Sixth to start, sixth at the finish ... doesn't sound like a lot to get too excited about at Valencia this weekend, but it could have been better and worse at the same time.
Better, because when the track was a bit sketchy with rain and whatnot all weekend, I was fastest or close to it, so a podium looked possible. But worse could have been the outcome too because I got a very average start and was back in 11th two corners into the race. Nobody in front of me crashed and I had to do the hard yards for the next 27 laps, so in the end it was a bit of a salvage job to at least break even. So, not quite what we imagined.
The sun came out for the first time since we got here on race day so we were all in the same boat, none of us had much info on what dry tyres to use, what they'd do in the race over 27 laps ... definitely a journey into the darkness, and a gamble for everyone. For the guys fighting for the title, they had a lot to potentially lose – for me, that wasn't in my thinking. I went with the hard front tyre, which we'd done no laps on all weekend, and the idea was to not go too hard too early and let the race come to us a bit. So much for that ... I had to fight after the start didn't go my way, and in the end I paid for that because I got stuck behind (Johann) Zarco for what seemed like 100 laps – it was about six or seven I think – and by the time I got back to sixth I ran out of laps to do a lot more, it was too little too late to catch up with (Miguel) Oliveira. A bit frustrating for sure because I was less than nine seconds off the win and those guys ahead of me all had pretty clean races, but that's on me.
Normally my starts are pretty good and I got off the line alright, but I had a wheelie in fourth gear and the bike started heading towards the wall, so I had to roll out of it on the front straight and got spat back into the pack. It's always hard to pass at Valencia, so the first lap was all she wrote really. Some of the passing and defending on the first lap was a bit unnecessary, shall we say, and when you get in the midfield on the first lap it kind of feels like anything goes. When you qualify up the front you get a bit soft maybe, a bit gun-shy. You definitely don't want to go down early in the race two races in a row, and that was what I was thinking after what happened at Aragon. Some of the boys were doing a few kamikaze things on the first lap and it got a bit hectic there.
As you can probably imagine we all did a lot of talking about COVID for most of the weekend, it's hard not to with everything that's going on in Europe at the moment, and we just have to find a way to get the season done now we're so close to the end. (Iker) Lecuona missed the race because his brother caught it and he's a close contact, obviously (Valentino) Rossi missed a few races … we're all being as cautious as we can be, but it's around and it affects every decision you make. For sure, it's always in the back of your mind. I mean, this year, between the races, I've basically not done much outside besides doing some cycling, go out and ride my dirt track bike or whatever, but even when I do that I try to minimise contact with other people.
Unfortunately in this day and age you can never be safe, because you just never know. It's like getting an injury, except you haven't had a crash. It can keep you out, like with Rossi. Our job is to be here and perform and unfortunately that's one of the criteria of this year, just actually being able to come here and perform. It's definitely not easy. I think it's something a lot of guys, me included, have been very careful about. But we're nearly at the end now and for the sake of the guys fighting for the championship I hope we get there, we get there safely, and we get a legit champion. (Joan) Mir got his first win here and it looks like it's his championship to lose, so hats off to him because he's done a really solid year and the others around him have had their dramas and made their mistakes, so full credit for what he's been able to do.
Anyway, a bit of a frustrating day, but we live and learn ... it was a good race and I enjoyed it, but I felt we had more pace. We'll be back here in Valencia to have another crack next weekend.