Brno, Czech Republic - As the MotoGP season reaches its halfway point on Sunday, Marc Marquez sits regally in first place seemingly as concerned with his adoring fans as with his distant pursuers.
The Czech MotoGP in Brno is the 10th of the 19 races on this season's calendar. It is also the 100th for the 25-year-old Spaniard in the sport's elite class and he has won 40 of them. This season, after winning five of the first nine races, including the previous two in Assen and on the Sachsenring, the Honda star's closest rivals are two Yamaha riders.
Italian veteran Valentino Rossi is 46 points back and another Spaniard, Maverick Vinales, trails by 56. After a three-week break following the German Grand Prix, Marquez, the reigning champion, understandably enters the race feeling good.
"We're coming off of wins at two very different races, one an all-out battle and one more tactical, so we arrive in Brno in a confident mood," said the four-times MotoGP world champion.
Not always kind
"It was also good to enjoy a few days of vacation to recharge the batteries and prepare for the second half of the season, which will still be very long with 10 races to go, and not easy at all. Our rivals are riding fast at every circuit. I'll go to Brno not thinking about the advantage in the championship, as if we were all still at the beginning, on zero points."
The Brno course is long at 5.4km with six left-hand corners and eight right-handers and a 74 metre change in elevation on each lap. It has not always been kind to Marquez. In 2010, while he was still racing in the 125cc class, he came to Brno on a streak of five consecutive wins and finished seventh.
Four years later, he arrived having won the first 10 races of the MotoGP season and finished fourth. The 2017 race may have gone some way to wiping out those memories as Marquez pitted early to switch from wet tyres to slicks and rode away from his rivals on a drying circuit to win by 13 seconds.
During his break, the Spaniard, who is adored in his homeland, attended a charity run in Barcelona where local newspaper Mundo Deportivo asked him: "Is it hard being Marc Marquez?"
"It's complicated," he repiled, "because, although I appreciate it a lot when people stop you, ask for a picture and give you encouragement, it's difficult.
"One Saturday, my friends told me we were going to the beach. 'I'm staying here,' I replied. 'But why, If you have nothing to do?' they asked. 'Because I'll go to the beach and I will not be fine, neither will you,' I told them, and this is normal. But hey, it's a blessed problem, because if I did not have it, it would be because something was going wrong."
MotoGP standings ahead of Sunday's Czech Grand Prix:
1 Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda - 165 points
2 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha) - 119
3. Maverick Vinales (Spain) Yamaha) - 109
4 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati - 88
5 Johann Zarco (France) Tech 3 Yamaha Tech3 - 88
6 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Ducati) - 85
7 Danilo Petrucci (Italy) Pramac Ducati - 84
8 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) LCR Honda - 79
9 Andrea Iannone (Italy) Suzuki - 75
10 Jack Miller (Australia) Pramac Ducati - 57