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A question of time: Interview with Ben Spies

A question of time: Interview with Ben Spies

Ben Spies has suffered a literally bruising year in 2013, having been able to contest only two MotoGP™ races. The Ignite Pramac Racing rider, whose most recent injuries were picked up at Indianapolis, chats with

Having suffered from immense chest pains during the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas while already feeling the effects of a shoulder injury picked up in Malaysia last year, Spies was finally ready to return at Indy – only to crash in practice and immediately head back to the sidelines. The Texan talks of his recovery, the sheer frustration at being unable to compete and irons out some gossip…

How are you feeling, in terms of physical condition?

Honestly now, everything is a lot better than it was. Indy was really rough. I can’t stress enough how hard these last nine or ten months have been. It has also been frustrating for a lot of other people: Ducati, fans and so on. I am not trying to get on the ‘Feel sorry for me’ bandwagon, but I don’t think anybody can understand how frustrating it is for the rider. But that is part of the game. I came back at Indy and was feeling good. That was my first time of really riding the bike at 100% and I’m still learning the bike, actually. When I was riding earlier in the season, I was never able to ride at 100% and therefore couldn’t understand it fully. I thought we were doing a good job at Indy and then, with one silly mistake, I fell on my left shoulder. Even though it was a slow crash, I had a really big impact and a bad, bad separation.

It was the cruelest of luck. What was going through your mind as you walked away from the bike and towards the grass verge?

I knew before I was even stopped that something was broken or done in my shoulder. I thought it was a collarbone at first, but as soon as I felt inside my leathers I could feel that it was separated. A lot of people, and still to this day, are saying it has been dislocated, but the diagnosis was a Grade 5 separation. That is pretty much as bad as it gets. I had a Grade 2 or 3 separation on my right shoulder a long time ago and was able to race with that, but with Grade 5 there is no way of doing anything about it. We have to have surgery. After all of the other injuries, the thought process that goes through your head…it was just demoralising. That was pretty hard to take in.

So, no training is possible at the moment…

Not at all. It’s tough. I can sit on a recumbent bicycle, but that is it right now and that has only just started. Like I said, when the crash did happen it was very frustrating, but when I was sitting in the Medical Centre…the thoughts that go through your head immediately are the team, the fans, everybody that has been waiting and helping me with my rehab and everybody back home – all the hard work that goes into getting back. The doctor I work with in Dallas is the Dallas Cowboy (National Football League/NFL team) doctor. He was away at a game, but was on the phone calling me right away in order to get ready for the next step. Going through the problems we have had, it has been nice to have this support crew.

You are so accustomed to being outdoors and travelling around. What are you doing with yourself at the moment – stuck in the house?

Pretty much. We have been following all of the races, trying to watch everything from Moto3™, Moto2™ and MotoGP™, watching everything; the different riders, who is making what kind of steps and which bikes are going well, just trying to pass the time. I think I am also starting to become quite a good movie expert and critic!

What have you made of the racing and the battle at the front?

I think it’s been great. Jorge did a fantastic job at Silverstone and I think what he did was something he had to do to keep the championship alive; he took a big risk at the last corner but he made it work. Marquez was also fantastic, after dislocating his shoulder and still being able to put in such a ride. We have seen that he has got a super amount of talent and could very well win the championship this year, but Jorge is clawing back. Marc is making some mistakes. I am not saying he is making mistakes in races, but that is all it is going to take right now: either Jorge to be perfect for the rest of the season, and it could be coming down to the last race, or for Marc to make one mistake in a race. Jorge would then be right there. Marc has made a few mistakes in practice that everybody has seen, so he is obviously on the limit and Jorge knows that. I think it is great racing, though. If Marc can learn from what he has been doing wrong, everybody else could be in trouble. There are a lot of different things that could happen and we have just got to wait and see, but is has definitely been exciting – especially Silverstone, which was one of the most exciting MotoGP™ races to watch in a long time. Misano was good too, just to see Jorge stepping it up and being able to take it to everybody, but Silverstone was a great race to watch as a fan or as an injured racer at home!

Do you get excited watching like the rest of us, or just wish you were there?

For sure. As soon as I wake up on Sunday morning, the first thing I do is make a coffee and then go to the couch and turn the race on. I am still watching Moto2™ and Moto3™ on my MotoGP™ account, as well. I get excited about it and the way Jorge and Marc were racing at Silverstone…when you are watching it, it makes you cringe up and get nervous for them, so it is exciting and that is definitely still there. I love watching it but I would much rather be a part of the game, that’s for sure.

Riders are now planning for 2014; are you thinking much about next year?

Right now, the first thing is just to get back to 100%, but it is going to be a while until that happens. I see the doctor again this week and he will decide when rehab is going to start and how we go about everything. I am talking with Ducati every few days and they are keeping me up to date with what is going on with the bike, what is going to be tested, what I am doing and so on. That is where we are at right now.

Yonny Hernandez is now riding your bike…

I wish him luck. It is a great opportunity for him – unfortunately at my expense – but I hope he does a good job and is able to do well. Right now we are just watching, kind of from the outside, and waiting to see the first time we can come back. Right now, the doctor hasn’t really been able to put a specific date on it. We have to wait and see how it recovers, how the rehab goes and stuff like that. I would love to be able to make the last race, or ride in the last test before the year ends but, as of right now, it seems like that is going to be pretty difficult but we’ve just got to wait and see.

The only ‘positive’ about not coming back this year would be that you would have more time to recover during the off-season…

Yeah, if we don’t come back this year that is the goal: for, next time I get on a bike, to not have a worry in the world of any setback or needing to do more rehab. So I guess that would be the only positive thing to be able to take out of it.

Rumours appear to be circulating about you not rejoining Pramac (despite a two-year contract until the end of 2014) and of a message being posted through your Twitter account. Would you like to put the record straight about anything?

The only thing is that my relationship with Ducati is great. Nothing is going on there, like I have read about. You hear about all of these crazy stories, but that is basically it. The other thing is that, for everybody who said my shoulder was dislocated, there is a major difference between a dislocation and a separation. Those are basically the only two things that I have read, but of which there is nothing to them.

Do you have any specific targets or personal hopes for 2014?

I am just hoping to get back to where we need to be and to get me 100% - I haven’t felt that in a long time. If we can do that, then I know what we can do and the team knows what we can do; we started to show that with Indy, despite the lack of time we had had all year, but then we had the mishap and that is how it goes. Before setting any goal, the first step is just to get back to 100% and then we have plenty of time to get back on the bike and re-set goals.


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