Cal Crutchlow has likened his task at the first MotoGP test of 2019 to “learning to ride again” after the Englishman climbed aboard a motorcycle for the first time since his terrifying first corner fall at Phillip Island 104 days ago.

The Englishman suffered extensive damage to his right ankle, which was so badly fractured doctors feared they may have to fuse the joint, during free practice for last season’s Australian Grand Prix.

As a result, Crutchlow didn’t climb aboard a motorcycle in the intervening months, and has been restricted to around 25 hours of bicycle training per week. Only recently has he been able to walk without serious pain.

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Thus it was understandable to hear the three-time grand prix winner describe his initial feeling at Sepang on Wednesday as “horrendous,” as he got used to the demands of his Honda RC213V once again.

“I felt horrendous during the first laps of the day,” said Crutchlow, a heartening 14th fastest at the end of day one of testing. “I did my first lap and I thought I was doing a 2m 1s, but I did a 2m 8s. Then I nearly went over the handlebars in one of the runs because my brake control isn’t fantastic.

“I’m just learning to ride again, it’s as simple as that. I think my feedback is good. I’ve got back to working with my team very well. The team were really patient, as I knew they were going to be. At the start of the day I was just cruising around and not really knowing what was going on.

“[Pain-wise] It seems OK. The control of my foot on the brake lever is not fantastic at the moment. I am slow to move my foot around the peg but hopefully that will come better. Overall I’m happy with the ankle.

“I have a little bit of pain now, but it’s the end of the day. It’s not massive. I can walk. I couldn’t this morning when I got out of bed but then 20 minutes later I was walking fine. Tomorrow is going to be difficult! I might have to get out of bed earlier.”

Crutchlow spent most of the morning on his 2018 RC213V, before switching to Honda’s ’19-spec machine just before lunchtime. To finish just over 1s off surprise pace setter Marc Marquez’s quickest effort represents something of a minor triumph.

“I worked with both bikes; the ’18 bike, because I just arrived. I haven’t ridden anything. To even let the clutch out was strange at the start of the day. Then I started working with the ’19 bike for one run before lunch and then after. I was impressed with it, so it’s good.

“I felt good to be able to ride again. I can be competitive this season. I don’t know how competitive. Today I never pushed for the lap time. I felt I could have gone a significant amount faster if I needed to, which is always nice because some nights you’re half a second off, thinking you can’t go faster.”

Crutchlow joked he was unable to detail the differences between Honda’s ’18 and ’19 RC213Vs as he had yet to be briefed by factory management, but he did offer his thoughts it was “stronger,” although “not massive.”

“I’ll be honest. I haven’t asked what I can and can’t say. I’ve had my foot in an ice bucket for half an hour. I’m positive it’s stronger. It’s different to ride. Stefan [Bradl – Honda test rider] has obviously used it, once at the end of last year and once now. Marc used it at the last two tests and now. So they understand it more.

“It’s not a massive difference. We’re always looking for small details. They’ve done a good job but I don’t feel fantastic on the details because I haven’t tried to set it up. I was just learning to ride that bike this afternoon more and I felt good with it.”

With the movement in his right ankle currently limited, Crutchlow’s machines were fitted with a thumb operated rear brake, a technical feature he has never used in the past.

On whether it was to his liking, he added, “I haven’t touched it! It’s really difficult to learn how to use one. I’m so used to using my foot. If I couldn’t use my foot, I’d be forced to use it. Its position is really good. I didn’t use it how I should. But once I can push to a level where I’m focusing on small details, then I’ll start to use it.”

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