Trev chats with Troy Herfoss about a major setback on his recovery that sees him going under the knife again today. We also reflect on his early career, progression to road racing, and then have a quick chat about some racing topics in general.
Trevor Hedge: It is now two months since your accident Troy, how did your most recent follow-up go with the surgeon?
Troy Herfoss: “I got some bad news yesterday, I’m back to square one with the femur, so I’m packing to have surgery today. Because of the internal bleeding and stuff when it happened, with two surgeries, they just had no option but to do it as quick as possible and straight as possible. But basically when they put the screws into my femur to get it as straight as possible in the x-ray machine, they’ve put in a screw with a thread right up to the head. What they’d normally do is a thread on the end and the broken part would float on the screw and help the healing process. But because there was a thread on both ends, the bones were sitting there apart and the idea was they would eventually grow together, which would be fine if I was a 90-year-who was never going to walk again, but for anyone relatively young and active. So after 8 weeks I was told to put some weight through it, and I’ve now got a 15-20 millimetre shorter leg and a broken screw…”
Trev: That’s a terrible blow mate, just when it looked like things were on the up a bit.
Herfoss: “Essentially I’ve only lost four weeks, maybe a touch less, as normally a femur break like I’ve had I’d be on my feet after three to four weeks, but now my surgeon can do it as he’d hoped to have been able to do it in the first place, so I might be better off in the long run.”
Trev: How long do you think it will be before you could realistically be strong enough to start testing?
Herfoss: “Such a hard question, because I can’t get an answer from any surgeons, and I mean I guess they are always on the conservative side. No one really wants you to ride a motorcycle to be fair. But that’s a pretty common evaluation. Based off how I was feeling before I got the bad news yesterday, I went to the surgeon thinking I’d get news that my bones are healing and I can start to move on with things, and start strengthening my body, and you know I guess I’m ambitious, but my plan was then to work on trying to be in shape for Wakefield Park in two months time. Which seemed logical to me, with the way I feel.
“With my arm it’s a bit frustrating but I am getting a lot of movement back in my shoulder and I can hold onto a motorbike in the braking and acceleration zone now, but if I try and change direction I have no side strength. I was really just waiting for the go ahead to put weight through my leg, as it feels fine, which is the upsetting part about having to go back into surgery. So anyway I think I can’t know when I’ll be back, so I’ll wait a few weeks and see how the hip takes. If everything goes to plan there, at this stage the only thing I can really expect to be able to say is that I’ll be definitely 100 per cent fit for next year…”
Trev: So away from the track you’ve basically been playing Mr Mom of late after becoming a dad earlier this year?
Herfoss: “It’s been really good to be with Mia 24/7, but it has been difficult, we weren’t actually living at home for the first seven weeks just because I couldn’t – I was pretty much under full care from Emily. She was looking after me as I couldn’t bear any weight on my left and my arm was pretty useless, but it was good to be with Mia and hanging out. Now she’s my rehab margin, I can lift her a little bit now and play with her a little bit and I’m trying to put in her head the adrenaline side of the Herfoss family. But I can’t really throw her around and do the aeroplane rides at the moment so I’m just trying to do my best to get some strength back to give her some thrills.”
Trev: So talking a bit more generally, your first real taste of racing on the tarmac was in Supermoto. You experienced some great success in that discipline, including winning the American AMA Supermoto Championship as a 21-year-old when going up against the biggest names in the sport back then, Ward, Fillmore, Nicoll, Dymond. Well, it was three AMA Supermoto Championships all up.
It was a late transition to the blacktop, then an even longer wait to get on a road race bike. A very different graduation process from your similarly aged competition here in Australia now, and of course nothing like we see with the kids of today. You didn’t even get on a Supersport bike until you were 22… Certainly a very different avenue to get into road racing, than most, these days, and even back in the days of when you were first getting into it.
Herfoss: “It was a weird way to transition and sort of unheard of at the moment. And to be fair you can’t really do that these days, because we’re allowed to ride road bikes so young now in Australia and worldwide, you really have no choice but to be on a road bike at a young age. People say I couldn’t afford it and I literally couldn’t afford a road bike, but the supermoto bikes were just so much more affordable.
“Even the few months before my accident I was riding a supermoto bike around and it’s just so cheap. There’s no real lap record for the go-kart tracks to look at all the time, you’re just riding around and just ride the tyre until the carcass is hanging out and then put another one one. You fall over, the bike is ok and you get up and go ahead. It’s just so much cheaper than a road bike.”
Trev: And it is a lot of fun, I had a bit of a play with it myself back in the day, ran a few events, put a lot of investment into covering the supermoto racing, it’s a bit of a shame to see how it’s gone by the wayside now, really.
Herfoss: “Yeah it is a huge shame, especially when you see guys like Toprak, he’s pretty famous for his stoppies and the way he rides the bike, and he’s literally riding it like a supermoto bike. I don’t know, but it looks like he probably honed his skills from supermoto riding to me.”
Trev: How crazy is Moto3 right now, does watching that cut and thrust make you want to be amongst those nutters? Or make you thank your lucky stars you don’t have to share the track with them?
Herfoss: “The second one I think, it makes me feel lucky not to be out there. It’s just crazy and it’s just so scary because they’ve really got to treat it like a bicycle race and look for a tow all the time. It’s unfortunate it’s like that but that does make it exciting for us to watch.”
Trev: I’ve heard some suggestions that the best way to fix that could be mandated gear ratios. Apparently the bikes have a huge gap between fifth and sixth gears, where basically it makes it impossible to use sixth unless you’re in a slip-stream, and thus that can gain you a second or a second and a half per lap, but they will not pull sixth at all if not in the slip-stream. So what some are suggesting is that they actually close down and have set gearbox ratios, so the gap between fifth and sixth isn’t so much, and thus the slipstream effect may come down to a tenth or two-tenths, rather than a second or more as it is now.
Herfoss: “I never knew that, seems logical. Or a superpole where they just go out 30-seconds apart.”
Trev: And how are you enjoying MotoGP at the moment, who do you think will take the title this year? Quartararo was unbelievable under brakes in Austria last weekend and throughout this year he has been making all the other Yamaha riders look like also-rans. Next time out the circus visits Silverstone and Fabio arrives there with a 47-point lead in the championship. Who’s your tip.
Herfoss: “In short, I have to say Quartararo after how he handled himself in Red Bull Ring. I always look towards the psychological side of racing, as everyone has so much going on out there and they can all ride a bike fast, and I think there was a lot of flaws in Quartararo mentally last year. Going back to Red Bull Ring this past couple of weeks was pretty much his test in my mind, and I think he passed with flying colours.”
Trev: He was amazing to watch, just so brave under brakes. I thought wow, there’s no way he’s going to get it stopped, but then he did and made the other guys look a little bit soft under brakes at times.
Herfoss: “He did and I think he literally took – in that dry part of the race, in my mind – he literally took every opportunity he had, he never sat back, he just went for it under brakes at every moment, like honestly he may not have got to the front if he hadn’t been so confident on the brakes.”
Trev: What do you think about the state of play in WorldSBK this year? Are you surprised by the lack of results that Bautista and Haslam have been able to achieve? It must fill you with some pride that you are the only rider in the world to give Honda any success in Superbike racing in recent years on the Fireblade. Hooky and the F.C.C. TSR Honda squad have been brilliant in the FIM Endurance World Championship, but in Superbike racing, you and the team have been the only ones in the world to be winning races and championships. Yet still you don’t even seem to get a sniff of a chance of taking that performance to the World Championship, or even the British Championship. That said, with the situation you are in here in Australia and the guys behind you, I can completely understand that being enough to satisfy you.
Herfoss: “It’s tough to watch the Honda’s struggle, and I’m not saying I should be over there doing it because I could do a better job, but it is hard to see such an amazing package struggle so bad. Hopefully they do better, for me personally I don’t know what to say anymore, how much more do I have to do, to get a call. Who knows, and now I’m sort of an injured 34-year-old so that can be their excuse from now on.”
Trev: Thanks Troy, I have enjoyed following you throughout your career, right back from the first time I saw a lanky kid race a Supermoto bike at Toowoomba, I thought from the off that you were something more than a bit special. I hope to spend a few more years reporting on your racing while marvelling at your bike control and bravery. All the best with this next bout of surgery.
Herfoss: “Thanks Trev, that means a lot. I’ve never been in this situation, I’ve never really had anything taken away from me that bad. So it’s a pretty rough time, but at the moment it looks like I’ll be ok. But there is some part of me that thinks, maybe I won’t be. But I’ll definitely be a healthy adult, but maybe a professional sportsman may be more difficult than I first thought.”
Trev: If that happens, you’ve still got a brilliant life to look forward to and I’m sure you’ll find something to keep you occupied. But hopefully we don’t have to cross that bridge. You’re an animal of a competitor but there’s a lot to enjoy in life if that ends up being the cards you’re dealt with.
Herfoss: “That’s right mate, I’ll be good, thanks for the chat.”
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