When an emotional Espargaro limped back to his seat in the factory Aprilia pits at the start of Friday practice, news soon spread that the Spaniard had suffered a Thursday cycling accident.

Espargaro briefly returned to the track, only to suffer a fall from his RS-GP, after which he needed the assistance of marshals to walk away due to a right ankle injury.

No bones were broken in Espargaro’s cycling accident, but the pain and lack of mobility were obvious and there were rumours Espargaro would be forced to withdraw from the team’s home event.

Instead, Espargaro overcame the pain and inability to use his rear brake to snatch ninth place in the afternoon session, just 0.348s from the top, and become the only Aprilia rider to qualify directly for Qualifying 2.

But how had the bicycle accident happened?

New Tracks for 2024? Your Questions Answered | Crash MotoGP Podcast Episode 91

Espargaro confirmed speculation that his mishap was similar to that suffered by Alex Rins on the eve of the 2021 Catalunya round. Rins had an accident while distracted by using his phone as he cycled around the track, breaking his wrist.

“Yes [it was like Alex Rins],” Espargaro said. “It was a stupid thing. I decided to go out to do 2 hours [bicycle training] and it was super foggy yesterday morning. So I said to myself, ‘stay in the track, it’s safer’ [than the road].

“But being on the track, you are more relaxed. And I was using the telephone, like... stupid. And I had a big, big, big crash. I hurt my back, arms and everything. But that is not the biggest problem; My heel is destroyed.

“I have a lot of pain inside the heel and I cannot use the rear brake. We removed the blood for the second session, I had infiltration [to drain the heel], but it was not really working.

“I said sorry to the team many times. I will try my best, as I did today, with a big effort in the last laps. I will do the same for Sunday. The goal here is to fight for the victory. I don't know if I will arrive there, but at least to be competitive in our home Grand Prix.

“If it was Germany or Assen [I might have skipped Saturday’s Sprint race], but not here in Italy. Because it's the home GP, it’s a very important GP for the team. So I have to try my best.

“The mistake that I did is there. I will not change it now. But if I can finish with a good performance at least….”

Espargaro, 33 and the oldest full-time rider on the MotoGP grid, explained the injury was much more painful than the heel damage he had suffered when he highsided from his RS-GP at Silverstone last year.

“I have a lot of pain. I have raced in my career with big injuries. I destroyed both hands and one week after the operation I raced, no problem. I destroyed my left heel in Silverstone and I raced on Sunday, it was not a disaster.

“But this time, there’s nothing broken, but it's full of blood. It's something [wrong with] the ligaments or something that we will discover on Monday. But for sure there is something, that is not the bone, that doesn't allow me to use the rear brake.

“When I use the rear brake, it’s crazy the pain. It’s unbelievable. So I just leave the foot on the footpeg and just only use the front brake and this obviously limits the performance. But I made it into the top ten.”

That had been with the aid of “big painkillers. We also tried to put the [injection] but the blood was pushing the medicine out.

“We removed a lot of blood from the heel, but every time I use [the foot], it will make more blood to protect the [damaged] zone. When there is more blood, when I put the boot on and I move, I see stars, it’s crazy the pain. So the only thing we can do is injections, try to remove the blood. And ice, ice, ice.”

Espargaro confirmed he had considered fitting a thumb brake but decided it could cause more problems.

“We were thinking with the team to put the thumb brake, but we believe that to adapt to a big thing like this [in a race weekend] could cause a big crash or even more problems.

“If the session this afternoon was a disaster, we would try it for tomorrow, but I was quite competitive not using the rear brake, so we're going to keep like this for the rest of the weekend.”

Espargaro revealed that the cycling accident wasn’t his only bad luck in the run-up to the Mugello event.

“My weekend did not start not in the best way after the [MotoGP] event in Milan. At almost midnight, in the middle of going from Milan to here, I ran out of fuel with the kids, Laura and everything in the car!

“Raul [Fernandez] was behind. I called him and he had a Panda! So it was him, his friend, Laura, me, the kids, the bags, everything at 85 per hour in the highway.

“We arrived here after midnight. Everybody was sleeping in the car except Raul and me. We talked a lot during two hours, so I'm happy for him [to be 12th fastest]. He's a really nice kid.”

Espargaro’s factory team-mate Maverick Vinales was eleventh and will thus need to join the likes of Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo in Qualifying 1.