No sport for old men
In recent years the MotoGP World Championship has witnessed a slow but relentless "fall of the gods". It ranges from Casey Stoner's "buen retiro", a crystal clear talent able to ignore (at 27 years old) million dollar offers to devote himself to family and real life. A bit like Nico Rosberg, the last non-Hamilton winner in the Hamilton era of Formula 1.
It was then the turn of the small samurai Dani Pedrosa, also a champion but never in the queen category. Certainly not for the lack of talent, but perhaps for an excessive fragility that transformed every crash in a physical and mental ordeal.
Valencia 2019 then marked the official retirement (the unofficial one, it hurts to say, had already happened a few months ago) of Jorge Lorenzo. An "enfant prodige", who arrived in the World Championship even before turning 15. One who has fought with all the greats of modern times: Dovizioso, Pedrosa, Rossi, Stoner, Marquez. He came out five times in his career as the winner. He said enough after two difficult years in Ducati, interrupted in a frankly questionable way just when things were starting to work, and a colorless season in Honda HRC alongside Cannibale Marquez. "The dream of every rider", as admitted by Jorge himself in the farewell conference, turned into a nightmare after a serious injury.
Jorge Lorenzo, 5 times World Champion, has just retired
And, as all too often happens lately, everyone's eyes have been on the box number 46. That of Valentino Rossi, one who against all the above has run, battled and even won. With one detail: the last time in the race in 2017, while if we talk about final victory we have to go back to 2009. An eternity, actually marked by three vice-champion titles. Fireworks stuff, if you're not called Valentino Rossi.
So it's easy to imagine, even to hope for his retirement. If not as a winner, at least as a legend of motorcycling, a title that can not be removed. At 40 he couldn't be criticized even by the most asshole of the fans.
The exploit at the debut of the 20-year-old Quartararo, on the same bike (a Yamaha M1) has reinforced the idea of a category increasingly suited to the unscrupulousness, perhaps even to the physical preparation of a young man. This idea has been confirmed by the statements of many insiders.
Technically, the world of MotoGP engineers is almost unanimously in agreement in preferring bikes that are sharp and difficult to handle but with a high performance potential, compared to more friendly machines. These bikes require a rider who is prepared to take more risks. Read Honda and Ducati, the ones that have been the protagonists of the last seasons but, it is no coincidence, with a clear discrepancy in performance between teammates.
Fabio Quartararo, 20 years-old, looks like the next big thing in MotoGP
From a physical point of view, the evolution of MotoGP certainly does not support athletes who are less than perfect. At 290 bhp, with exaggerated grip tyres and jet-fighter level electronics, today's MotoGP requires preparation that few can understand. Also because, unlike for example Formula 1, it has never been studied in a precise and scientific way.
During a 50-minute race, the riders reach a heart rate of between 150 and 190 bpm. The purely physical effort is then joined by the mental one, necessary to manage the strategy of the race, overtaking, interactions with the circuit and with other riders, as well as the reactions of the bike. A constant commitment, where the slightest distraction can lead, in the best case, to the loss of positions, if not to a ruinous crash.
An unbearable level of effort beyond a certain age? Purely physical requirements that not even a supernatural talent like Valentino Rossi can fill?