After two operations, a considerable amount of pain and countless physio appointments in seven weeks, Bradley Smith has expressed his pleasure to be back competing at a MotoGP round in the wake of a three-race absence.
Smith suffered severe knee ligament damage when competing in the final round of the FIM Endurance World Championship at Oschersleben, but has conducted a rigorous recovery routine to ensure he can compete in the final four races of 2016.
The Englishman is nonetheless cautious about setting any expectations for the weekend ahead, admitting in the pre-event press conference, “I don't know exactly where I'm at” with movement and strength on the bike.
“It's just nice to be here first and foremost,” he said. “It's certainly been a challenging seven weeks. It's certainly not fun watching these guys from the sofa so it's nice to be back with the team and back with familiar faces.
“The expectation is just to get out and do a few laps, get my leathers on and see where we're at. Honestly speaking, I don't know exactly where I'm at from the knee. I don't think any gym can replicate anything a MotoGP bike can do. The angles and the forces that you need to do on these machines.
“To get out there is the aim first and foremost. I hope the knee kind of warms up and gets better as the weekend goes on. I've been working closely with the team, with the Clinica Mobile, and with my own physio as well just doing the best that we can to be out there.”
It was initially feared that Smith had broken his femur in the accident, but subsequent x-rays disproved this, and instead diagnosed the Englishman with a considerable flesh wound and knee ligament damage.
Smith also enlisted the help of Andy Williams, a doctor who had performed ligament operations on several high-profile Premier League footballers, to perform a second operation.
“The first [operation] was the day after the accident to close up a puncture wound and to reattach a ligament. Then two weeks later, just in the beginning of September, was to basically reconstruct the other ligaments. There was quite a lot of damage.
“But like I said, it's getting better. I've started to be able to ride a bicycle outside now – it's the small things that make you happy at the moment. Fingers crossed I can get on the bike and put a few laps on the MotoGP one tomorrow.
“The physio has been tough. I've been working every day that I possibly can. There is not much to do when there are no motorcycles around. So when you wake up to when you go to sleep I've been trying to improve the knee.
“It's getting better day-by-day. It's still not where I would like it to be. But from my heart and my head they are both at 100 percent. Whatever the knee is lacking, I'll try and make up in other ways.”