Every day I don’t ride it is an extra day of healing.
Because you ride so much and it’s the middle of the season, does it matter if you miss riding a few weeks, or is it critical to ride going into a place like Indonesia which will be very warm?
Not at all, and I did have a surgery. I couldn’t do anything for three days and I needed to rest and not sweat [to cause an infection]. I am on the road cycle and can do all my physical training. The injury happened on the Wednesday and I was back riding [his road cycle] on the Friday. It would have been better to keep riding, but the number of hours I have ridden this year and in my career, taking two weeks of the bike isn’t such a big deal. If I only ride once before Indonesia or not ride at all, it will be different and other expectations. Going for fastest lap in the first practice won’t be a priority and we just have to get some time on the bike and the feeling back. The big picture this isn’t perfect, but knowing the season is three more months maybe its good to give the body a little rest. We would prefer it didn’t happen, but maybe it isn’t the worst thing.
I can imagine the disappointment with the injury is as much that it happened. It’s been such a consistent thing with you, while you have hardly crashed in 2018, or the last part of 2017?
You know, in total I think I haven’t touched the ground more than three times, have crashed like maybe five times maximum this year. The one in Italy in the pre-season, Hawkstone Park I had a big one, and this one. None of the crashes apart from England, where I high-sided were all just small crashes. Even this one was just a small tip over. Its just unfortunate. The other years I had some crazy things and had some big get-offs, but having this happen, such a small crash, it’s unfortunate.
You are a big guy, maybe the weight of your body on the shoulder was enough to break it?
You know, when you are like 80 kilos [176 pounds] and the speed you are carrying. I think the bike broke my collarbone. When I crashed the bike landed on me and also hurt my ribs, but those are fine now. So it was first my own impact and then the impact from the bike. I am lucky its just a collarbone and not a leg. We miss one round and we are back.
One great thing about our sport, when somebody gets injured, nobody likes it. I know Antonio was very sincere when he said he wants you back as quickly as possible. You must appreciate that?
I do, and you know on the track we are the biggest enemies. I know Tony has a good heart and is a very loyal person, and I believe he is a very good person. Off the track he wishes everybody the best and I also don’t like to see guys injured. Obviously, Tony is training hard now, and he will be well prepared for Indonesia. I need to do the same and be as well prepared as I can. He will be very strong there—for sure with the heat—and if I have to give that win away then I will do it. The main thing is the championship. I don’t want to come back and go crazy. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position like three years ago when we came back too quick.
You have won four times in Asia and have a good record in that type of heat and those type of tracks. We hear the first track will be similar to last year, just with some improvements with the drainage and some areas of the track. The second one will be like Thailand that first year. You must be looking forward to getting to those type of tracks again?
You mean the one in Thailand with the huge double?
You know, with this injury it would have been better to come back in Europe, but I am still going to be in good shape, because my physical work will be the same as always. It isn’t that hot in Europe at the moment, so that will be the same for everyone. Many riders live near Holland or Belgium so its going to be tough for everyone and for sure for me. The first round we just get used to riding again, and we don’t go there to try and dominate like all the other rounds this year. We will just see how it comes and get a fifth if that is all there is. I am very motivated to be back racing and see all the guys. It was painful watching on television last weekend.
Talking about last weekend, obviously Tony went 1-1 and it was domination of old from him. How hard was that to watch?
I mean, I expected it. Maybe hoped he had a bad start or something and struggled to third place, but if you look at all the sand races this year—Latvia and Valkenswaard—it was 1-1 for me and he went 2-2. I knew he would be hard to beat. He also rides a lot at Ottobiano. I know getting into a sand race, he is the guy to beat. I don’t wish him to get injured, just a bad start. It’s like a football game now, just 0-0 and it wasn’t his fault I got injured. It was all my fault.
I am often hearing the rumor that you might go to HRC in a couple of years. Fill me in if that is anywhere near possible after such a relationship with KTM and them dominating the world more or less?
I think KTM is really strong. Look at MXGP and MX2 here, they are one and two in both classes and even in America with their Husqvarna efforts, they won the East Coast SX and 450 SX, and they have a chance with Marvin in the 450 class outdoors, so they are doing great. I have a contract until the end of 2020, and they have an option on me for 2021. The rumors are not true that I would go to HRC. I am not talking with them and I am not negotiation with them so those rumors are not true. I am super happy with KTM and have been there for 10 years and they are like family, guys like Pit. I can tell you for sure the next three years I am with them, and it would be hard to leave them.
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