A twist of fate at Assen on Saturday saw Nicky Hayden hand a shock podium finish to Colin Edwards on the exit of the very final corner - exactly where Edwards had handed Hayden victory when he fell at the end of the 2006 event!

This year, the two riders crossed just metres from the line and after very contrasting rides.

Hayden had slotted into third, behind Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and runaway winner Casey Stoner, for almost the entire race.

Edwards meanwhile had been forced to a standstill by Valentino Rossi's first lap accident and was only twelfth, out of 14 surviving riders, by the end of the opening lap.

"I thought I had a good start and was fifth or sixth when Valentino got tangled with Randy de Puniet and he crashed," recalled Colin. "I might have gone left but I knew Valentino was on the ground and I didn't want to run over him or his bike and I just stopped. The next thing I know is I'm dead last and then Alex de Angelis went down soon after and I lost a bit more ground.

"I just decided to get my head and push. I thought I'd rather be in the gravel than riding round for eighth or ninth. I started picking guys off and before I knew it I was on the back of the group fighting for fourth. I just kept pushing myself to go faster and the next thing I'm fourth."

The Tech 3 Yamaha reached fourth on lap 14 of 26, then set the second fastest lap of the race on lap 18 as he put up what looked like a futile attempt to catch Hayden and claim the final podium position.

"I could see Nicky and Dani in the distance and all I did was ride as hard as I could and my Tech 3 guys gave me a great bike today," continued Edwards. "Michelin had some great tyres so I started to hammer away at Nicky. I thought if I kept applying pressure he might make a mistake and if I hadn't kept pushing as hard as I did then I might not have been close enough to pounce on Nicky.

"I'd settled for fourth but as I came out of the chicane he was sat up, and I couldn't believe it," admitted the Texan. "I guess that's karma corner after 2006. This place owed me something after I crashed a couple of years ago with my first win in sight, and I'm really happy with third just because in the way I achieved it. It's hard to get on the podium at any time in MotoGP, so to do it from last is a great feeling."

It was later revealed that Hayden's RC212V had been suffering electronic problems for the entire race, causing his machine to finally run out of fuel.

"Unfortunately this game can be cruel sometimes," said the 2006 world champion, who was at least able to roll across the line in fourth. "To be so close to a really good result is tough, but we still finished, we made it across the line and still got some good points out of the deal, but it would've been nice to stand on the podium. The team certainly deserved it, they've worked really hard this weekend.

"On the sighting lap I knew something was wrong," he revealed. "It's been a little bit frustrating because she hasn't run right off the bottom since I got here, especially out of slow corners. They've been changing stuff and they thought they had it fixed but something was wrong. I had a dash light come on at the start of the race, though it went off after the start. She finally quit right before the finish line."

Reflecting on the irony of the situation, Hayden believes he and Edwards are now even.

"It's how it goes, I guess me and Colin are even now, he gave me one here a couple of years ago and I gave him a podium today," said Hayden with a wry smile. "There at the end I was trying to make a push on Dani, I wanted to keep the pressure on him, he was coming back to me a bit. I was pushing, then on the last lap I thought 'oh no, we're in trouble'.

"Nonetheless the bike is working good, now they've got a week and a half to hopefully sort it out in Japan and we can keep moving on," he concluded.

HRC technicians are now examining Hayden's RCV.

"We thought we might get both riders on the podium," confessed Repsol Honda team manager Kazuhiko Yamano . "Nicky tried so hard but he was very unlucky, we are sorry for him and we will solve this electronics problem before the next race."

But while Repsol Honda began its investigation, Tech 3 Yamaha was celebrating its second podium finish of the 2008 season.

"Colin was incredible today," enthused team manager Herve Poncharal. "I was really upset after what happened on the first lap because he has always been very fast this weekend and we were convinced with the pace he had shown that he could have challenged for the podium. This is racing but Colin was last and we thought it was over.

"When we saw his pace we had even more regret, so we were just thinking about what might have been. But he made an incredible recovery and we can't believe this podium. When I saw him come out of the chicane and pass Nicky it was an incredible emotion. His lap times were very impressive and close to Casey's, which was not easy to achieve this weekend, so I think he deserved this.

"Nobody wants to see what happened to Nicky but today it was Colin's turn to have the luck after what happened in 2006."

Edwards is still to take a MotoGP victory.

 

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