Motorcycle World Remembers MotoGP Champ Nicky Hayden

The riding world responded to the news of racing champion Nicky Hayden passing away yesterday with a range of somber emotions.

A rider who made a career of leaning into tight corners at incredible speeds, Nicky Hayden died from a fatal bicycle accident. Hayden was training on the Rimini coast following a motorcycle race at nearby Imola when he was reportedly hit by a 30-year-old driving a Peugeot last Wednesday. Initially taken to a nearby hospital for immediate treatment, the MotoGP championship winner was transferred to Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena once stabilized. Despite the exhaustive efforts at the hospital’s intensive care unit, he passed away at the age of 35 at 7:09 pm local time on May 22.

Late Monday afternoon, Suzuki released a statement, starting with 'Suzuki joins the rest of the motorcycling community in mourning the loss of 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, who passed away today in Italy'.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Hayden family,” said Kerry Graeber, Suzuki Motor of America’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “And our thoughts of hope and comfort go out to Nicky’s brother Roger, who is a part of the Suzuki family.”

Police arrive at the scene of Nicky Hayden's bicycle accident

Hayden was one of a long line of American road racers to come from the American dirt-track scene. In 1999, Hayden won his first Grand National Championship race (Hagerstown Half Mile) and took Rookie of the Year honors. He was also declared the AMA's athlete of the Year.

Immediately after winning his AMA Superbike championship, Hayden was tapped to join not only Honda's MotoGP racing efforts in 2003, but what was arguably the premier team in MotoGP racing: Repsol Honda.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Nicky Hayden passing away. Nicky was a successful road racing rider from early in his life, and has contributed greatly to Honda’s motorcycle racing activities, with achievements such as winning the MotoGP title as a Honda factory rider in 2006,” said Takahiro Hachigo, President, CEO and Representative Director of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. “His aggressive riding style and cheerful and magnetic personality was an inspiration to many fans. Honda appreciates Nicky’s immeasurable contribution as a Honda rider, and expresses its deepest condolences to Nicky’s family and friends.”

At the time of his death, a number of Hayden’s family were by his side. The most touching comments came from his younger brother Roger Lee, who paid tribute to Nicky with an emotional message on Instagram.

‘Nicky my brother, our story wasn't suppose to end like this. You were world champ for a reason. I've never met someone with the desire for racing bikes like you. I remember growing up we shared a room and you studying notes you took from the previous race and we were 12-13 years old, 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. I could go on. You made everyone here better, cause when you wasn't here, we were riding or cycling to close the gap for when we road with you again,. You pushed me to my best, but more importantly I'll remember what kind of brother you were. You were legend of a racer and a brother. You were there for me no matter what was going on in life. You wanted to help, I'm glad you were able to see me at my best these past couple years, not just on the bike, but mainly off it. I can sit here and ask why all day, but instead I want to be thankful for having a brother like you for 33 years. Don't worry I got the nieces handled. No boyfriends till they're in college and I'll teach the nephews what it takes to be a champion in whatever they decide. This picture is special to me, because after some bad luck and it looked like your world title was over, I grabbed you like this and told you it was still your year, and that was the first thing you did to me when I saw you at the podium. Tell me it back. Even during this incredibly difficult time I still have my faith, I believe if god will bring you to it, he will bring you through it. Till we ride again I love you.’

After being crowned the 2006 MotoGP world champion at the final round in Valencia following a titanic battle with motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi, Hayden celebrated passionately with his family, including his father, Earl, and his two brothers, Tommy and Roger Lee. It was a picture of this celebration Roger Lee included with his Instagram post.

This sadly bookends the last instagram post made by Nicky Hayden just hours before his bicycle accident.

Hayden’s other brother, Tommy, said in a statement: “On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.”

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