Even the best go down...
Valentino Rossi's hopes of retaining his MotoGP title were shattered on Saturday when the nine-time world champion motorcyclist suffered a horrific crash in a practice session for his home race in Italy.
The 31-year-old could be out for months after fracturing a shin bone in his leg when he was thrown from his Yamaha in the second session ahead of qualifying at Mugello.
He was due to have an operation on Saturday afternoon, the official MotoGP Web site reported, after being flown to Careggi Hospital in Florence and then moved to the orthopedic trauma center.
"It's an injury more serious than we thought, because it's an exposed fracture with the bone protruding from the skin," Doctor Claudio Macchiagodena of the sport's traveling medics Clinica Mobile told ***********.
I hope he recovers quickly because the championship will not be the same without him
"We have reduced the fracture, which fortunately has not affected any blood vessels or nerves. It is serious, it could be a couple of months, but it is too early to say just yet.
"He remained calm, but having seen the images he could already see it was a nasty fall."
The UK Press Association reported that Rossi, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered last month, could be ruled out for eight races, starting with Sunday's Italian Grand Prix -- which he has won nine times.
Rossi has not missed a race since his debut in the 125cc class in Malaysia in 1996, but his record run of 230 successive GP starts will now end.
He is second overall in the world championship standings this season, nine points behind Jorge Lorenzo of Spain, who will start Sunday's race second on the grid behind compatriot Dani Pedrosa.
Australia's former world champion Casey Stoner qualified third ahead of Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden, whose veteran fellow American Colin Edwards was fifth on a Monster Yamaha Tech 3.
Pedrosa is fourth overall, 30 points behind Lorenzo, as he seeks his first win of 2010.
Lorenzo is seeking his third successive victory in what is the fourth race of the season.
"I want to say how sad I am for Valentino. I know how bad it is to be injured, especially at your home race, and it looks very painful for him," the 23 year-old told ***********.
"I hope he recovers quickly because the championship will not be the same without him."