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MotoGP

Espargaro’s full injury story: ‘It wasn’t my face, not my body’

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Tech3 Gas Gas rider Pol Espargaro has given a detailed update on his road to recovery and current physical state upon his return to the MotoGP paddock at Assen.

Espargaro, who turned 32 two months ago, is yet to race his Gas Gas-branded KTM RC16 this season, having crashed horribly in practice for the season opener in Portimao.

He had hoped to return to action potentially as early as Mugello, but a recent recovery setback – “the last x-ray didn’t show up as the doctors expected” – means he is expected to ride his MotoGP bike again after the summer break at Silverstone instead.

But the well-liked Spaniard – having also been encouraged to do it by brother Aleix Espargaro – returned to the paddock at Assen, and answered a series of questions in what was a recognisably jovial media session.

THE AFTERMATH

Pol Espargaro Tech3 Gas Gas MotoGP

Espargaro had sustained an extensive list of injuries in the crash, which included but were not limited to fractures to his jaw and vertebrae.

The make-up of the gravel at the Portimao circuit was among the things blamed in the aftermath, but Espargaro made it clear he didn’t believe “it’s the time to find the guilty [party]” upon his return, describing himself as “the first” to bear responsibility because he’d crashed.

“It has been a huge up and down, like a rollercoaster,” he said of his recovery.

“When I was in the hospital after the crash, I had so many fractures in my body that I couldn’t feel which one was more painful. The pain level was in the skies, in the clouds. It was so much. And I was fully with painkillers.

“But then when I started to wake up, I could start to feel where the pain was coming from. And that was hard. Because during a certain time the pain was coming from the mouth, then from the neck, then the back, the ribs I mean… I had so much troubles on my body that to finally end up in this situation in three months, it’s a miracle. I’m very pleased.”

Espargaro said the aftermath of the accident had left himself at his “125cc weight, even a little bit lighter”.

Pol Espargaro 125cc MotoGP

“I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. No body was there! Now I’m recovering everything – all the spirit, all the soul, I’m ready for it.”

He acknowledged that in some moments he had thought about throwing in the towel on his MotoGP career – but emphasised those thoughts were “more or less gone”.

“These moments bring you back to reality. This is never happening and you never think about this – but when it happens, it’s like ‘wow, this is real’. So… it stays real for a little bit longer than when you break a finger or the hand or whatever. It’s like ‘okay, this is serious’.”

THE WORST MOMENT

 

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A post shared by Pol Espargaró (@polespargaro)

Thought it is not the primary concern anymore, Espargaro’s jaw injury meant he couldn’t function as normal during his recovery.

“The worst moment I believe was that four weeks I had when I exited the hospital, I had the mouth completely closed. Completely. Not even 1mm open.

“For four weeks I couldn’t eat. So I was just drinking soups and was losing like 2.5kg per week. This is insane.

“I was losing 2.5kg of muscle, not of fat. Because I didn’t have fat at the beginning of the year. And this is something – because you are with a lot of pain and everything, but you look into the mirror and say ‘I will need to recover all this’.

“Every week you look and you go ‘how much I worked out to gain in the winter 3kg, how much work I will need to gain 8-9kg’. That was a bad feeling. And you look into the mirror, it was not my face, it was not my body. You don’t recognise yourself in the mirror. And that is hard.”

NOW SHORTER

Pol Espargaro Tech3 Gas Gas Assen MotoGP

The only impediment to Espargaro’s return is now one of the three vertebrae he had broken.

“Three, six and eight,” Espargaro listed off. “Six was not too bad, it healed up quite quickly, together with the upper one. But number eight, it was split in four, plus a little bit reduced the height of the vertebra. Well, [not] a little bit, quite a lot. So, that’s why it took a little bit longer than the other ones.

“The other ones I could ride [with] now, they are harder than before because the bone covered it. But that one, it’s [taking] a little bit more time.

“For sure I have lost like 1.5cm, which… okay, I’m married with two daughters so I don’t care about this! But for sure it’s going to be a little bit more weeks, two or three weeks more, until it’s going to be fully healed.”

Espargaro joked that the hyperbaric chamber “feels like home now”.

“I’ve been a lot of hours, a lot of hours inside this machine, and other machines. In 24 hours, maybe I’m resting like three-four hours not doing anything. Because I’m going to another one! It’s the time I travel with the car or whatever that I cannot do anything. I’ve been [doing] maximum things to be [here racing] before the summer break, but I couldn’t.

“But anyway, even after the summer break- the doctors said to me that it would take like more than six or seven months, and before the summer break it’s going to be four. So I reduced like three months. So it’s going to be amazing.”

RETURN APPROACHING

 

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A post shared by Pol Espargaró (@polespargaro)

Full of praise for both his family and his employer – which he said offered him a level of support he couldn’t have imagined – Espargaro says he’s now heading into “my second pre-season of the year”.

“I have plans to go to several tracks during these five weeks we have.

“I have my supermoto ready, waiting still for the back [to heal].

“Maybe I will ask for the RC, the street bike KTM have, to make a lap – even if it’s not a Gas Gas, it’s okay, I think they will allow it.”

Pol Espargaro Tech3 Gas Gas MotoGP

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