Should MotoGP riders be riding

MX and enduro?


Story: Donovan Fourie

Much has been said about Valentino Rossi’s championship hopes being dashed following an enduro training accident that saw him suffer a displacement fracture of his tibia and fibula, a similar injury to the one he suffered at Mugello in 2010 that left him out of action for six weeks. Much more was said when Harry Fisher showed his disapproval of the whole situation in a story published on Thursday.

The debate centres around one thing – should championship contenders like Valentino Rossi be partaking in such risky activities as motocross and enduro? The sympathisers put forward a compelling argument, stating that the likes of Rossi have been doing this sport for a long time, they are the ones in the seat during the race and they know what works for them, regardless of the risks. This makes sense, especially as enduro and motocross are extremely physical forms of riding that not only keep the rider in tune with his riding senses but also offer an excellent workout. Most top track racers indulge in it and find it incredibly helpful. Surely if these riding professionals are willing to risk it, then it should be worth it?

On the other hand we have the critics. One of them is Giacomo Agostini who doesn’t even seem to think Rossi’s crash was training related: “Adrenalin is one thing, but Vale is no longer a child. He should know some things better. I do not know exactly what the condition of his leg is, but when you are at this stage of the season, you have to be more careful than usual. These are things that can always happen, especially when you are racing with younger people than you. I do not know exactly how it happened, but he’s a certain age, he’s a wall, he does not need me to lecture him.”

What’s more is that this isn’t Rossi’s first training accident. He’s been to hospital five times since he started his Grand Prix career – an admirably low number given how many years he has been at it – but three of those were due to MX and enduro incidences. The first was in 2010 (the same year he first broke his leg at Mugello) when he crashed at a motocross track near his home and damaged the supraspinatus tendon and glenoid ligament in his shoulder, an injury that crippled him for most of 2010 and some way into 2011.

The second accident took place before the Mugello round this year when he crashed again on the same motocross track, this time finding himself in hospital with a cracked sternum and lesions on his kidneys and liver. Now he again finds himself at the mercy of a training crash, and this time he looks set to be out of action for between 30 and 40 days meaning that he will be sidelined for Misano and Aragon, and the first realistic chance of his return will be at the Motegi round.

Many people have stated that we should not question the judgement of these professionals, and this could be true – we are not the ones in the hot seat. However, while MX and enduro training might be excellent for MotoGP, with the advances in sport sciences nowadays, professional trainers can create the fitness requirements for MotoGP in the gym far better than even MX. Plus the less risky flat track riding, like the kind Rossi’s ranch is famous for, is far more conducive towards MotoGP skill honing than leaping in the air on a motocross track.

Then there are people that refer to Hayden’s tragic cycling accident with a supposed adage of “it can happen to anyone. It’s just bad luck”. Really? Bad luck can happen, but then let’s line up the average motocross rider and the average cyclist and count the number of scars. The risk involved is well known, and perhaps should be better considered.

Also there is more at stake here than just Rossi. Yamaha and their sponsors have thrown millions of Dollars into the Rossi pot and will no longer see their full returns. Far more important than money, though, is the team that has put in tireless hours getting Rossi to within championship reach. This is not just his direct team that work late nights getting his bikes ready but also the staff at the factories, and should you tally up everyone that has had input into to the Yamaha MotoGP project, it adds up to hundreds, possibly even thousands of people. Is it worth negating many people’s hard work? It’s true that much of this work will still be beneficial to Vinales’s title bid and possibly future titles, but the overall Yamaha assault has been lessoned with Rossi’s departure.

Both sides of the debate have merits, but what are your views? Should MotoGP riders be taking risks when there is a championship at stake? Are the risks worth the reward? Please comment in the section at the bottom of this page. Let’s hear what you think.

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