When I was growing up racing bikes, there were times people asked me why I bothered with it. I mean, I’ve never won anything, so I can’t have been that good at it, can I? And the money, time and effort that get’s ploughed into bike racing, whatever level you’re doing it at, can start to seem a little bit excessive when you’re not winning anything. So what did I get wrong? Why did I never win anything? Was it because I was never good enough, or was there more to it than that?
Ok, I’ll come clean. I have won one or two things in my racing career, but that’s about it. I won a motocross championship when I was a kid, but I think I was the only lad that did all the rounds. When I started road racing, I won a couple of club races here and there too. But I didn’t win anything when I went to race in the British Championship. I chased my tail for nearly ten years racing in British Superstock, and didn’t win one measly race. Not once did I stand on the podium.
And yes, the most logical explanation to that is because I just wasn’t fast enough. I’d try and try and try, but for one reason or another I was never quite good enough.
I soon learnt that no matter how fast you think you are, there was always someone faster. Turning up to a club meeting and managing to win was a lovely confidence booster, but it didn’t really mean a lot. Even when I thought I was riding like an absolute god, there always seemed to be someone with an almightier power, as soon as I got back to BSB.
And that’s the same for everyone. I could have won every race in the British Superstock Championship, and that would have been smashing, but there’d still have been plenty of people faster than me. Johnny Rea has won umpteen WorldSBK titles, but there are still plenty of people faster than him; in fact there is a MotoGP grid full of them.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s easy to win races if you don’t push yourself. If you race at a level that you can comfortably win at, it’s not really winning, is it? It’s just depriving everyone else of the chance to win. And, if you ask me, it’s not ‘pushing yourself’ in the way that a proper sportsperson ought to. If I’d have carried on club racing, rather than stepping up to national and international level competition, I would have won more races. I might have even won a few championships. But if you ask me, that’s not what sport is all about.
I think a sportsperson should aim to compete at the highest level of their sport as possible. Surely that’s more important than winning a ton of races at a relatively low level, and never pushing yourself further. That’s why whenever I’ve had the opportunity, I’ve raced at the highest level I can; from various national superbike championships, to international and world championship level events. And that’s probably the main reason I’ve never really won anything.
Now I’m too old and fat to win anything, but I don’t mind, because I had a good go. And although I don’t have a trophy cabinet that’s bulging at the seams, I have got more memories than I know what to do with; even though I’ve never won anything. Because like most things in life, the joy isn’t in the destination, it’s in the journey. And I might not have reached my destination, but it’s been a hell of a journey.