Márquez: ‘I have to suffer to enjoy the race!’

MotoGP

The MotoGP world champion needs strong shoulders to make his miraculous saves – now Marc Márquez has just 27 days to regain strength in his injured shoulder

Marc Marquez talks to his crew chief during 2020 preseason testing in Sepang

Márquez with crew chief Santi Hernandez

Red Bull

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Mat Oxley

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Only a fool or a dreamer would suggest that Marc Márquez isn’t favourite to win this year’s MotoGP world championship, to add to the 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 trophies he already has crammed inside his silverware cupboard.

And yet… the 26-year-old has just 27 days left to get his right shoulder ready to go racing on March 8, following surgery last November.

Of course, he was in a similar position in early 2019, when he was recovering from surgery to his left shoulder. And just like he did at last year’s Sepang tests he took things easy at last weekend’s Sepang tests, being sure not to aggravate the shoulder and slow its recovery.

“From my first run on Friday I already felt worse than I expected on the bike,” he said at Sepang.

“One of the important muscles in the shoulder for riding bikes isn’t good, so it’s difficult to touch the elbow on the track and to use the elbow in the corners. When I came back to the box after my first run I felt we needed to slow down, be patient and work step by step. The good thing is that it’s a different exercise for the shoulder!”

The difference compared to last year is that this time he crashed twice at Sepang, attributing both accidents to his physical condition.

Marc Marquez preseason testing in Sepang 2020

One of the major weapons in Márquez’s race-winning armoury is his unique ability to ride beyond the limit of the front tyre, then when the tyre does slide – at which point most riders find themselves on the ground – he digs an elbow into the asphalt, like an outrigger wheel, which also reduces load on the tyre to help it regain grip.

He couldn’t do that when he crashed on Saturday or on Sunday.

“I have suffered these three days at Sepang, but it’s like this and I need to suffer now if I want to be ready for the Qatar race”

The Saturday tumble happened at the very end of the day, when he was riding through the fast Turn Three, right in front of brother Alex. “I lost the front and maybe because I didn’t have the power [in my shoulder] I couldn’t save it,” he said.

Exactly the same thing happened when he slid off at the end of the last day, at the slower Turn 15 hairpin. “Sunday was the first day I put more effort into the bike and by midday I was already destroyed,” he added. “I decided to go out in the afternoon anyway. It was a small crash, again about my physical condition: I was in the corner, already turning, but I needed more power to save it.”

It’s no surprise that Márquez is struggling. We’ve all experienced that embarrassing moment when we’ve lost control of a bike at a standstill and although we’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid dropping the bike, once gravity takes over, we are fighting a losing battle.

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Now imagine that same situation, but this time you’re astride a 160 kilo motorcycle travelling at somewhere between 50mph and 100mph, leaning at 50 or 60 degrees of lean, when gravity decides to have its wicked way with you. How do you stop that happening? The answer is that you don’t.

Márquez has been working flat out on the shoulder since the surgery, trying to regain full strength before the season starts.

“Since early December I’ve had a double session of physio every day,” he added. “I cancelled my holidays to be ready for the first race in Qatar. In these ten weeks I’ve done 92 sessions with my Clinica Mobile physio, a total of 250 hours of physio, gym work, icing, all these things. If you want to be ready you must be focused.

“First we tried to regain mobility in the shoulder, then step by step we tried to regain the power of the muscles, but immediately we saw that one of the most important muscles [the deltoid] had some damaged nerves, so we worked more on that.

“Then, two weeks ago, we saw this muscle still wasn’t good enough, so then we tried to work very hard on the other muscles to try to compensate.

“Two weeks ago it was impossible for me to ride the bike, but finally the muscle began to activate and that’s the reason I’m here. We need to be patient and to keep working hard.”

Márquez is philosophical about having spent his last two winters in rehab when he should’ve been sat on beach enjoying his successes.

“Racing isn’t only about winning – you have to know that this kind of situation can happen. My riding style is to try to take risks, but taking risks to win races also has a negative side. In the end it’s our job.

“I have suffered these three days at Sepang, but it’s like this and I need to suffer now if I want to be ready for the Qatar race. I have to suffer to enjoy the race!

“The important things is that the shoulder is more or less stable, the pain doesn’t get worse, so step by step…”

Inevitably this lingering injury has a huge effect on how he rides his Repsol Honda RC213V, because he’s using the stronger side of his body to compensate for the weaker side.

This doesn’t only make him slower, it also prevents him from giving meaningful feedback to his crew and to HRC engineers. And this at a time when HRC are working hard to improve the RC213V’s chassis.

There is no doubt that Márquez isn’t in an ideal place, with less than a month to go before he starts his 13th season of grand prix racing and his eighth in MotoGP. However, his greatest rival of the last the seasons has no doubt that Márquez will use mind over matter to race at 100 per cent in Qatar on March 8th.

“Will Marc be able to fight for the win in Qatar?” says Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso. “For sure! 100 per cent! No question mark!”

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