Although Antonio Cairoli saw his US excursion as a joke from the start, the race in Pala was ultimately a competition. Cairoli had bigger problems than expected, including the US bikes.
The self-imposed goal of reaching the top 10 in America was, of course, nothing more than flirting with one’s own capabilities. One would have expected the nine-time world champion to be at the level of a Ryan Dungey drives, who hasn’t competed in races for 5 years. Dungey war in Pala phased up Podiumskurs and ended the day in 4th place. Cairoli was only in the top 10 behind and was a minute and a half away from the lead. And defending champion Dylan Ferrandis wasn’t even at the start. Also Tomac war in Pala after his ligament tear not yet fit and with Stewart, Savatgy and Wilson there were no other top 10 aspirants in the field.
In the first race, the Italian initially fought his way off after a mediocre start P8 on P6 before. “Unfortunately, I fell two laps before the end and fell back,” he said angrily after he finally finished 10th.
Of course, the Italian has repeatedly emphasized that he has neither ambition nor any other ambitions in the USA and actually only drives for fun. But that is precisely his dilemma in this sport. Races at this level require full commitment, including in preparation. In addition, moving from Europe to the USA – and vice versa – requires a major change. This experience had to Ryan Villopoto in 2015 when he wanted to crown his career in the World Cup and failed painfully.
Cairoli actually retired a long time ago. He has said from the start that he only wants to do two races in the USA. Now he has himself Pala and Hangtown not exactly the cream of the US calendar selected. “I struggled a bit with the course,” he explained after the race and identified another problem that seemed to have surprised even him: the US-KTM differs greatly from his usual bike, which he rides in Europe. «The frames we ride in Europe are much stiffer than here and my shock settings don’t match this frame at all. That’s why I struggled with the damper setting. I didn’t have a chance to test this bike extensively as we’ve ridden on completely different tracks so far. Hopefully on Tuesday we’ll find more time to work out a setting for the next race.”
No doubt it would have been nicer if Cairoli would have set a clearer accent. But it is what it is and the friendly Sicilian has in Hangtown a second chance. “I’m actually only in high gears here chugged around, just to survive the many holes. I admit that the track is not one of my favorites, but it was still nice.”
Result U.S Nationals Pala 450 ccm:
1. Chase Sexton (USA), Honda, 1-1
2. Ken Roczen (H), Honda, 2-2
3. Christian Craig (USA), 3-3
4. Eli Tomac (USA), Yamaha7-4
5. Ryan Dungey (USA), KTM5-5
6. Jason Anderson (USA), Kawasaki, 4-8
7. Antonio Cairoli (I), KTM10-6
8. Aaron Plessinger (USA), 6-10
9. Justin Weather in Barcia (USA), GASGAS, 8-9
10. Shane McElrath (USA), Husqvarna11-7