Aspar Press Release: Nicky Hayden Speaks On His Return To MotoGP

After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit. To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American. In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden's side of the story.

“Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job.”

After undergoing two operations on his right wrist in the space of just two months and missing four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship, DRIVE M7 Aspar rider Nicky Hayden finally returns to competitive action at Aragón this weekend. For those who doubted his return, Hayden is one of the most experienced and motivated riders in the paddock and for him, racing is life. The 'Kentucky Kid' is an icon of modern-day MotoGP, irrepressible in times of adversity and a man who does not know the meaning of the word 'NO.' He has needed every ounce of that courage and determination over the last few months as he has battled to overcome the worst injury of his career. Now, finally, the long wait is over.

What exactly did the operation that you underwent entail?

In our wrists we have two rows of tiny bones. They have removed the upper row, which was damaged. It sounds crazy but when you see the results on the X-ray it makes sense.

What was the main problem? Pain, lack of feeling, loss of strength?

There were a few things. In the last two races before we decided to operate I knew something wasn't right, I couldn't ride properly. The pain was always there but you get used to that and learn to live with it. But then I started to get problems with the stability of the joint, because the bones had become displaced and weren't working together. When I made certain movements I could feel something wasn't moving correctly inside my wrist. I lost mobility and strength… there were several factors that led me to the decision to have surgery.

Who's opinion convinced you to have the surgery?

I was always very clear and my plan from the start was simple: to fix my wrist and return to action as quickly as possible. As for the operation itself, I asked various doctors and gathered some different opinions. Obviously they didn't all concur but I just tried to gather as much information as possible before going through with it, which included talking to other riders who had suffered similar injuries.

How long did you have to remain completely inactive for?

The first ten days after the operation were strict rest, so I stayed in San Diego with my hand completely immobilised. After that they gave me a removable splint, which I was able to take off to shower and clean the wound.

When did you start with your rehab and what did it consist of exactly?

After around two weeks I started to slowly move my fingers and at that point we began the rehab. After a few days I started some light training, low intensity static training. At the same time I underwent all sorts of different therapies like laser treatment, magnetic therapy, ultrasounds, platelet-rich plasma injections… At the start it was rough, I'd undergone two operations in just over a month. I had surgery in June and then something much more serious in July. I'd been dealing with the injury for three months and inevitably your muscles deteriorate in this situation. Also the bones in my arm and hand were very stiff.

At what point were you able to get back to full training?

Well, I wouldn't say there was a specific point, it was more a case of building into it. At first I was on the stationary bike to maintain a level of fitness, then we introduced some work in the pool and after that I went back into the gym for general conditioning and some specific work on my upper body and legs. I combined the rehab programme with rest, some running and my normal routine. You could say it started with the rest that I needed after the operation, then the rehab and then the return to training combined with the rehab.

What have the doctors said?

I have to say the doctors urged my to start moving the hand quite quickly after the operation. Even so it was a delicate procedure that needed a lot of recovery time. The surgeon is very happy with the result and the progression since then.

Have you been able to ride a motorcycle? How do you feel?

I started to ride a bike again last week a 125cc dirt-tracker on a flat track. The first time I rode it the feeling wasn't great, it was obvious I needed more time, but I've ridden again a couple of times this week and the feeling was much better. I was able to ride without thinking about my hand, which made me happy. Obviously it has been a worrying period and I have had to manage with this injury for a long time. There were certain moments when I doubted things.

What has it been like for such a fighter as yourself to have to sit out four races at home?

Going to Indianapolis as a spectator, watching the races on television... it has been tough but I haven't wasted an ounce of energy on anything but my recovery. I have worked extremely hard on making sure my recuperation was as fast and favourable as possible. Now it is time to come back and I couldn't be happier about that. Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job. I am very happy that I can put this injury behind me now and start thinking about seeing my team again and riding the bike. It won't be easy but I am ready to race again.

What are you expecting from your return at Aragón?

It will be hard for me to get back on the pace after such a long time away but I am ready to work hard and take on whatever challenge lies ahead. Unfortunately I don't have my MotoGP bike at home to train on it and see how I feel! The brakes, tyres... there is no way of reproducing the demands of riding a MotoGP bike away from the circuit so I am just looking forward to getting back on my Honda and seeing what happens. There is no point setting objectives, we just have to go to Aragón and work hard, then we'll see. It has been a tough period but the support of my family, team and fans has been fundamental in keeping me optimistic and determined to push on.

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Do you think Stoner would be interested in testing Honda's SBK bikes?

I think NH loves the GP bikes. He got to try the Ducati SBK and he didn't like it enough to go there. The SBK guys don't drag elbows or go quite as fast.

I really like Nicky for the same reason expressed above. I really hope this op does the trick, but I'll be very surprised if it does. I'm not a hand surgeon (I'm a physio), so I express this opinion with due humility, but I think it is a Hail Mary.

in the last article you mentioned Laverty signing with Aspar. Are they planning for Nicky not to be able to recover, or they gonna give Aoyama the boot?

He reminds me of Guy Martin. Bikes, bikes, bikes, and f*ck everything else. These bikes are an addiction, a passion, a life choice, all the way around. I know the feeling.

Never much cared for the Hayden brand of koolaid, and always considered him one of the luckiest premier class champions. By all accounts he seems like an OK guy, and was pretty stoic through Ducati's bad patch, so I'll give him that.
Instead of pottering around at the back of the MotoGP field, I feel he could do more for the sport if he were a contender in WorldSBK, and provoked some patriotic US fans to watch the TV coverage. But would he actually be a contender these days against Sykes, Melandri, Rea, Giugliano, Baz, Van Der Mark . . . ?

Worth remembering that the difference between being world champ and 5th or 6th is often just a few fractions of a second per lap. Nicky earned that title - for sure others had some bad luck that year but he deserved it all the same.

He has the right passport, and until recently has been a durable commodity who doesn't blow up the budget for bodywork. Would he still be there if any kind of farm system were in place to bring American riders to market? Likely not.
One day, a reporter will chronicle what happens next in the lives of the still young men that are extruded from the back end of the circus bus. Surely an interesting read. Meanwhile, you can't fault Nicky's work ethic or for taking what they offer.

Nicky is not going down as a record breaker of any kind and Vale and Caparossi won more races that season, but Nicky was consistent enough to win. Before the Marquez phenom, there were years where if a rider came in fourth each race he could win a WC based on consistent results alone. Vale had 3 DNFs and two finishes outside of top 10 and when Caparossi didn't win he was all over the board.
Nicky should be given his due and won a hard earned WC. And, by extension, I feel the same about Schwantz' WC too.

Haters are gonna hate. To win a championship you have to score more points than everyone else. Nicky did, period. All Vale had to do was not crash at Valencia, which he didn't do. 99.9% of the armchair racers here couldn't even qualify for a race. So let's keep things in perspective.

Here's a refresher course in luck.
Loris got shunted by Gibernau at Catalunya and rode injured for several races.
Edwards fell off at Assen's last corner to gift NH one of his two race wins.
Vale had chatter issues all year, tire break-up at LeMans, rode hurt at Assen, got T-boned at Jerez and then drafted to the flag at Estoril by Elias who won by 0.002 seconds - which turned out to be the championship margin.

If my aunt had balls she would be my uncle... But she is my aunt precisely because she doesn't have the aforementioned cojones.
Nicky won the title. Racing, like all sports, is a game of attrition, the intersection of talent, luck, God, whatever you want to call it. And the ability to capitalize on someone else's lack of bike set-up, engineering flaws, etc.

A 100-1 Irish nag called Foinavon won the 1967 Grand National when all the other horses got snarled up in a melee seven jumps from the finish. He's in the record books as the winner, but there will always be an asterisk beside his name - just as there will be in my mind, along with many other people, over NH's lucky 2006 title.

The Grand National is one race. The 2006 MotoGP championship was 17 races. You can get lucky in one race, but to win a championship over 17 races, luck does not factor into it.

Rossi messed up badly that year, several times. He didn't test enough over the winter, meaning the bike chattered badly in the early part of the season. Ducati was unlucky in what happened to Capirossi, but he was only tied with Hayden, not dominating. You don't know what would have happened in the races if Capirossi had been fit.

Rossi had the title in the bag at Valencia, after having been helped by Pedrosa taking out his teammate a week earlier. But Rossi threw it away, getting a terrible start, then crashing out all on his own afterwards, and rejoining to score a handful of points.

Above all, however, Hayden was incredibly consistent during that season. He was on the podium for all of the races bar Le Mans and Donington until Laguna Seca and the summer break. That was the key. 

There is never an asterisk behind a world championship. You might as well add an asterisk to Kevin Schwantz' '93 title because of Rainey, or Doohan's '94 title because of Rainey and Schwantz, or Lorenzo's 2010 title because of Rossi, or Marquez' 2013 title because Lorenzo broke his collarbone. It's all nonsense. You can get lucky and win a  race. You can't get lucky and win a title. There are too many variables involved.

I'm aware of most these details - but by my criteria I still see the lucky asterisk beside his name on the 2006 championship. If we judge Pedrosa unlucky for failing to win the big prize, as many have done, then NH is certainly lucky with his success in 2006. That year was an anomaly - his points total was unusually low for a victor. In addition he had a nice piece of factory machinery for 6 years and managed a grand total of 3 wins - two of them at a circuit where he had special knowledge.
No doubt he's highly skilled and good company - but IMO he's also lucky.

Pedrosa has never had enough luck or skill (and he's definitely more skilled then most) to win a championship, but he almost lost Nicky's by taking him out. Pedrosa was still in the hunt for a championship at the time. Personally, I think despite Pedrosa's skill, he'll never be ready at the right time to use it to get a championship. His last best chance was when Lorenzo won and Stoner was injured.

What if the 990s had continued? NH spent the rest of his time race testing parts that Pedrosa wouldn't use. Heck, NH did most of the testing in 2006 too! Maybe HN would've had a few more wins on 990s. Everyone who won on the 800s had 250 GP experience.

You can argue that Elias won because we was lucky enough to get one of the special tires that someone else didn't use. Nicky was lucky enough to be on the HRC team with enough updates to keep him in the hunt. I'm sure NH wasn't getting the best Michelins. I'm not sure HRC was as supportive of him in 2006 as they were for Pedrosa. Who was testing parts during the races?

to David's comment.

Haters are gonna hate...

If every Motogp champ was a runaway favorite as we have seen from dominating forces like Marquez and Rossi, this would not be so interesting a sport. Hayden was not one of those champions. He was the champion that yr, via consistency, and I love his story even MORE for it. He is the 'blue collar" worked at it rider, and I am glad it was him that yr. Interesting stuff!