Just when you thought it was safe to say the GOAT was over the hill, you find you’ll need a bigger cliche.
Today, on what is still MotoGP’s grandest stage, Valentino Rossi made it clear that he is still a championship contender by comprehensively beating his nemesis Marc Marquez and humiliating his team mate and ex-championship leader Maverick Vinales. Mind you, he had little bit of luck in that back markers prevented a charging Danilo Petrucci from launching a last-lap attack. So Assen’s biggest crowd in years raised the wavy roof of the grandstand as Valentino fought first with pole man Zarco then refused to be disconcerted by the rain shower that arrived at two-thirds distance. He had to deal with Marquez and the very aggressive Petrucci but the details almost don’t matter.
Valentino feels back in command. Yamaha brought him a new (old?) chassis that made the bike feel his again, he could ride it as he wanted and do what he wanted. It is over a year since he won a GP (Barcelona 2016) and that buzz has clearly lost none of its addictive properties for Vale’s winning career now spans twenty years and 313 days from that first win on a 125 in the Czech Republic, the longest winning career in GP history. I have no idea where he gets his motivation from at 38 years of age; not the motivation to race but the motivation to train as hard as he has to to compete with racers who weren’t out of nappies when he won at Brno.
We always knew he was a once-in-a-lifetime talent. At times like this, it feels like once in ever.