Some athletes are purer than the driven snow when it comes to sportsmanship, fair play and all that stuff. But in my experience, the bike racing world is hardly top-heavy with those sorts of characters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome sport to be a part of, but the higher up the food chain you get the more cheating, back-stabbing and general unpleasantry there seems to be; I didn’t get as far in bike racing as I wanted to (few people do), but I’ve spent enough time in the industry to know that’s the case. And during my time racing bikes (I’m still racing bikes now, but not quite as prolifically) I like to think I was reasonably well respected by my peers. That’s to say I don’t think I ever gave anyone reason to think I’m a total arsehole. But I wasn’t an angel. Not many racers are.
Any motorcycle racer will have one or two confessions, and some will make your toes curl. Mine aren’t as bad as that, but I thought I’d share a few with you anyway, to give you an insight into the warped psyche of a bike racer. Here are my confessions as a motorcycle racer.
What I really think when I see a yellow flag.
Some racers say that the first thing they think when they see a yellow flag is “Gosh, I hope whoever is involved in that incident is OK.” That’s what they say, but I’m not convinced that’s what they actually think. It’s certainly not what I think when I see a yellow flag waving and a bike spinning round on the floor. I would always think “Nice one, that’s another position made up.”
Perhaps that means I’m a heartless bastard. Maybe I should be more concerned about the wellbeing of my competitors than I am about my finishing position. But I don’t think any proper racer, when they’ve got their race head on, cares about anything but winning. Or at least finishing as high as they possibly can. A yellow flag, and a rider on the floor is a gift. There’s plenty of time to worry about whoever’s crashed after the race.
The exception to the rule
In all fairness, it’s a little bit different when you are doing a road race, like the Isle of Man TT. I think that’s for a few reasons. Firstly, because of the fact that the consequences of a crash on the IOM tend to be a lot worse than those on a short circuit. If you crash on a short circuit, you’re usually fine. If you crash on the TT course, you’re usually not. But I also think it has a lot to do with the fact that at the TT, I always feel as though I’m racing the clock, rather than the other bikes on the circuit; which is daft really, because they are in the race too. But the fact that you all start separately gives the race a very different feel, and is perhaps one of the reasons I feel slightly less mercenary towards the opposition.
To read part two of Confessions of a Motorcycle Racer ‘Cheating’ click here