Tourist Trophy – Life and death

There are thousands of articles of this kind every time just after a fatal accident at the Isle of Man TT. Today, though, I decided to write the thousand-and-first. 

I think I can talk with knowledge of the facts, having experienced the road races over the years as a spectator, journalist, part of a team, girlfriend of a rider and friend of many. But, above all, as a great passionate of this sport.

Let’s start with the true and raw facts.

Daley Mathison is the umpteenth victim of the TT, talking only about the most famous road race in the world. Every year, dozens and dozens of riders decide voluntarily to face the 256 turnes of the Mountain Course, the oldest road race and among the most dangerous in the world. And probably the most fascinating, where private teams, renowned ones, amateur riders and professional ones all find themselves united by the same passion for this race.

Every year dozens of riders risk their lives at the TT, and they are well aware of it. They selfishly pack up, say goodbye to their family, some of them bring it to the Isle of Man for these two intense weeks of racing. Selfishly they put their leathers on, their boots, their helmets, their gloves. Selfishly they close the visor and mount on their bike ready to fly towards Bray Hill, leaving behind them mechanics, wives, children, girlfriends, parents, friends. All of them well aware that they could not see their rider anymore, as he is going to risk his life on every meter of the 60,7 km long Mountain Course; while his beloved ones, even his little kids, are waiting impatiently for him to come back to them in the paddock, for endless minutes and hours.

Road racing is an extreme sport, a selfish one, one of the most cruel sports in the world, especially for those who are left. These are the facts, sad but true. We all know that: in a small part of our mind, at the start of every road race a voice inside us shouts: “Who will be the next victim?”…

The feeling when you look at “your” rider disappearing towards St. Ninian’s  is hardly describable: a mix of adrenaline, tension, emotion, terror. Does this make any sense?

It does make sense for those who race and those who choose to stay by their side. This should be enough. After Daley Mathison’s fatal crash, his wife Natalie wrote on social media: “The last image I saw of my husband was of a man so happy with life and so proud of his racing”.

For those who have never experienced road racing deeply, this is very difficult to understand. It’s an extreme sport, as there are no half measures: emotions, whatever they are, are very strong. “The highs are very high and the lows are very low”, I think this sums it up pretty well. 

It is a sport that can give unique emotions like few others, either to those who follow the action from home with a live timing, and  those who spectate between the hedges, and those who stay by riders’ side on the startline. This is the Isle of Man, this is the TT, this is road racing

Riders’ feelings, while they hurtle on the Mountain Course, are also impossible to describe. Someone tried to describe them saying that the Isle of Man TT is the ultimate and highest challenge for a motorcyclist, a challenge that someone consider like craziness but for which riders must prepare themselves in a very accurate way, like very few other races in the world.

It is difficult to really understand the meaning of this race. Sometimes, after the loss of yet another friend, some questions arise spontaneously. The answer, however, comes strong and clear almost immediately: it is enough for me to look at the eyes of these same riders while they lift the visor at the end of their lap, in the pit return lane. I’ve never seen gazes like those in my life. Eyes that shine with an indescribable vitality.

Them, though, the road racers, are already more alive than ever every day. They are not heroes in my eyes, as some describe them; they do not save lives; on the contrary, they put their own and those of their families at risk. In my life, though, I have known very few people with such a joy for life like some of these road racers have. Riders, indeed, or just persons with a contagious vitality who taught me a lot; they taught me to love life, to enjoy every moment as if it was the last. Just like they do.

“Dance like there was no tomorrow”.

Thanks Daley.

Thanks to anyone of you.


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