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MotoGP, Bautista and Espargarò: Oldies but Goldies in a sea of ​​baby phenomena

In a sport in search of the New but not afraid to burn out the Young, Alvaro and Aleix show that with age one can improve, like wine. If you have self-belief...

MotoGP: Bautista and Espargarò: Oldies but Goldies in a sea of ​​baby phenomena

From time to time, photos appear on social media that recall forgotten memories. This is the case of the image you can see above, dated 2005, with Alvaro Bautista and Aleix Espargarò teammates in 125 in the team of the football players Clarence Seedorf and Roberto Carlos. At that time, the two riders were young: Aleix was just 16, Alvaro 21.

The shot was the subject of an amusing wit and repartee between the two. "It's from last year" Espargarò joked, "and we're still in the game" retorted Bautista, "red wine improves with age", quipped Aleix.

Indeed, the rule seems to apply to the two riders, who have decanted enough and are now in contention for victory in their respective championships. Their career has been different: Bautista managed to win the title in 125cc in 2006, two years later he was runner-up in 250cc, but in MotoGP, for one reason or another, he then was unable to achieve very much: just three podiums in 9 seasons. Arriving in SBK, in 2019 with Ducati, he had the big opportunity in his hands, but he threw it away. The next two years with Honda were totally lacking in satisfaction, but back on the Rossa he is now championship leader.

Aleix's story is unique in motorcycling. In the world championship since 2005 in the photo, he had to wait 17 years to blossom. A podium in Moto2 was his entire resumé until this year, when with a top-level Aprilia he won his first race in the world championship. At an age when most riders think about retiring, or at least already in their slippers …

Espargarò will turn 33 in a few days (July 30), Alvaro is getting on a bit more: on November 21 he will blow out 38 candles. Yet, in a sport that wants to forge ahead and in which if you haven't won anything at the age of twenty you are ready for the dust-heap, they are a welcome exception. And also, an important lesson.

One good race is enough for everyone to start crying out for a miracle, as the young sapling is compared to Marquez or Valentino, depending on the convenience of the moment. Then, after just one bad race, it takes just a moment to go from hero to zero. The hunt for the baby phenomenon is now a widespread evil; one fine example is Pedro Acosta whom everyone was tipping for a move to MotoGP without him even having license age or, even more recently, David Munoz who after 4 races some observers want him already in Moto2.

So much for paying your dues, because in any case the ones who lose out are only the riders. One name... Can Oncu who won in 2018 on his debut in Moto3, in Valencia, and who was forgotten about after just one bad season in the World Championship. He now races in Supersport.

And then, if we analyse the situation, the champion names that everyone talks about often took their time in arriving. Marc Marquez won his first title in 125cc after two years of apprenticeship, Casey Stoner in the eighth of a litre category was fast but erratic, and what about Quartararo? Two disastrous years in Moto3 and only one victory (two, counting the one at Motegi in which he was disqualified) in Moto2. Even Pecco Bagnaia had two years to forget on his debut, managing to partially get back on track only in the third.

Of course, from this point of view Aleix Espargarò is an extreme case, but precisely because he is so particular, it deserves attention. Because he too, like all riders, has always and only wanted to win and has always believed he could do it. However, he needed someone who believed and invested in him and found it. Aprilia was the last on the list and they deserve credit for having insisted when others would have given up.

The same is true, in a certain sense, also for Bautista, because many years in the premier class without achieving little or nothing, is enough to cut anyone down. Even when the means are not up to par, and about this Alvaro could draft a book. His second youth he found in SBK, a bit like what happened to Carlos Checa, the last man to win in the production-derived series on the Rossa.

So those two Oldies but Goldies, those two vintage Rioja, have taught us that sometimes we must also know how to wait, that talent does not tarnish with age, indeed it can shine thanks to experience.

If their story has a happy conclusion, we will only find out in a few months; in the meantime, they have already won, over those observers who gave up on them in the search for the New at all costs, even for just one race.


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