There is a lot of talk about Marc Marquez's (Repsol Honda Team) return to competition this weekend, and understandably so. Marc was the undisputed King of MotoGP™ until he sustained a nasty, lingering injury to his right upper arm. He has been out for a long time now, the young guns have blossomed in his absence and even the technology has moved on.
The question on everyone's lips is: will Marc immediately return to his former domination... or not? I don’t have any guaranteed answers but I’m happy to share some thoughts based on my experiences.
All riders worry deeply when they have been off the bike for a while. I believe this is a human trait that affects almost all sportspeople, in all disciplines. They worry that they are out of practice, fitness, even forgotten some of the skills that previously gave them an edge. I believe this is the very same trait that drives many successful sportspeople to train more than the opposition.
"When I line up on the grid I want to know I’ve trained harder than everyone else, I know I deserve it more," my friend and training partner Mick Doohan used to say and he was clearly talking about winning when he said this to me in the late ’90s.
When riders have been out of competition for some time they worry that they still have the 'sixth sense' that subconsciously tells them where the limit is, the fine line between success and injury. They haven’t felt it for so long, maybe it's no longer there? When a rider hasn’t been on the limit for some months and everyone else has been pushing in their absence, it's easy for them to imagine they are at a big disadvantage.
And, of course, they are. But, in reality, riders don’t forget the skills they have honed over the years, pushing, feeling, exploring the limit, building priceless knowledge and connections in their brains that have developed into instinctive reactions.
The first day back on the bike is extremely draining both mentally and physically but, after a good night's sleep, the body and mind quickly adapt. The second day, although the body aches, it's almost like they have never been away.
Add this above knowledge to the incredible skill and determination we have all witnessed first hand of Marc Marquez and I think you will come to the same conclusion as I, that there is only one possible outcome: Marc will once again astound us all.