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

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Raphael Min­der

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.

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