Cal Crutchlow: “I feel I’m always riding injured”

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It was a mixed year for Brits in the MotoGP paddock. MCN Sport asked four of our top riders for their verdicts. First up: Cal Crutchlow

ou’ve just turned 30. How does your body feel?
My body is tired. I have aches and pains in my shoulders, feet, legs and obviously I’ve had the problems with my arms [Cal had operations on both arms to relieve arm pump in 2014]. Now I’ve got a problem with the tendon and nerves in my bicep, so I have no real feeling around the area. I feel I ride permanently injured. But I know some guys that feel the same. In terms of training, I’ve always thought that I’m not a natural racer so I don’t think riding a motocross bike or a flat tracker is good for me. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t improve my skills for MotoGP. You’ve got to do what you feel comfortable with and what works for me is going home and having a rest from motorcycles. I have other things in my life. I like to cycle so I’ll go out for four or five hours a day.

Could you get the most out of the bike this year?
I’m quite happy with how things have gone. The bike’s so difficult to ride and to get your head around. I’ve been really impressed with how Honda worked this year and how they listened to me, and their patience. They’ve not said anything about lap times or about final position because they’ve never had a satellite rider come in and do very well in their first year. Look at Scott [Redding] – I don’t think he’s finished inside the top 10, except for races in dodgy conditions. Granted he got the podium but when you crash and still finish on the podium something’s strange. I remember Michael Bartholomew [Scott’s team manager when he rode for Marc VDS in Moto2] saying two year’s ago that he’s the only guy who can beat Marc Marquez. But I haven’t seen it this year and he’s been on a very, very similar bike. So you see how difficult this Honda is to ride.
At the start of the year the big thing was the three British riders on satellite machines. How do you think that’s gone?
I have no interest in battling with Brits. Obviously I’m not happy with some things this year – you can’t finish 20 or 30 seconds off the winner and be happy. But saying that, Marc [Marquez] has had a lot of problems as well. I don’t give a shit about being top satellite, I don’t feel it means anything. To be battling with the best guys in the world, that’s what I’m more interested in. We haven’t achieved that goal but I don’t think the other guys have either. I feel confident in what Honda are bringing next year and the aim is to battle with those guys again like I did two years ago.

You’ve been at Yamaha at the same time as Lorenzo and Rossi. Now you’re at Honda with Marc and Dani. What is it that separates them from some of the other guys? Is it speed or consistency?
A bit of both. I’ve always been able understand how to do everything – I can look at them and know how they do it, just like I can look at motocross riders and know how they do things – but I just can’t do it on the bike! These guys are special. It’s what they were born with and Marc’s on a different planet. The Honda has not been the package to be on this year and Marc’s still been able to do things that people cannot imagine. I would be closest to Valentino in riding style, which I know from the Yamaha data when I was at Tech3.

If Marc is on a different level, where are you?
You have to be realistic. I’m not one of these top four guys, but I think Iannone has now proven how good a rider he is even though he’s sometimes fast with the bike on its side. I would say I’m around his level.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I know my weakness is the first couple of laps. My main strength is being able to ride through problems. If I have a problem, and it’s not too bad, I adjust to it. And I see things before a lot of other people. I can watch a session or a video and I notice things that others don’t, and then I can go to Honda and say, look at this, look at this – and they haven’t even seen it. 

Are you still happy you left Ducati?
I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I had the chance to change bikes and I did. I think they had two really good riders at the time and we know that they were helping them more because they were faster than me. And I wasn’t willing to stand for it, so I left. Here at Honda I’m a satellite rider and I know what I’m getting. I know what the factory have, give or take, most of the time. And I get stuff before Scott because I’m faster than him. So I feel I’m in a better situation. Me and Scott are now on the same bike, but at the start of the year I got the chassis a race or two before him. Everybody will say, Look at Ducati now, but Dovi’s not great at the moment. At Phillip Island he was 13th and I was second there last year until the last lap.
I think Ducati is more focused on Iannone, and Dovi’s getting what I had last year. But I enjoyed my experience with Ducati. I have no problem with those guys – I go to dinner with them every week and every time I’m in Italy I go to the factory. People think we don’t speak to each other and they hated me and got rid of me, but that’s bullshit.

Words Steve English  Photos G&G, Tony Goldsmith, Steve English

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