Marco Melandri produced one of the performances of the season today as he charged to the podium at Laguna Seca despite suffering from the effects of a badly swollen ankle.
The Gresini Honda rider sat out this morning's warm-up because of the pain
of the injury he sustained during qualifying yesterday, when he collided with Kurtis Roberts and fell heavily from his RC212V.
However, after bouncing back in that session to qualify in tenth place, he once again showed his fighting spirit today - undergoing painkilling injections before straddling his Honda for 32 gruelling laps.
Melandri made an incredible start to the race, making up four positions on the first lap and settling into the chasing pack as Casey Stoner set the pace at the front. As the race wore on, Melandri got the better of Colin Edwards before passing Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa and securing a comfortable podium finish in third place.
The result moves him up to fifth in the championship going into the summer break, with the next round taking place at Brno on August 19th, when the team hope to have Toni Elias back as Melandri's team-mate.
The place of the injured Spaniard was taken this weekend by Canadian veteran Miguel Duhamel, who retired from the race after ten laps.
MARCO MELANDRI (3rd in the race, 5th in the championship on 113 points):
"It was an amazing race for me - it's unbelievable to be on the podium. I couldn't actually ride this morning without an injection for the pain and I just have to say a very big thanks to all the Clinica Mobile - Doctor Costa, the therapist Francesco Chionne and Doctor Monica. They gave me very good treatment before the race so there was no pain when I was riding. At the beginning I just tried to keep my rhythm and it was pretty good for me. I wasn't so comfortable on the bike at the beginning but in the end my rhythm was okay. Just the last five or six laps I started to feel a bit of pain in my ankle so I couldn't downshift so good but it's been a great race and a very good emotion for me to be on the podium. I just want to thank all my team, all my guys and all my sponsors - they are working so good."
MIGUEL DUHAMEL (DNF) :
"I gave it everything I could at the start of the race but I couldn't get on the pace.
I just wasn't comfortable on the bike and I was worried I was either going to crash it or get in the way of another rider. Neither of those options was particularly appealing so I decided the best thing was to pull out of the race. This has been a wonderful experience for me and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Fausto, the entire team - who have been so professional - and to Honda USA for letting me ride."