For the second winter in succession, Marc Márquez is recovering from shoulder surgery to fix a problem with dislocation. It didn't slow him down much in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the season opener at Qatar in second place, losing out to Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.023 seconds. He went on to win the next race in Argentina by nearly ten seconds, and crashed out of the lead in Austin. It was to be the only time Márquez finished outside of the top two.
So when Márquez decided to have surgery on his right shoulder last November (in 2018, it was his left shoulder which was operated on), he was confident of a quick recovery. The right shoulder was far less damaged than the left had been, and the surgery was much more simple. He spent far less time in surgery in November than he had done a year ago.
Shoulder surgery is a difficult business, however. On Wednesday, at an event organized by Repsol, Marc Márquez spoke to the media about the progress of his recovery. It was taking much longer than he had hoped, he said: two weeks ago, he still didn't have the strength to lift even a glass of water. The loss of muscle was clearly visible in a short video he posted on Twitter.
Simpler operation, tougher recovery
"The operation was more simple but the recovery has been more complex and more difficult," Márquez told the media. "Last year I arrived to the first tests pretty much ready and this time I think I will be more or less in a similar position. In the last two weeks I’ve made a pretty big step and at the start of the month I wasn’t that optimistic."
"The recovery was not more intense than last year, it was also less painful but it has been more difficult," he said. "They told me that when they open the shoulder that there are nerves and muscles that can be affected." That had forced Márquez and his physiotherapist Carlos Garcia to adjust their expectations. Márquez was spending four hours a day on rehabilitation, and all day working to prepare his body and his fitness for the coming season.
"It has taken longer than we thought," Márquez said. "I’ve disappeared a bit from social media because I’ve been 100% concentrated on what I needed to do. There is still a difference [to his other shoulder], but I really want to ride again and try at least one type of bike before going to Malaysia. We haven’t done it yet because I haven’t been ready but I hope for next week as we’ll be going to Malaysia the week after." Márquez has already been driving a kart, to prepare him mentally, but he will want to ride a dirt track bike or a minibike before he flies out to Sepang.
All that hard work was starting to pay off. "The evolution in the last weeks has been pretty good, but it’s possible that in preseason I won’t be able to do all the laps that are necessary and should be made. We will work hard with the physio and the team to monitor this recuperation and to try the things we need to do to have a bike ready to fight for the title again."
At the Sepang test in 2019, Márquez had run limited laps, forced by his team to reduce the time spent on track. That will be the plan for 2020 as well, Márquez explained, though it was complicated by the fact that with a rookie teammate in his brother Alex, he will have to do the bulk of the development work. The upside was that Cal Crutchlow will be fully fit at the Sepang test this year, rather than coming off ankle reconstruction surgery as he was in 2019.
"Last year Jorge Lorenzo was injured and so it fell to me to evolve the bike," Márquez explained. "Now the dynamic is the same because my teammate is Alex and he’s a rookie and cannot ask much when it comes to concepts of the bike because – like Jorge Lorenzo – he has to understand the bike and know how a Honda is. There is also Cal Crutchlow who is very capable to also have a second opinion of the development. I think the test in Malaysia will be like last year; I won’t be able to do all the laps I want but it will help to work on the shoulder as well."
Will this slow Márquez down? History suggests it will have little effect. By the time the first race at Qatar came around in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider was ready to challenge for victory, just losing out to Andrea Dovizioso. There is little reason to expect 2020 to be much different.
The only possible obstacle is a more demanding calendar: in 2019, Márquez had three weeks to recover after the first race of Qatar, while this year, there are only two weeks between Qatar and the second race. That race is in Thailand, rather than Argentina, and the intense heat and humidity in Buriram will also be far more punishing than it was in Termas de Rio Hondo.
There was also a gap of three weeks between the Austin race and Jerez, whereas in 2020, there are four races rather than three before the series heads back to Europe for the Jerez race. But Márquez continues to prepare as well he can for Sepang, and the start of the 2020 season.
Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.