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Clement Desalle at the 2018 Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina

Clement Desalle: “Finding fun on the bike is the key”

Mar 052018

28 year old Clement Desalle has been forging the pace and chasing supreme excellence in one of the most difficult and expressive motorcycle racing sports for over ten years. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider has claimed MXGP Grand Prix wins in the FIM Motocross World Championship each season since 2009 - bar one - and is the second most prolific rider in the class. The un-showy but technically superb and determined Belgian enters his third season in Kawasaki colours and is a staple member of the leading sect of the premier class. A world title has only eluded #25 through injury and the juggernaut of results that is Tony Cairoli. He has finished in the final top three of the competition five times.

It was in 2009 – riding a semi-private Honda – that Desalle first won in MXGP. His mechanic at the time, Francois Lemariey, is now his team manager at the Holland-based factory crew. “His technique has grown over the years and his mentality is that of a high-level sportsman because he is always looking for improvement and is always honest with himself; he doesn't like to find excuses,” the Frenchman says. “Honesty is important and the relationship he has with the team is key because he needs trust from people around him, and to give his own trust. This is what makes him consistent year after year with his results. He also keeps working to keep his level up…and that's what make him such a pleasure to work with.”

Clement’s blend between clinical professional focus and the need to savour almost child-like enjoyment on the motorcycle for what is a perilous and physically brutal sport (and Desalle has suffered his fair share of pain and surgery) is a strange characteristic that is not unique to the Walloon. “He feels that pleasure bring results and it’s true,” adds Lemariey. “If he feels good then the results will come and this is his philosophy.”


Desalle would earn a steady third position at Neuquen in South America for the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina and the initial salvo in 2018 MXGP. “We had a strong weekend and I saw some things that we can work on,” he said afterwards. “I want to thank the team because we’ve done some good work and it felt like a long time that we had to wait for this first race. We’ll keep going, in a positive way.”


We asked CD25 about getting this far…

"I do things step-by-step and every year I try to improve. I always tended to have the same strategy for the work…but altered some small things or some different methods."

Clement, first of all can you give an indication of how the winter and pre-season went? You were injury-free and able to get dialled for your third season with the KX450F…

Yes, my programme was fine. Testing with the bike was a bit delayed but everything was done. I changed a couple of things to look for a few improvements but it was a good winter and we changed quite a lot on the bike. You need to adapt a few things during the off-season to get the good speed during the moto. We so worked on the bike as much as the training. It’s good to start racing here in Argentina.

You won your first GP ten years ago so sometimes do you need a change to reinvigorate motivation?

I do things step-by-step and every year I try to improve. I always tended to have the same strategy for the work…but altered some small things or some different methods.

How is it possible to be a winner for ten years?

When you have or try for the feeling of fun: it’s a big motivation and it’s why I’m here. I want that feeling as much as possible through the [GP] year. I’m always working for that, as are all the riders. It’s true that I’ve won GPs for a few years now…but still not the championship!

After all these years and races is it still possible to have fun on the bike?

That's a big thing for me and it is the key. It’s important to have a hard training programme but if you don't have fun anymore then – in your head - it is a percentage of performance that you lose. It is like a formula that you need to find for yourself: the physical, the mental and the fun, and I have known for many years that if I have the fun part then I am fast and I can win a Grand Prix. Otherwise it is a bit like going to a job, even if this is not really a normal job! To be honest on some tracks it is more difficult to find the fun. I want that enjoyment each weekend but it’s not always possible. Even if you see me up on the podium then the result might be good but if I’m not happy then I am not the kind of guy that can hide it. Sometimes I know it is important to show that ‘happy face’ but I’m also honest with my feelings.

"Every year it seems to feel harder and that is why the start of a race is really important, much more than before, and I don't think people understand that so much."

What does ‘having fun’ actually mean for you on the motorcycle?

It’s a combination of things, like going to a good track, finding nice traction and corners you can attack. Nice jumps where you can really take enjoyment from what you do. It happens sometimes, even in practice during the week and I’ll have a lot of fun just in training. It happened two weeks ago [smiles]; that was a good couple of days.

Do you still feel like a kid in those situations?

Of course, and I tell this to Andrea [his partner] and my Dad, that it’s a big part of my motivation. I can win a GP when this happens.

The level of performance seems to creep up each year in MXGP and instead of 2-3 guys who can win there are now 6-7 and maybe more. Is that again more motivation and does it give deep satisfaction when you make the top of the box?

That's true. There are no longer just 2-3 riders that are better than the rest. Every year it seems to feel harder and that is why the start of a race is really important, much more than before, and I don't think people understand that so much. If you get away in eighth or ninth position it is so much harder to come back through. Unless you are having a ‘big’ day where you can pass a lot of guys then it’s really complicated to arrive to the podium or win the race. In the past you could start badly and grab four-five positions quite quickly sometimes. It’s not the same now.