The measure of a rider’s importance is the number of journalists which turn up at their media debriefs, held every day over the course of a MotoGP weekend. There is more than one to define importance, of course.
Factory riders garner more media attention than satellite riders. Riders battling for the championship draw bigger crowds than riders at the tail end of the title chase. And sometimes, an incident can create a lot more interest in a rider than they usually draw.
All of these factors came together on Thursday afternoon to draw a huge pack of journalists, photographers, and TV crews into the Movistar Yamaha hospitality unit.
They came to hear, and more importantly, see Valentino Rossi speak publicly for the first time since he was hospitalized by a motocross crash a week ago today. The sport’s biggest star, battling for the championship, risking serious injury while training. No wonder the place was heaving.
Rossi wandered into the hospitality through the back door as always, and walked across to stand in front of the sponsor backdrop used for TV interviews (in the world of MotoGP media, TV is king. The TV always goes first).
He moved a little more stiffly than usual, not as supple around the waist, clearly still not fully recovered. But when he sat down to talk to us mere mortals of the written word, he was fairly optimistic.
“I’m not so bad,” Rossi started, using a phrase he employs to cover a range of meanings, most of which are positive.
“I feel quite good. Especially in the last few days my condition improved, fortunately, because it was a bad crash. Very painful. Especially in the stomach and all the front. I stayed one night in hospital because it was difficult to breathe, but also when I came home I had two or three days that were very painful. I was quite negative about the race.”