The four-time champion knows he will have to be at his best again to see off the Ducati rider as well as the likes of Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Italian legend Valentino Rossi and Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales.
His punishing off-season fitness regime is testament to the tenacious drive that propels the 24-year-old towards beating Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight titles on a 500cc motorbike.
He started the regime aged just 11 with a complex mix of gym work and motorcross riding to fine tune his body and reactions.
The Cervera native places a strong emphasis on core work to help navigate the continuous track bends as well as elasticity to prevent injury on the rare occasions he rolls off into the gravel.
He revealed, “The upper trunk is most important. The abdomen too because you move from side to side when riding the bike and you need to remain very stable.
“Physically your legs go through a lot of work because ultimately you are pushing away from the groud and your other leg is pressing against the bike.”
Added to that, he still races motocross bikes on fast changing dirt tracks to improve his reactions and improvisation.
It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to secure a fifth title this year to match Australian hero Mick Doohan on the all-time list, nevertheless the new 2018 season is sure to have fans cheering at every turn.
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