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Old 02-07-2017, 10:30 AM
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NY Times features Marquez...

How rare is it that a mainline newspaper has a feature piece on a MotoGP rider, well, here you go, and who knew, Marquez is a momma's boy......


Defying Gravity, Then Listening to Mom

Marc Márquez in Australia in 2015. He leans so far down in corners that at times his elbow becomes, along with his knee, a steadying point of contact with the tarmac. Credit Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

CERVERA, Spain — Marc Márquez was struggling to keep out of trouble, but this was not the usual kind.

Rather than defying the laws of gravity on his motorcycle, as he does regularly as perhaps the world’s top racer, Márquez was navigating a different challenge: trying to respect his mother’s house rules after a swimming workout with his younger brother, Alex.

“You can’t leave a wet towel inside a bag,” Roser Alentà explained after her sons, following her now-crystal clear instructions, placed theirs on a radiator to dry.

“They might be world champions,” she said, “but they are still my boys, and this is how things need to get done at home.”

Racers who become world champions — a title each of the Márquez siblings has earned — often move to luxurious havens like Monaco and Switzerland. But the Márquez brothers have stuck to parental supervision and the terraced house their parents acquired here shortly before Marc was born 23 years ago.

That means that each winter — after Márquez is through traveling the world and racing before adoring fans, earning an estimated $11 million a year the last two seasons — he still sleeps in his old bunk bed, surrounded by a childhood collection of toy cars. During a visit there in January, a pile of unused clothing occupied one corner of the bedroom; surplus gear from a sponsor’s shipment, it would soon be scooped up by cousins.

“I understand others might want to spend the winter in a place like the Maldives, but this is where I have always been and still really want to be,” Márquez said. “Of course my life is not exactly what it used to be, but if you look at my entourage — my family, friends and manager — the change has been zero. And here I can also train with my best friend, my brother.”

Márquez in Cervera, his hometown. “I understand others might want to spend the winter in a place like the Maldives, but this is where I have always been and still really want to be,” he said.

The Márquez family home has an office filled with the childhood trophies of the siblings. (Motorcycles and the brothers’ more important silverware are kept in a museum in their small town.) In his own bedroom, Márquez chooses to keep gifts from fellow champions — a soccer shoe from Gerard Piqué, the Barcelona defender, and a helmet from Fernando Alonso, the Formula One driver — rather than reminders of just how much, and how fast, he has reset the boundaries of his sport.

In 2013, in his first season in the elite MotoGP category, Márquez became, at age 20, the youngest rider to win a race as well as the youngest to secure the season title, beating records set 30 years earlier by the American rider Freddie Spencer.

“Marc’s ability to recognize what you need to do before you do it, to really anticipate, is unique,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “If somebody is going to beat your record, you want it to be somebody who can raise the level of the whole sport — and you can clearly see that everyone has had to be working a lot harder to compete against him.”

Marc repeated as champion in 2014, the year he and Alex — with a title in the lower Moto3 classification — became motorcycling’s first world-champion siblings. Marc claimed a third MotoGP title last year, adding five more victories to his racing résumé. His current victory total, 29, already places him in the top 10 all time.

The sport is particularly popular in Europe, where the main circuits draw more than 200,000 spectators over a weekend of practice, qualifying laps and racing. In 2015, Márquez set a record for the fastest speed during a race, when he broke 350 kilometers per hour, or about 217 miles per hour.

Márquez’s handling of his motorcycle has been just as revolutionary as his success, a style that finds him leaning so far down in every corner that at times his elbow becomes, along with the knee, another steadying point of contact with the tarmac.

Márquez, right, in 2008 after placing third in a race in England. Competing against physically stronger racers in his early years, Márquez developed a style that allowed him to control an often-oversize motorcycle, said his father, Julià.

Competing against physically stronger racers in his early years, Márquez worked to develop a style that allowed him to control an often-oversize motorcycle, said his father, Julià. “Marc only developed a man’s body at 18 or 19,” he said of his son, who is about 5 feet 7 inches and 140 pounds.

During his debut season on the world tour as a 15-year-old rookie, Márquez was so small that his motorcycle had to be weighed down significantly to meet weight regulations. Appropriately, he selected an ant as his racing emblem, since the insect can lift several times its own weight.

But Márquez had an early advantage as a professional, bringing to the track the lightning-fast reaction times he had honed while skidding in the mud as a junior motocross champion in Catalonia.

“Motocross is about improvisation — you have to react to unexpected holes and ruts — which most of the guys who’ve always been riding on a flat surface don’t really learn,” said Emilio Alzamora, a former Spanish champion who spotted the talents of a 12-year-old Márquez and has been his manager since.

In March, Márquez will begin his quest for a fourth MotoGP title, at the helm of a Spanish armada that has come to dominate motorcycle racing. Spain hosts four of the 18 races in a global competition whose commercial rights are owned by Dorna, a Spanish company.

Márquez leading a MotoGP race in 2016. He won the circuit’s title last year for the third time.

In fact, Dorna bent the rules to allow Márquez to join the Repsol Honda team for the 2013 season by removing a ban on rookies riding for a leading MotoGP team. (Repsol is a Spanish oil company.) But his connections to Spanish racing started years before that.

After spending his infancy attending races with his father and uncle, who worked as volunteers organizing weekend motocross competitions, Márquez requested his first motorcycle when he was 4. His parents gave him a secondhand model painted white and fuchsia that was initially fitted with stabilizers to keep it from falling over when he rode it.

“Marc was already like a sponge, absorbing anything that a rider did, like nobody else of his age,” said his uncle, Ramon Márquez. Although he loved riding on rough terrain, Márquez reluctantly switched to track racing after the Catalan federation created a new competition and offered to buy the equipment for its first riders.

That was enough incentive for a family struggling to finance the racing careers of two sons on the modest salaries of a father who operated a construction digger and a mother who worked as a secretary. When Marc started to grow, his parents added an extra strip of leather to lengthen his first racing suit rather than buy a new one. Alex, three years younger and now about three inches taller than his brother, inherited the suit.

“We would sometimes not dine out to help buy boots for our sons,” Márquez’s mother said. “People see where Marc and Alex stand now, but we know there were a lot of sacrifices to get there.”

Márquez fixing a tire with his brother, Alex, in the garage of their home in Cervera.

In fact, both parents lost their jobs as a result of Spain’s recent economic crisis, and ever since Julià Márquez has followed his sons around the world. It requires him to constantly balance his appreciation of the risk-and-reward decisions inherent in racing, developed over a lifetime watching his sons, with his concerns as their father.

“I watch Marc being very aggressive and I sometimes then ask him whether that was really needed,” he said. “Marc’s answer is always that if I don’t try this, I won’t know where the limit is.”

That approach has left Márquez with several broken bones, although to date he has escaped significant injury. His longest break from competition was five months, when he required eye surgery after hitting his head in a fall in 2011 in Malaysia.

Márquez’s success and his racing style, have ruffled some feathers among more established rivals in the paddock, particularly Valentino Rossi, the nine-time world champion from Italy.

“After I came to MotoGP, there was criticism that I was too aggressive and taking too many risks, but we now see that others have followed me,” Márquez said.

Motorcycling is a dangerous contact sport, he argued, which means the tensions are not the same as those between tennis players. “If it was just about speed, without body contact, I’m sure we would all be friends,” he said.

How far can he go? In 2014, Livio Suppo, Márquez’s team director, predicted that Márquez would eventually overtake Rossi’s nine titles. In an interview, Márquez did nothing to push back on the suggestion.

And just as he has no plans to leave Cervera, Márquez cannot imagine following the example of Casey Stoner, the former Australian champion whose unexpected early retirement in 2012, at 27, allowed Márquez to take his place on the Honda team.

“If you take away my bike,” Márquez said, “you remove half of my life.”
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Old 02-07-2017, 08:14 PM
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Smile Re: NY Times features Marquez...

I'm like Marquez. Take away my bike and I'd be incomplete. Just random...no walker!
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Old 02-07-2017, 10:25 PM
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Re: NY Times features Marquez...

Nice article. The MSM generally only mentions our sport when a tragedy occurs. Good to see an article about a living racer.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

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Old 02-08-2017, 06:18 PM
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Re: NY Times features Marquez...

I enjoyed that Craig, thanks.
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