Valentino Rossi reckons the superhuman efforts of factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo meant the reigning world champion was the real hero of a thrilling Assen MotoGP race in Holland yesterday (Saturday).
Just 48 hours after breaking his left collarbone in a practice crash, Lorenzo was performing miracles to finish fifth in a mentally and physically draining 26-lap battle.
The reward for his astonishing pain defying exploits was to finish just one place behind title rival Dani Pedrosa, who could only gain two-points on his battered and bruised compatriot in the title hunt.
Rossi, who rolled back the years with an 80th premier class victory, lavished praise on Lorenzo.
The 34-year-old said: “Jorge is the real hero because he made something close to unbelievable. When I knew he wanted to come back I thought that maybe this is something I could not do. To make a surgery after a big crash and try to race just one day later is something great.
"He took a risk but he rode like always in the first part of the race and maybe these points will be very important for his championship. And he demonstrated to everybody that he wants to win very much."
Nobody knows more than Pedrosa how much an injury can change the course of a championship race. His bid to win the MotoGP crown for the first time has frequently been wrecked by injury and he said: “Jorge did a super job. I am very impressed the way he came back from an injury just two days ago. His willpower was really impressive.
"I think Jorge showed he was very tough and very strong. And he showed he was very fast in the race and for sure he had a lot of pain."
Marquez, who held off a late challenge from British rider Cal Crutchlow to take a hard earned second, said he had nothing but admiration for the double MotoGP world champion.
Marquez, who raced with a broken right little finger and left big toe after his own monster crash in Friday morning’s third practice session, said: “I have a lot of respect for Jorge because what he did was a big surprise for everybody.
"He took the risk but he also took 11-points for the championship and he knows those points will be important. You need to be so clever to do a race like this with your collarbone in his condition."
Crutchlow admitted feeling somewhat humbled when he was passed early in the race by Lorenzo, who had started from a lowly 12th and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider from pole position for the first time in his career.
The former World Supersport champion eventually finished third and he said: “I am pleased for Jorge to be fifth and this is a good result on a normal day for a lot of riders. It is quite embarrassing for a lot riders and when he passed me it was embarrassing.
"I couldn't believe he was so strong at the start of the race and when I followed him he was a smooth as ever. He started to go so fast and I thought he could pass Marc and go for the lead.
"I was hoping he would get a little weaker towards the end of the race. It was an incredible job and all credit to him to salvage some points for the championship."
For more reaction from Rossi, Crutchlow and Lorenzo, see the July 3 issue of Motor Cycle News.