Rossi return should prove a real crowd pleaser
After a short but enjoyable summer break spent, like much of the nation, revelling in the achievements of Team GB at the Olympics and enjoying the brilliant BBC coverage, it is nice to get back to work this weekend as the MotoGP World Championship resumes with round 11 of 18 in Indianapolis.
While I can't promise you emotion to match the Olympic Stadium, London Velodrome or Eton Dorney, on Sunday the world-famous 'Brickyard' circuit provides an equally iconic stage for talent that can rival anything those venues have had to offer over the past few weeks.
Watching Usain Bolt celebrating victory in the 200m final reminded me very much of Valentino Rossi at the peak of his enigmatic powers: charm, charisma and that rare ability to switch from crowd pleaser to ruthless racer in a split second.
Millions of fans around the world have grown to adore him because he's the funniest but also because he's the fastest - except not, in Rossi's case, any longer.
A dream move to Ducati has turned into a nightmare that has yielded just two podiums in two seasons and will conclude when his current contract ends. If you really have been living in an Olympic bubble over the past two weeks, the Italian has agreed to rejoin Yamaha, where he won four of his seven premier-class titles, in an attempt to rescue his reputation before retirement.
Rossi's time at Ducati represents colossal underachievement by all parties. Last season, riding the same bike on which Casey Stoner scored 10 podiums in 2010, he managed just one - at Le Mans in the wet. So far this season he has an identical podium return from identical circumstances in France and he trails team-mate Nicky Hayden in the championship by two points.
Valentino Rossi is a seven-time Moto GP champion. Photo: Getty
Rossi is not the first rider who has failed to tame the notorious Desmosedici, a bike so unpredictable and so genetically removed from its Japanese contemporaries that it all but ended the MotoGP careers of past race-winners including Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi and Toni Elias.
Since the start of the 800cc era in 2007, only Stoner has won a race in dry conditions for the Italian factory and, perhaps understandably, Rossi has given up hope of being the man to turn around their fortunes as the end of a glittering career edges ever closer.
A two-year contract with Yamaha presents an opportunity for him to be immediately competitive again and means we will all get to revel once more in the sight of that bright yellow number 46 fighting at the front of the pack, an image synonymous with a golden era for MotoGP.
With Stoner announcing his retirement and an uncertain future for Ben Spies, this is a huge boost for the sport in general.
Rossi remains a top-class rider, one of a handful capable of winning at this level, and his place among the all-time legends of this sport is secure.
However, his own part in the Ducati debacle should not be overlooked.
Rossi was essentially allowed to leave Yamaha at the end of 2010 because Jorge Lorenzo was starting to prove that he could ride the YZR-M1 faster than his senior team-mate.
Two years later and Lorenzo has improved still further as a rider, the new 1,000cc bike has been developed around him and Rossi, of course, is arguably another 24 months beyond his athletic peak.
If he could win the championship again, it would be akin to Bolt being re-crowned as fastest man on two legs, not at Rio in 2016 but at the following Games in 2020.
Nobody knows this better than Rossi himself and a return to the boys in blue is perhaps less an attempt to be world number one again than a quest to restore self-pride.
And you can't put a price on that - not even 17 million euros (£13.3m), apparently.
That, reportedly, was the figure Ducati were offering in a desperate attempt to retain his services for another season - more a reflection of Rossi's commercial worth to their brand and their sponsors than his market value as a competitor.
While Rossi's replacement for 2013 looks increasingly likely to be the experienced and consistent Andrea Dovizioso, the theory that a fresh approach and a relative lack of MotoGP experience would be an advantage in terms of taming the Desmosedici makes Cal Crutchlow an interesting option for Ducati.
Long term, their best bet is to blood new talent so it was good to see them putting Plan B into action last week with a behind-closed-doors test at Mugello for young British Moto2 star Scott Redding, with a view to including the 19-year-old in a factory-backed satellite "Junior Team".
If there is one thing the success of the Olympics proved it's that we Brits love a home hero in any sport, so the consolidation of a talent like Crutchlow or Redding in the elite class of motorcycle racing would really propel the sport into the national psyche.
However, we also showed that we can appreciate the talents of the very best and Rossi's huge and faithful following in the UK is testament to that.
World champion or not, we at least get to enjoy watching him perform for another two years at the top.