The world lost an amazing human being yesterday. Nicky Hayden, 35, succumbed to injuries sustained while on a bicycle training ride on the Rimini coastline in Italy. He fought for his life hard, much the way that he fought for the championships he won throughout his career. Nicky was a special kind of motorcycle racer. He was almost bred to do it, starting early in dirt track, moving to AMA roadracing and then onto the world stage in MotoGP and World Superbike.
His greatest accomplishment on the track came in 2006 when he won the MotoGP World Championship, and I was lucky enough to be at Laguna Seca raceway with friends to witness it in person. It was a moving moment, seeing him so emotional after capturing the checkered flag on this Repsol Honda. He was the epitome of cool. He was also a true Kentucky guy, never forgetting where he came from and always going back home to Owensboro, KY at the end of the season.
I always looked up to Nicky when I was younger and had dreams of racing for a living. The whole Hayden family, in fact, was a trip to follow, as Nicky was joined in the racing world by his brothers Tommy and Roger Lee. They really were a clan and they showed the world that you really can do what you love and have fun. I think the lightness was their gift to many, especially on a world stage where so many people can become so focused and caught up in themselves.
Nicky did what he loved, for his whole life, and he did it in a manner that few will understand. His brother, Roger Lee Hayden, wrote on in a Facebook post Monday night “I’ll never forget the Monday morning after you won the world championship, you woke me up to go running. That’s what separated you from the rest and made you a legend.”
If we could all take away something from Nicky, it would be this: enjoy the process. Because the end goals, the championship wins, the peaks, are so short lived, that if you’re not enjoying the process then you’re missing the point.