You Can Defy Gravity But Not Mother’s House Rules
As Marc Marquez, winner of three MotoGP titles, heads to his parents’ home during the offseason, he encounters a different challenge
Marc Marquez was struggling to keep out of trouble, but this was not the usual kind.
Rather than defying the laws of gravity on his motorcycle, as he does regularly as perhaps the world’s top racer, Marquez was navigating a different challenge: trying to respect his mother’s house rules after a swimming workout with his younger brother, Alex.
“You can’t leave a wet towel inside a bag,” Roser Alentà explained after her sons, following her now-crystal clear instructions, placed theirs on a radiator to dry.
“They might be world champions,” she said, “but they are still my boys, and this is how things need to get done at home.”
Racers who become world champions — a title each of the Márquez siblings has earned — often move to luxurious havens like Monaco and Switzerland. But the Marquez brothers have stuck to parental supervision and the terraced house their parents acquired here shortly before Marc was born 23 years ago. That means that each winter — after Marquez is through traveling the world and racing before adoring fans, earning an estimated $11 million a year the last two seasons — he still sleeps in his old bunk bed, surrounded by a childhood collection of toy cars. During a visit there in January, a pile of unused clothing occupied one corner of the bedroom; surplus gear from a sponsor’s shipment, it would soon be scooped up by cousins.
“I understand others might want to spend the winter in a place like the Maldives, but this is where I have always been and still really want to be,” Marquez said. “Of course my life is not exactly what it used to be, but if you look at my entourage — my family, friends and manager — the change has been zero. And here I can also train with my best friend, my brother.” The Marquez family home has an office filled with the childhood trophies of the siblings. (Motorcycles and the brothers’ more importantsilverwarearekeptinamuseum in their small town.) In his own bedroom, Marquez chooses to keep gifts from fellow champions — a soccer shoe from Gerard Piqué, the Barcelona defender, and a helmet from Fernando Alonso, the Formula One driver — rather than reminders of just how much, and how fast, he has reset the boundaries of his sport.
In 2013, in his first season in the elite MotoGP category, Marquez became, at age 20, the youngest rider to win a race as well as the youngest to secure the season title, beating records set 30 years earlier by the U.S. rider Freddie Spencer.
“Marc’sabilitytorecognizewhatyouneed to do before you do it, to really anticipate, is unique,” Spencer said. “If somebody is going to beat your record, you want it to be somebody who can raise the level of the whole sport — and you can clearly see that everyone has had to be working a lot harder to compete against him.”
Marc repeated as champion in 2014, the year he and Alex — with a title in the lower Moto3 classification — became motorcycling’s first world-champion siblings. Marc claimed a third MotoGP title last year, addingfivemorevictoriestohisracingrésumé. His current victory total, 29, already places him in the top 10 all time.
The sport is particularly popular in Europe, where the main circuits draw more than 200,000 spectators over a weekend of practice, qualifying laps and racing. In 2015, Marquez set a record for the fastest speedduringarace,whenhebroke350kilometers per hour, (about 217 mph).
Marquez’s handling of his motorcycle has been just as revolutionary as his success, a style that finds him leaning so far down in every corner that at times his elbow becomes, along with the knee, another steadying point of contact with the tarmac.
Competing against physically stronger racers in his early years, Marquez worked to develop a style that allowed him to control an often-oversize motorcycle, said his father, Julià. “Marc only developed a man’s body at 18 or 19,” he said of his son, who is about 5 feet 7 inches and 140 pounds. During his debut season on the world tour as a 15-year-old rookie, Marquez was so small that his motorcycle had to be weighed down significantly to meet weight regulations. Appropriately, he selected an ant as his racing emblem, since the insect can lift several times its own weight. But Marquez had an early advantage as a professional, bringing to the track the lightning-fast reaction times he had honed while skidding in the mud as a junior motocross champion in Catalonia. “Motocross is about improvisation — you have to react to unexpected holes and ruts — which most of the guys who’ve always been riding on a flat surface don’t really learn,” said Emilio Alzamora, a former Spanish champion who spotted the talents of a 12-year-old Márquez and has been his manager since.
MarcMarquezon hisRepsolHonda —GettyImages