Jeffrey Herlings was unable to complete the MXGP of the Netherlands on Sunday after being landed on in the opening race at Oss. Early scans of his left shoulder fracture are promising and he should know more later today.
Herlings was disappointed that the FIM Motocross Championship was unable to return to Valkenswaard this year, which is understandable considering his incredible record on home turf, tallying 14 Grand Prix wins in both classes since his debut at Valkenswaard in 2010.
He was nonetheless, looking forward to racing in front of the passionate home support at a different type of sand track than you normally see in the Netherlands. The Oss Motocross Circuit, located less than 30 miles from the German border, isn’t the typical Dutch sand track that Herlings thrives on. Sand – deep in places – but hardpack underneath, it caught out some riders and teams who had no experience of the circuit.
Herlings weekend at round four of the MXGP championship started perfectly. He topped the timing charts for the third time this season to take first gate pick.
The opening moto would turn out to be a thriller, but for Herlings, a combination of bad luck and an Italian hauling ass may have cost the 26-year-old Dutchman yet another chance at a fifth world title. At least, that appeared to be his understandable fear in the moments after the crash in Oss.
As the leading pack exited the second corner of the opening lap the holeshot device on the Red Bull KTM machine failed to let go. It meant he slightly under-jumped, meanwhile, Ivo Monticelli was hauling it and appeared to carry considerably more momentum. Monticelli landed on Herlings’s back but somehow The Bullet remained upright.
Herlings bore the pain and steadily found a pace that pulled him up from fourth, through a frantic battle for the lead and into first to seize his second victory in succession.
A scan between the motos revealed that Herlings had suffered a small fracture in his left shoulder blade and he had to sit out the next race. It could mean he misses one or more races that come in quick-fire succession in the next three weeks.
Speaking after the race, an annoyed Herlings said: “I don’t know why things like this happen – just use your brain. I jumped normal and somebody hit me on my shoulder. I can’t even move my arm up right now. He added: “It’s very devastating.”
Dirk Grubel said between motos that a scan on his shoulder showed a small fracture. “Need to heal up,” he said. “Hopefully he can come back next weekend [at Loket].”
In a Red Bull KTM press release, Herlings added: “What can I say about today? I had high hopes and wanted one-one. I had a great start in the first moto but the start device did not disengage immediately up the hill and I did not jump as far as I usually do out of the waves. The rest is history.
“I had a lot of pain but thought I’d keep going to try and get fourth or fifth. I saw I was still able to catch the guys so I started passing them even though I could barely hold on for the last three laps. I have a small crack in my shoulder blade and I still don’t know how bad it is. We had a scan and it doesn’t seem too bad. I don’t have any pain now but racing a dirt bike is a different story. We’ll have another check tomorrow [Monday].”
Monticelli was sorry Herlings got hurt in the incident but suggested it’s just part of the sport. “First lap you always try to push into the lead,” he said between motos. “I arrived at the uphill, we have many ruts already in the first lap. I don’t know, I think Jeffrey had a little mistake because he doesn’t jump so long. When I see that he doesn’t jump, I was already in the air – I was scared, I said ‘oh my god what’s going to happen?’, and then the crash. I’m okay, [but] sorry for him because he’s injured in the shoulder. This is motocross. This is our sport – I’m just sorry but I can’t say anything else.”
With another title hanging by a thread, Herlings will have mixed emotions as he undergoes more tests today. Hopefully, we’ll have more for you later.
Update July, 27 2021, 12:47 BST: Herlings spoke with MXGP’s Lisa Leyland at Loket and he shared some extra details while on camera. “Honestly, it’s hard for me to say because I don’t even know myself,” said Herlings.
“There’s a small chance I will be back racing next weekend in Lommel [round six] to keep my championship hopes alive. If that is smart? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Normally the plan is to return back in Finland [round eight] and be healthy. Once again, nothing has been decided but this week we will have another check-up with the doctor and then we hope to have more news to see what will happen.”
Update July, 23 2021, 13:22 BST: The Red Bull KTM has released a statement that rules out Herlings from the Loket GP. The fracture is larger than first thought. “I don’t have pain in my shoulder for day-to-day life but sports and especially something like motocross is a different story,” said Herlings. “We’ll sit out Loket with the aim to come back 100 per cent. It’s a shame and something that wasn’t my fault but it is what it is.”