If you've grown up with MotoGP, you grew up with Aleix Espargaro. You were there when he filled in for Mika Kallio at Pramac Ducati in 2008. You were there when he joined the team full-time in 2010 and when he was relegated back to Moto2 in 2011.

You were there when he started his non-stop run as a MotoGP rider in 2012. Where he made a name for himself as one of the best riders in the game, developing Suzuki's MotoGP machine into a race winner and giving Aprilia its first win in the premier class. And now you're here on the day he announces his retirement. 

Today, the 34-year-old held an exceptional press conference where he announced his run as a full-time MotoGP rider would come to an end after the final round in Valencia this year. And there was no better time or place to do it than ahead of his home race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, his home circuit and the place where he took a double victory last year.

Throughout the press conference, Espargaro fought back the tears and made one comment in particular that both summed his career and his outlook on life,

I'm very happy and, yano, there are many-many-many riders in the world, in this space today, that won a lot more than me. But I gave everything I had. I worked very-very-very hard. Many times I felt that I didn't maybe have the talent of other riders but by working hard, I reached quite a high level.

The Spanish rider also showed some of his trademark humor when he added, "Hopefully other riders, as a present, can let me win this weekend."

 

A deep dive into Espargaro's career achievements is worthy of another post entirely. But I think what speaks louder than his accolades is how the racing community felt about him—rarely have we seen a rider who was universally loved as much as Aleix Espargaro. Even if he wasn't your favorite, it was impossible not to back him whenever he looked poised to make a play for a race win. And that's all down to his character on and off the track.

You can check out the video of his press conference here, and if you don't shed a tear, your heart is made of stone.

Many will wonder what's next for Espargaro. He made a point of saying he won't be a "full-time" MotoGP rider anymore, which hints that we'll see him as a wildcard in races to come, maybe even against his brother. And it's hard to imagine he won't get offers to become a test rider, given his experience and how renowned he is at developing motorcycles.

Whatever happens, Espargaro went out as he deserved—still making podiums and fighting for wins as the captain of a factory team and on a bike that he was instrumental in developing.

Although you could argue that he is still well capable of staying on the grid for another year, he's placing his time on what he values most—his family—and there aren't many things more commendable than that.

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