Any doubts over the amount of blood and sweat needed to make the podium in MXGP were banished with the story of Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre in France. The 27 year old produced a performance against the odds at his home Grand Prix in Saint Jean D’Angely for what was round seven of eighteen in the series.
Febvre had tentatively raced his factory bike the previous week at the Portuguese Grand Prix but the last time the MXGP paddock had seen the 2015 world champion before that outing was back in early March. #461 was being wheeled through the airport on a luggage trolley in Argentina after breaking his right foot in two places during the second moto of the opening fixture of the season.
Surgery, rehab, five events on the sidelines, a quiet reintroduction Portugal and then…Febvre was struck down again in the run-up to the hilly, hard-pack, rough and fast test at Saint Jean. “I didn't ride all week because I’ve been sick with a fever,” he said, clearly still bunged-up. “I came here expecting nothing.”
The tribulations did not end there. Febvre sniffled his way through a bright start on the distinctive blue and black Yamaha but the first moto carried more pain. “I got hit by a stone and it opened my eye, so blood was dripping into my goggles and [afterwards] I needed stitches.”
The French ace admitted that his recently repaired foot still gives him some pain but – in spite of being weakened from a virus and with a throbbing eye - he did not think about missing the gate for the second race. “I took the holeshot in the second moto and it made life much, much easier,” he breathed. “I missed some [peak] physical condition and I tried to relax as much as I could. It was a good performance from what I feel today.”
Febvre’s results of 5th and 2nd was cheered all the way as he led and fought with Tim Gajser and created a first Grand Prix podium appearance since Switzerland last summer. “It has been a long road,” he admitted. “It was amazing leading here and coming down to the start line sectiom you know you will hear all the fans and on parts where we are not on the throttle you can hear them everywhere.”
With the home crowd happy and Febvre duly revived, Yamaha were also content to fill two podium spots behind winner Gajser. For the second week in a row Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha’s Arnaud Tonus made the top three for further vindication of his potential after his own journey through injury wilderness. “I’m not sure what to expect any more,” the ecstatic Swiss admitted. “I was so happy last week and was riding good, making passes and getting starts and it happened again. I’m super-happy and thankful. How I feel on the bike right now I’m really confident and I’ll try to carry that momentum.”
Tonus also shed some light on how tough it was to deal with the terrain in France. “There were many stones on the track and I was struggling with some hitting my chest but this is part of it,” he said. MXGP: you gotta be tough.
There was more brilliance in France with Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha’s Jago Geerts being the first rider in the MX2 class to demote world champion Jorge Prado from first place in the opening moto. The nineteen year old Belgian pushed the Spaniard harder than any other rider this season so far and walked the second step of the box for his second trophy in 2019. Props also to Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle in the MXGP class for a strong fourth position.
Desalle will be one of the riders rubbing his hands in relish at the prospect of round eight. MXGP will jet all the way to Orlyonok for the third Grand Prix of Russia at the fast and flowing site. Desalle was the sole rider to break the Herlings-Cairoli grip on the 2018 series at the circuit and could well be heading for more glory in two weeks time.