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Valentino Rossi: Happy birthday

What are you going to do on your 40th birthday? Or, considering the aging motorcycling community, what have you been doing?
A little skydiving or white water rafting, maybe? Did a tour with a mammoth during the holidays? Repainted the house? Or get drunk in the pub with a few friends to celebrate an unwelcome milestone in life?

I don't even remember my own 40th birthday, but I guess I know what Valentino Rossi was up to on Saturday February 16: a grueling gym session, maybe a round of jogging, then a couple of rounds filmed at his training ranch in Tavullia, inspiring a few quick and hungry children with respect by beating them. On the pretext of training them.

OK. Maybe he took a day off. But the day after ...

I know Rossi fans can be a little overzealous when criticizing their hero (which adds to the allure). But is it even possible to nag a career that's been going on for so long and shining so brightly and led by a man who just doesn't want to stick to the guidelines of time and aging?

There are many admirable attributes, especially pure humanity. Far from the smiling cardboard figure that has been carefully celebrated for years and that many less experienced fans want to see, Vale has revealed a Machiavellian character of much more depth over the years.

Valentino, for example, is very graceful when he wins and manages to smile patronizingly when he loses, but a burning ego hides beneath the surface. He's a merciless killer, and the smile lends this methide a threatening, but strangely calming, undertone.

It is the same with his thirst for revenge. First his war with Max Biaggi at a time when it still looked like it was an argument in the school yard; it was similar with Sete Gibernau. But his public rallies about his hatred of Marc Márquez take on a new dimension. That's not really a surprise because he came out victorious the first two times, but with Marc it's the other way around.

Most impressive and admirable of all is Rossi's commitment, which supports his tremendous natural talent: Valentino is still so incredibly fast that it really takes the best of the next generation to hold him back on his way to his 116th Grand Prix victory.

These are the drivers who were just out of nappy age when the long-haired teenager celebrated his first win in Brno in 1996. Márquez was three then, Morbidelli two and Vinales just over a year old on this sunny afternoon.

While they were making their way through their childhood, they would have enjoyed Valentino's show performances after his racing victories. Some were funny (the toilet in Spain or the penalty for driving too fast in Mugello), some were painfully cheesy (the stone chopping in Brno and the human bowling in Sepang), some were straight to the point (his “I-wished-me -you-would-be-here "-helmet after the death of Simoncelli).

But they were all original.

In addition to the changing hair colors and "official" nicknames, in addition to the publicity-arousing appearances, they, like all other racing fans, admired with open mouth not only the talent and courage, but also the constant commitment. He was always a Sunday driver. That means that it didn't matter what happened during the entire weekend, he delivered on race day.

There is probably no racing driver who is currently racing against him who was not inspired by Valentino. Though many, no doubt, did not expect to ever race against him while growing up. Many of them consider themselves lucky to have this opportunity.

To this day, Valentino is able to teach them something.
However, these days have become rarer over the past few years. His win rate is down from 43.6 percent at the end of 2010, when he left Yamaha for Ducati (the only real mistake in his almost 24-year career) to 30.02 percent (Marquez is 37.6 percent, followed by Lorenzo with 24.1 percent).

In 2017 it seemed like he was going to win more races, just like last year. But he needed rain to win his last race. That was in Assen in 2017, where Márquez finished third.

His Yamaha wasn't much of a help because it got worse and worse; but last year in Malaysia he was very close to winning.

The previous world record of 122 GP victories held by Giacomo Agostini is within reach and yet seems so unattainable. Will Valentino actually manage to win seven more races to be level with Ago? Or even eight to hit him?

I don't think he'll be able to do it, but I've made a fool of myself enough times by misreading and interpreting the signs ... You should never underestimate Valentino Rossi.

The oldest world champion in the premier class was Les Graham in 1949, who was 37 years old at the time. Rossi is three years older. The oldest world champion across all classes was the German Hermann P. Müller, who won in 1955 with a 250 cc NSU. He was 45.

Without wanting to lure the fans; he still has time.

Don't give up hope, right?