Tony Cairoli’s retirement follows that of the “Doctor” and marks the end of a golden era for Italian motorcycling, with both men on nine world titles, although it’s not yet over for Cairoli
At the end of the season, Tony Cairoli will retire from MXGP having been the face of world motocross for more than a decade. The Italian champ’s announcement follows that of Valentino Rossi and marks the end of a golden age for Italian motorcycling, one that would be hard to repeat. The two legends have set record after record, collected fans around the world and elevated the media coverage and technical levels of their respective disciplines. It’s symbolic that they will retire in the same year, almost destiny really.
The careers of the two Italian champion share many similarities, starting with the stats. Nine world titles apiece, with 115 race wins for Valentino Rossi and 93 for Cairoli. Both lie in second place on the all-time list of titles and wins, behind Giacomo Agostini and Stefan Everts respectively. The pursuit of a tenth title has been a common denominator in the latter stages of the two Italians’ careers, both having tried their best to reach double figures. The MX rider’s fight is not yet over, as he currently lies third in the championship standings and is still very much in the mix.
Cairoli has overcome adversity, criticism, injury and rivals. Something that would become more difficult as the years went on, and now, with the announcement of his retirement, he has one last opportunity to secure the win, otherwise a tenth title will remain a pipedream, as it has for the MotoGP champion. And yet, the pursuit of this goal has never become an obsession, rather it has always been driven by passion, the true weapon for both riders, who were able to construct a career, and their respective success, on what Michael Jordan called “love of the game”.
For Cairoli, a tenth title would see him equal Stefan Everts’ record and be hailed the greatest MX rider of all time. The same goes for Valentino Rossi, for whom a tenth title would have moved him closer to Agostini. But, with champions of this calibre, at a certain point the numbers do nothing more than detract from a much more important value. With Rossi and Cairoli, it isn’t about how much they’ve won but how they’ve done it, the emotions they’ve transmitted, and what they’ve given their fans and colleagues - and this is worth so much more than another title.
Translated by Heather Watson