Jeffrey Herlings flies like the wind. He is a preordained talent who has learned to exploit his skills. And like all the preordained, he wastes no time. Having climbed onto the saddle as a child, he won his first title at the age of eight. And when he landed in motocross, he shot ahead, winning three world MX2 titles in 2012, 2013 and 2016. But the twenty-four year-old Dutchman’s true masterpiece came this season, winning the world championship’s premier class, the MXGP, where he dominated right from the start and collected no end of ground-breaking records. Throughout the entire season - and what a season! - the KTM rider seemed to be at one with his bike. “It's all a question of feeling,” he explains, describing how he got to be so good with the humility and simplicity of a real champion. Talent, clarity and perfectionism are the key words of this motocross phenomenon.
What do you think is your best gift?
“I don’t think there is any one element in particular. It is the right mix of skills and qualities that make you a leader in this sport. Above all, it is important to combine optimal physical conditions with great mental strength.”
How did you and your team refine your bike?
“Winning an MXGP World Championship requires non-stop work. My team worked very hard throughout the season to develop and continuously improve every aspect of the bike. Right from the start, we all shared a common goal, a shared ambition: victory. This laid the perfect groundwork for me to give it my all in every race.”
How important are tyres in race performance?
“For any rider, at any level, and even more so during a competition, having tyres that meet your needs and your driving style is absolutely essential. For my tyres, I seek good grip and resistance. Tyres make it possible to develop the perfect synergy between me and my bike, for the perfect feeling on the saddle.”
How did you get on with Pirelli’s tyres this season?
“Working with Pirelli couldn’t be better. The Pirelli team is the very best from this point of view: they are sure to resolve any problem and pursue continuous improvement, race after race. In my experience, they are always open to any request. We work really well together.”
Being in the lead for the whole season cannot be easy. What is the most challenging aspect of leadership?
“Managing pressure is something that I have had to learn. Racing alongside great riders like Cairoli, who was always ready to overtake me, made me work hard on this aspect: learning to remain calm at all times, and never lose my head. It's not always easy, especially because people always have very high expectations and my goal has always been never to disappoint, either myself, my team or my fans.”
Speaking of Cairoli, how did you feel about your sporting duel with him this year?
“It was exciting. We shared some spectacular ‘battles’. The fact of having the same team and the same bike made the comparison between us even more interesting. Naturally, I’m delighted to have come out on top and won.”
How do you experience your popularity inside and outside of the paddock?
“I have learned to put up with having everyone's eyes on me. It is a very positive experience, it gives me confidence. And having had such a successful season made it all easier.”
What sort of relationship do you have with the social media?
“Nowadays, there is no getting away from them. Any public figure must put forward a positive image on Instagram and Facebook. I try to promote the companies and sponsors in which I believe, enterprises that I myself find interesting.”
How was it to win the world title at home, in Assen?
“Winning in the Netherlands was priceless. I had a wonderful weekend. All my family and my friends were there. It was unforgettable.”