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.