Race fans view the heroes of the sport we love more like superheroes rather than sports stars. We admire their skills to control their 280-hp bikes, to race them with just centimeters separating them from their competitors, to rocket down the straights at aircraft takeoff speeds, and to stand up just seconds after horrifying crashes as though nothing happened. Yes, these guys seem to come from another planet.

This admiration makes us forget there is nothing alien about them. Our heroes simply do something extraordinarily well: racing motorbikes. Outside of this they are “normal” human beings, with their strengths and weaknesses. In attempting to expose that largely unknown side, we have published a few reports titled “Man In The Mirror.”

“I used to stress a lot more about racing.… Don’t get me wrong, I still love racing. But let’s say that I have something more important in my life than five years ago: my wife and my daughter.”

We sat down with Cal Crutchlow to ask how he sees himself, what does he like about himself, and what part he would prefer to change. In the MotoGP world he is a kind of a lonely British island surrounded by a legion of Italians and Spaniards. Only two riders who were not Italians or Spaniards finished last year's championship among the top 13, with Cal being one of them. Crutchlow was also the only non-Latino who won a race during the season.

Cal Crutchlow is reputed to be a straightforward guy—unpredictable in his answers. That's why, when I sat in front of him to do "Cal In The Mirror," I did not know what was going to happen… I can only say that the result was positive. I left the meeting feeling like I did a good job and saying to myself, "Good! People will like this, they will get to know Cal better."

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow is known to be one of the most straightforward MotoGP riders, a plain speaker who doesn’t mince words.LCR Honda Racing

What do you see in the mirror?

(I explained to Crutchlow the idea of the conversation and he immediately understood. He took his time to answer the first question: What do you see when you look in the mirror?)

“In a visual context, when I see myself in the mirror I think that I am looking older every day. I have more gray hair; I have less stress now, but I have more gray hair! Probably because I have a wife and a daughter; it’s not so much due to the racing. The things that I worry more about life now are to make sure that we as a family have everything, that we are happy, and we’re going to grow old. I used to stress a lot more about racing. I still love racing, I absolutely love racing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. But let’s say that I have something more important in my life than five years ago. Back then when I stressed, I used to stress about racing."

So you mean that in the past you thought more about racing than you do now?

“Yeah—but don’t get me wrong; I still think about racing every day, every hour. The goal is always try to win, so I think about it. You are in an environment where the target is always the same: to win. If you don’t think about it and you don’t care, then you’re not going to get anywhere. What has changed is that now I’ve found the balance to be more relaxed than maybe I used to be some years ago. If I have a bad result now, I seem to be able to accept it more than how I used to. I used to punish myself more if I had a bad result. Whereas now, if I have a bad result, sure, I’m very disappointed for my team and I’m very disappointed for myself. Now I still feel the same, but when I go home and have Willow and make sure she is healthy and happy… My stress now is more if she has a cold. So if I look at myself in the mirror now, I think that I look old, or older, but I am happier.”

Crutchlow sees himself as older but happier, being able to handle disappointing results better than in the past.LCR Honda Racing

Interesting. I asked Marc Márquez the same question and he said exactly the opposite: "When I look into the mirror, I still see a kid." It's funny.

Cal, I have written down what I think the virtues of your character are. I have here, "brave"— because somebody who crashes as much as you and doesn't give up has to be brave—"sincere," "tenacious," and "determined." Would you agree with these?

“With determined, yes. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I would always say I am determined. I used to be, and I still am… a little, not as much anymore. I used to be determined for the wrong reasons. I used to be determined to prove people wrong. Sometimes still. I still want to win. I still have the desire to be there.

“Let me tell you a secret: For a long time, when I was a kid, from around the age of 14 to maybe twentysomething, when I turned on my phone there used to be a message. Mine used to just say ‘determination.’ Brave? The thing is when I crash, then have the determination, but it comes from the wish to prove people wrong. When I crash, if I come back to the pit box, the next lap out of the pit is normally one of my fastest of the weekend. But I just do it, not piss people off, but just to crack people.

“I’m not naming names, but for example: if Andrea Dovizioso crashes in practice—something that happens very rarely, by the way—it takes 10 laps for him to come up to speed again. I leave the pit lane and I’m on the pace immediately, just because I need to have that in my mentality—I’m able to do it.”

Happier and older
Happier and older does not mean less focused or determined to win.LCR Honda Racing

And what would you change about your character? You'd like to be, maybe, nicer to people or whatever? Is there anything?

“I don’t think I’m a bad person. I’m not, that’s for sure. There are many things that I want to change, but it’s not easy. I want to change my riding style. I‘ve tried many, many times, but your natural riding style is your natural style. I think that in life, as you said, I am sincere person. I tell the truth a lot, maybe too much; I don’t like liars. I hate somebody lying to me, so I don’t lie. If you ask me a question, I will give you a straight answer. If I can’t answer the question, I have to say I cannot answer. Don’t get me wrong, if I am 15 minutes away from an event, I will maybe message them and say I am five minutes away, but this is what we call a white lie…

“I think that in general I have a good balance in my life. Sure, I want to improve many things, of course. I want to be better at things at the racetrack and off the racetrack; this I think is the same for everybody.”

You are from Coventry, in the center of England and Jaguar's headquarters. Are people from Coventry characterized by something special that you have in your character?

“Despite having spent more time in Coventry than away, I don’t think so. Now I live on the Isle of Man. I know it sounds strange, but I went to Isle of Man because it’s calm. Everything is calm. Nobody really cares too much about what you do. You can do whatever you want. You can enjoy your life. It’s a great place. Being from Coventry, I would never forget where I am from, but I will never go there to live. I had a great childhood growing up. I enjoyed myself. As you know, I used to play soccer for many, many years. This part of my life was great as well, but I love motorbikes. By moving to the Isle of Man I think I found a good balance. I have a holiday house in Italy, and then I have a house in California. In the end, I will live in California, that’s for sure.”

Because of the weather?

“The weather and because I think it’s better for my daughter. Sure, she can grow up anywhere in the world and be happy, but I think kids grow up in a different way there. The lesson is to learn life-saving skills in the ocean and stuff like that. I think they enjoy being outside a lot more.”

If he could Crutchlow would change his riding style.LCR Honda Racing

Do you still have a relationship with your school friends? Do you still have contact with them?

“Unfortunately, and it is unfortunate, you do lose connections. I do see some of them now and again. A couple of my best friends are still in Coventry. I speak to them week in, week out. But you don’t get to see them like you want to be able to see them. If I get to see them now, it’s because they have come to watch me race. It’s not really fair because we have no time. When do we ever get time in Moto Grand Prix to do anything now? I think it’s difficult. I don’t get to see them enough, that’s sure.”

This season you are the only British rider in MotoGP. The other two left at the end of last year. How bad is it for British motorcycling?

“I think it’s bad news for British motorcycle racing. I think there are enough guys who deserve a chance here and enough guys who are fast enough to be here… And now we only have one. On the other hand, I am proud that I am still the one here. I’m proud that I am the one who’s made it here because if you look at the other people who were here before me, they lasted one year, two years, if that. Now I’ve been in MotoGP seven years. I think my career in MotoGP could have been better, but it wasn’t. I think I’ve missed many opportunities, but I have been happy here. I have had a great run. But for Bradley [Smith] to go, I am disappointed because I think he works hard and I think he’s a good ambassador for Britain in MotoGP. I think he is fast enough to be here.”

British rider in MotoGP
Crutchlow is the lone British rider in MotoGP, coming up on his eighth season in the premier class.LCR Honda Racing

Is Jonathan Rea one of these guys who deserves to be here?

“We know Jonathan is fast. He’s riding around with his eyes closed in World Superbike basically and winning. I’m sure he and the team put a lot of effort in, but you see the way he wins. It’s way too easy. So, yes, we know he could be here, but he didn’t take the opportunity to be here. But to say he can beat this person and that person or whoever… I know he named me, but that means he’s saying he can beat all the other guys that I beat. So he thinks he can beat everyone in MotoGP, is what he is saying.”

You were in MotoGP when Casey Stoner was racing. Can you compare Casey and Marc?

“I am in the same boat as everyone else on this. As a rider, I am not turning into a fan: I would pay big money to see this race, massive money. It would be very special.”

Marc Márquez and Casey Stoner
A showdown between Marc Márquez and Casey Stoner: Crutchlow would empty his wallet to witness a race between the two.LCR Honda Racing

Do you dare to compare them?

“I can compare them and I can compare their riding styles, yes. I think that they are very, very similar in a way. Sure, Casey was more reserved. Marc obviously slides everywhere. He crashes everywhere. You didn’t see that as much from Casey. I love to watch Casey ride. I think the control he had over the motorcycle was as good as anyone in the world. He didn’t put the elbow on the ground like Marc, but he was also leaning off like Marc. So, this is why I think they are very similar in a way as well. Just in a completely dream world—and I may be wrong by saying this, it’s my opinion—if it was a straight race and it was difficult to pass, et cetera, I think Casey would win quite easily. But if it was a battle, I think Marc would win… Over the course of a season? I have no idea. But honestly I would pay to see it.”

You have said that Casey controlled the gas, and Marc controls the bike.

“Casey is the reason why we all use the rear brake at Honda, Marc, me… Marc learned from Casey, I think, and I learned from Marc. But it’s because Casey was able to control the throttle and the rear brake so perfectly. But I think that these two guys create the problem for all the rest of the Honda riders ever because they are so good! It makes us look slow on the Honda when we are not!”

Jorge Lorenzo is joining Honda this season. How would you describe as a rider Lorenzo?

“It’s so difficult because Jorge is a phenomenal motorcycle racer, but I don’t think he knows how he does it. I think he’s so talented and so natural, maybe more than anyone else. To give a word to describe him, I would say ‘metronomic,’ ‘repetitive.’ When he was with the Yamaha I remember I used to look at the split from him. He would do 20 laps in a row and never differ, not even one-tenth. Just when he closed the visor, he was something else. He’s special. He’s very, very special.”