Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good-bye, Emily

As a liberal and lover of the English language, your timing -- within a few hours of Maya Angelou -- was good. Your energies will be well mixed...

I hope that my last post would've made you laugh, even though you were always more MotoGP than TT. I'll miss you.

Monday, May 26, 2014

TT practice cancelled due to rain? Not in my day...

MG Note: You may have seen reports that the first Friday evening practice was cancelled because of rain. That prompted this conversation, transcribed word-for-word, between four grizzled Yorkshire riders, in the little TTRA tea hut behind the sopping grandstand...

Nothing like a good cuppa’ tea on a cold and rainy day, eh? 
You're right there Don.
Who'd a thought thirty years ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking hot tea during practice time, just because of a little rain.
Aye. In our day, we'd a' been glad to have a cup o' tea, but we were out practicing in the rain.
In the cold rain.
Without proper rain tires.
Or rain suits
With our foggy face shields.
I never used to have a face shield. Me dad sent me out with me helmet wrapped cellophane
The best I could manage was an old bread wrapper.
But you know, we were right quick in those days, though we were poor.
Aye. BECAUSE we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, 'Money won’t make you quick round here.'

'E was right. I was faster then and my bike was shite. I used to race this old gixxer, with no tread on tires to clear rain....
Rain? You were lucky to practice in rain. We used to practice in hail.
Hail? We practiced in a blizzard, and nearly froze in our leathers!
Ohhhh we used to DREAM of ridin’ in leathers! We used to ride in plain coveralls, wrapped completely in duct tape.
Well when I say 'leathers' I was really just wrapped in the skin of our old dog, Bonzer, who wasn’t even properly tanned. My suit smelled so bad I was evicted from paddock.
You were lucky to have ever had a space in t’paddock! My whole family, and my mechanic and his family, lived in a soaking cardboard box, down there in the slip road.
Cardboard box?
You were lucky. I camped in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at three o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, practice for two hours in pitch dark and icy rain, on worn dry tires.
We used to have to go out for morning solo practice, in ice and snow, while the evening practice was still on, then when we pulled in for fuel, the Clerk of the Course would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!
Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the septic tank at midnight, and LICK the course clean with our tongues. Then when we finished the lap, the bloody sidecars went out and mucked it up.
But you try and tell the young racers today that... and they won't believe ya'.
Nope, nope...
It could've been worse though.
We could've been sidecar racers.
Oh, aye.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hayden: Done. You read it here first.

I posted this a few weeks ago, and it provoked a strong response of Facebook, where I was lambasted with messages that mostly shouted, "What have you been smoking? Nicky's no quitter!" So much so, that I pulled it and deleted the Facebook post linking to it. Now, I see that after a few laps of Mugello, he's scratched from the race and scheduling more surgery.

Look, I like Nicky Hayden. He'd be on a short list of MotoGP riders I'd choose, if I was going to be stranded on a desert island with someone. (My first choice, of course, would be ex-250GP racer Katja Poensgen.)

I'm well aware that Nicky's not a quitter, so shut the fuck up. I am also well aware that he put up with that shit Ducati for years without complaining. But Honda handed him a life vest that doesn't float.

You're not a quitter if you leave when it's time to go. 

UPDATE JULY 18th... and now I read that Nicky's in surgery again, this time to "remove a small row of bones". 

Herewith, my original post...

When I read that Nicky Hayden was skipping the Jerez test -- choosing instead to fly home to have a swollen wrist examined -- I had a sinking feeling. I mean, your wrist is the joint, in terms of being a motorcycle racer. In some circles racers are actually called 'wrists'.

There are nagging injuries that racers can put up with, and still be fast. Ankles take a beating in crashes, but as Mick Doohan proved, you can win with essentially zero ankle mobility. In fact, depending on the track, you may not need much leg strength or mobility at all; witness Miguel Duhamel's epic 1999 Daytona comeback. He'd crashed the season before at Loudon, massively fucked his leg, and walked to his bike using a cane the next season, winning both the 600 and Superbike classes the following March. Daytona's an exception, but in recent years Rossi and Marquez have both seemed competitive on weak and freshly broken legs too. The jury's still out, but John Hopkins has looked OK this season in BSB, and he's got an artificial hip.

But shoulders and wrists... Those are career-killers. Ask Neil Hodgson, Ben Spies, or Kevin Schwantz. Riding a modern race bike puts huge stresses on those joints, making it impossible to recover during the season.

In fact, recovery at all is far from guaranteed. In the case of shoulders, it's the complexity of all the muscles, tendons and ligaments that control the body's most mobile joint. In the case of wrists it's the complexity, poor circulation, and slow healing of the bony structure.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying Hayden can't ride. How would I know? But how attractive is the proposition? He was probably happy to be rid of the Ducati, and likely had high hopes the Honda customer bike would prove competitive. But it is not competitive. Forget winning; Nicky's not racing for the podium at all.

This much, I do know: Nicky's old (by the standards of MotoGP). He's hurting, and it's unlikely that he'll stop hurting as long as he keeps racing. He's seen friends, peers, and family members killed while racing. He can't win.

He'll retire before the season's out, and with good reason.