There comes a time in every racer's career that they have to ask themselves if it is time to stop. It is a question they invariably spend a long time giving the wrong answer to; the life of an elite athlete means they always travel more in hope than in expectation. But sometimes that hope is justified: they find the speed they were missing. The setback was not their fault, but down to circumstances. But proving the reverse, that circumstances won't ride in on a white horse to save them, takes a very long time to accept.
Last July, Valentino Rossi found himself on the podium at Jerez, after a strong race and a solid weekend. The Italian was never outside the top three after the first lap of the race, and was only outside the top eight in practice twice, in FP4 and the warmup on Sunday morning.
Catching Covid-19, which forced him to miss the two races in Aragon, as well as Friday at the first race in Valencia, stopped his 2020 season in its tracks. The then factory Yamaha rider only finished inside the top ten once in any session of practice or the race throughout the remainder of 2020, an eighth place in FP3, his first session since returning.