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motogp_ridersThe start of the 2011 MotoGP season is closer than you think. Sepang will host the opening testing session in just a few short days, signaling the beginning of the 2011 season. The MotoGP riders haven’t been on their bikes since the post-season test at Valencia on November 17th. But that doesn’t mean that the MotoGP riders and teams haven’t been busy.

Individual training programs, unofficial testing days, and the constant mechanical tweaking to their motorcycles have kept most of the MotoGP paddock busy over the winter.

If there is a favorite to win this year’s MotoGP championship, it has to be Jorge Lorenzo. Not only does the 2010 champion return in perfect health, but he also returns on his championship winning bike. Many of Lorenzo’s contenders this year are either recovering from an injury, or will be competing this season on a new machine. This definitely pushes the odds in Lorenzo’s favor.

We’ll see just how much the odds favor Lorenzo next week at Sepang, as the MotoGP riders take to the track. Most people will be watching Valentino Rossi, who will be riding a Ducati this year instead of his famed M1 for Yamaha. Rossi did some unofficial testing last week, and described his shoulder as “painful,” and “not very strong.” Rossi still has some time before the beginning of the season to recovery from his surgery, but he may not be at 100% at the Sepang test.

Dani Pedrosa is another MotoGP title contender who is recovering from an injury. Pedrosa says that Sepang will be a test of his collar bone strength, but that he is confident that he will be able to do some good work with the bike this weekend.

“I am encouraged, because November and December were tough, there were a lot of problems and I was not well, but as you start to improve and see that the feeling is better, you are automatically encouraged,” Pedrosa said. “I know that I will not be at 100% in the first test but if I can control the bike well I will be happy. For me this is like a personal test to see how I am.”

Casey Stoner will be dealing with a new bike at the Sepang test, but judging by his post-season tests at Valencia, his RC212V will be no problem for him at Sepang. The third Honda Repsol rider, Andrea Dovizioso, will also be returning in good health.

Ben Spies stepped up to the Yamaha Factory team after a fantastic rookie season in 2010. Spies is a rider that is full of potential, and with the Yamaha factory machine beneath him, he could be a force to be reckoned with this year.

The Sepang test will give the first indication of how riders are meshing with their new teams and their new bikes. It will show the progress of injuries, and will set the stage for an amazing 2011 MotoGP season. The three day Sepang session starts this Tuesday, February 2nd. The 2011 MotoGP season starts March 20th in Qatar.

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com

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