ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: HERLINGS’ WIN STREAK

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OPOS_HerlingsBy John Basher

The Netherlands’ Jeffrey Herlings has been racing the MX2 (250) World Championship since 2010. He was 15 years old when he started. Herlings finished fourth overall in his first 250 GP at Bulgaria. Marvin Musquin won, followed by Ken Roczen, Steven Frossard, and then Herlings. Arnaud Tonus, Jeremy Van Horebeek, Zach Osborne, Shaun Simpson, Christophe Charlier, Glenn Coldenhoff and Jose Butron were also in that race. The majority of those riders now compete in the 450 class–either in America or abroad–and are in the upper echelon of their respective series. You know where this ship is headed.   

Jeffrey Herlings is that once-in-a-generation racer, the undisputed top talent in the 250 World Championships for seven years running. Nothing, aside from Musquin and Roczen, held Herlings back from dominating the field since the beginning of Obama’s second term in office. Jeffrey has almost no weaknesses, and he’s otherworldly in the sand. Yet Herlings only has two World titles to his credit. I use the word ‘only,’ because he should have won titles the past two years. In 2014 he broke his femur while riding a pit bike. Last year he had several big get-offs, all on his own accord. In Germany he broke his collarbone. Two weeks later Herlings crashed in the first turn of the second moto at Sweden and nearly sliced his finger off. However, it was a qualifying race crash in Loket, Czech Republic, that doomed him in 2015. He fell and then was center-punched by Jordi Tixier’s front tire, resulting in a dislocated hip for the Dutch sensation.

VALKENSWAARD WAS SITE OF HERLINGS’ FIRST GP OVERALL VICTORY IN 2010. IN FACT, JEFFREY HAS NEVER LOST A MOTO IN VALKENSWAARD WHILE RACING THE 250 CLASS. HE’S A PERFECT 12-FOR-12. THAT’S UNBELIEVABLE. IF THE WORLD WERE ONLY MADE OF SAND, MOTOCROSS WOULD NEED TO BE CHANGED TO “HERLINGSCROSS” OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE SAND MASTER.

For the past two years there has been a public outcry for Herlings to move up and race the MX1 (450) Championship. It hasn’t happened. Apparently under the recommendation of KTM, Jeffrey has stayed back in the hope of amassing more titles. It has been a strategic play by the Austrians, given that “King” Tony Cairoli has long ruled in the 450 class. Sweeping the World Championships has a nice ring to it. However, it’s fairly obvious that KTM’s strategy hasn’t worked out to plan. Herlings hasn’t been able to avoid injuries the past two years, and Cairoli is beginning to show his age. As a result, last year KTM was locked out of a World title for the first time since 2007.

Last year I attended the Valkenswaard, Netherlands MXGP–unofficially known as the “Jeffrey Herlings MXGP.” The Dutch rider grew up a short distance from the track. It’s his home turf, and the results prove as much. Valkenswaard was site of his first GP overall victory in 2010. In fact, Jeffrey has never lost a moto in Valkenswaard while racing the 250 GP class. He’s a perfect 12-for-12. That’s unbelievable. If the world were only made of sand, motocross would need to be changed to “Herlingscross” out of respect for the sand master.

Valkenswaard is this weekend. Can Herlings keep his winning streak intact? Things look promising. Max Anstie (no slouch in the sand), Aleksandr Tonkov and Pauls Jonass pose the biggest threats, but Jeffrey should have the field covered once again. Hopefully it will be his parting gift for the 250 class, and that this will be the last year anyone sees Herlings zipping around in the sand on a KTM 250SXF. There’s no way KTM would keep him in the 250 class in 2017, is there? It’s possible. Jeffrey will have one more year of eligibility in the 250 class, thanks to the FIM’s “Under 23” age rule. Let’s hope Herlings finally moves to the 450 class next year and lines up next to the cream of the Grand Prix crop.   

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