Valentino Rossi earned his fifth podium finish of the season by placing third at the Grand Prix of Aragon. It was another one of his mirage stops on the box, as one could argue that the second-place finish at the season opener in Qatar and controlling, smooth ride to victory at Assen were Rossi's only signature performances of 2013.
Rossi's consecutive third-place finishes at Sachsenring and Laguna Seca came when Jorge Lorenzo either was out or hampered by a broken collarbone. And his result at Aragon also came after Dani Pedrosa flew out of the race in a high-side after his traction control cable was cut due to contact with teammate Marc Marquez.
The podium finish at Aragon helped Rossi avoid a piece of MotoGP history. If Pedrosa stayed upright, there's a very good chance Rossi would have become the first rider to finish fourth in five consecutive races.
It's an amusing statistic that also shines a klieg light on a fact: Valentino Rossi no longer is one of the three best Grand Prix motorcycle racers on Earth. There always was lingering doubt in 2011-12 as Rossi floundered on a recalcitrant Ducati that he still had the gumbo of bravery and skill to race with the "aliens" of the premier class.
Those days are gone, except for fleeting trips into the time tunnel like his magisterial ride at Assen. Rossi is on an elite Japanese factory bike, and all things equal and all riders healthy, he is the fourth-fastest rider on the grid, at best.
Rossi's two seasons at Ducati may have cost the nine-time champion more than anyone currently realizes.