Last meeting of the season, Day 1

September 22nd, 2013
I didn't need to do this meeting, and wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Mephistopheles (aka Keith McKay) pointing out that I was 5th in the 650 twin championship (after doing 3 of 5 rounds), and could maybe get inthe top 3.  Dave Clarke  agreed that I could ride his wonderful ER6 again for the weekend, so I signed up, booked flights, etc
 
The weather forecast was mostly good, with the odd chance of a little dampness, and so it turned out.  A bit of drizzly nothingness in practice (made your visor wet, but not the track), and dry for all the races.
 
This is a 2 day meeting and today (Saturday) is the anti-clockwise / left-handed circuit.  Which I've not ridden since April.  Still, first practice in the 'Wacky Races' (3 classes in one race: steelies, singles, twins and triples, post-classics) went well, and I put it on the 3rd row with a 1:16.7.  Importantly, no-one in my class qualified ahead of me.  For second practice, for the 650 twins (the class I was more interested in), I managed to find a bit more, and got P2 (front row!) with a 1:14.3.  Callum Colister (2013 MGP Newcomer winner), who had won every race this year in this class, did a 1:12.6, so I was looking at a 2nd place at best.
 
Time rolled round and we lined up for the wacky races.  I got away ok, made a place or two, and followed half-a-dozen quick steelies round for a lap (all being led by Ryan Kneen, in the classic class, on an OW01!).  On the 2nd lap, one of the guys in front highsided, and we all threaded past (it's a measure of how unpleasant a person I am when competing that when someone crashes in front of me, I smile).  One lap later, the race was red-flagged.  Damn. 
 
We lined up again, with a gap in front of me from Mr Highsider, and got away again for a shortened 4 lap race.  A better start, and I think I was into 5th, and made a place up a lap later.  From then on, Ryan rode away on his OW01 (best lap 1:11.0 !!!), two steelies ran a second or so slower, and I got 4th, and 1st in class, with a best lap of 1:13.1 - a whole second faster than my then unbelievable best lap in July.  What is going on...?
 
Not much later, we lined up for the 650 twins (also run with the 400s).  I was P2, but there was a gap where pole position was - the unbeatable Callum Collister hadn't joined the grid.  So I knew I was on for the win, and that's what I did, by a margin of 5 seconds by the end. Best lap of 1:13.9, so still in the 13s, but (as I promised Keith, see more below...) not trying *too* hard.  Even better, the guys I was trying to catch, for 3rd (or maybe even 2nd...) in the championship only managed 6th and 7th places.
 
The second wacky race was also red-flagged, after one lap this time, but when we eventually got away I again got myself into 4th place, 1st in class, with a best lap of 1:13.7
 
So, three starts, three wins....it could only go downhill from here.
 
Last race of the day was the second 650 twins race.  Callum Collister joined this one on a different Kawasaki ER6 (turns out his had blown up).  He and I left the line absolutely neck and neck, but he had the inside line to the corner, and took the lead.  Over the next lap he stretched out a second or so (not helped by 400 class leader Dave Kennington trying to force through - I rebuffed him "firmly").  On the second lap I was thinking 2nd was ok, when...Callum started coming back towards me.  By the bus-stop chicane I was nearly on him, and chased him through the fastest corner of the track (Snuffies) and settled into his slipstream on the back straight. And it was here that Callum had the mother of all tank-slappers.  I thought we were both going to be off, if not dead.  I *just* managed to flick to the side, and flew past him as he fought his bike, both feet off the pegs like an Ewok on a speeder.  Now I was leading!  I knew Callum would come back at me, so tried to keep focussed and fast.  On lap 4 I allowed myself a glance behind on the straight, and saw another bike, not too close, but not too far away either.  On the penultimate lap I was still leading, and quickly catching a back-marker.  I really didn't want to be held up, and started to think where I was going to get past - when, as I was about 5m behind him, the front tucked on the bumps into Nans, and I was sliding along on my arse. Loss of focus, rolling the throttle slightly - I don't know the cause, but I know it was 100% my fault.
 
When I came to a halt I quickly found I was completely unhurt, and the bike had only lost half a clutch level.  Andreas has a 'no restart' policy, so my race was done.  Zero points.  Shit.
 
Still when we got back to the paddock and assessed the damage properly, the bike needed the following:
- replacement clutch level
- replacement gear change toe-thingy (iyswim)
- that was it.
 
I'm not going to get pissed off with a crash like that.  Especially as I was leading the race, and set a best lap of 1:12.9.  Into the 12s!
 
Looking at the championship tables, I'm into 4th place in the 650 twins, with a chance of getting 3rd tomorrow (2nd is now beyond reach).  Interestingly, 2 wins in the singles, twins and triples has put me in 2nd place in that championship!  1st place is mathematically possible, but requires the leader to not show up.  Today he got a 3rd and a 4th, so this is a tall order.
 
This is quite possibly the best mood I've even been in after crashing a motorbike.  3 wins! Three!  And crashing while leading ahead of the class champion - rock and roll!!!
 
Apologies if this is all bit too enthusiastic and full of myself.  It'll pass soon, I'm sure.

Less power, more mud

September 15th, 2013

Manx End to End Mountain Bike Challenge

I've ridden this 3 times before, and it's almost become a staple of my calendar now.  I've struggled to find an action photograph of me, but this post-event pic is probably worth the following thousand words: 

Muddy & Smiling

 I arrived on the Island Saturday lunchtime, parked the car in Q-Parks in Liverpool, got on the boat full of bicycles, arrived, beat everyone else off the boat and up the hill to Nobles Park to sign on, met Keith who picked me up and took us back to Ramsey, went for a cuppa, with Slick, had a quiet pre-dinner pint in the Traff, then back to Aardvark Towers for pasta and a relatively early night.

 Up at 7:30 on Sunday morning, fuelled with porridge and banana, filled camelback with go-juice, checked and treble-checked supplies, tubes, tools, kit, etc and then the Aardvark Support Crew (Keith) drove me up to the Point of Ayre. The place was already thick with people and bikes.  The entry was limited to 1700 people, and even allowing for a few hundred no-shows, there was still a lot of people there.  And a biting wind, and a hint of rain in the air.  And an hour until the start.  I passed the time sheltering where I could, and chatting to other folk.  It *was* a little bit of a shame not to have any friends there, but I'm a gregarious sort of chap, who will talk to anyone.  Eventually I figured I should get in line for the start, only to realise that a few hundred people had already thought of this.  The start was not well organised this year - there were no flags marking expected pace (4 hours, 5 hours, etc), so the collecting area / line was just a melee.  So I got as far forward as I could, figuring that while there were a few hundred in front of me, it looked like there was about a thousand behind me.

 The time came around to 10am, and the horn went, and the 100 seeded riders were away, and then....nothing.  I could see the start line, and there was a definite gap of a couple of mins before they started setting off the rest of the field. Don't know why, and with everyone having a timing chip, it didn't matter anyway.  We shuffled forward, eventually able to get on and peddle, and I crossed the line at about 10 minutes past 10.

 My plan was to get with a group running a decent pace, and hide from the wind.  Which I mostly managed to do.  It felt like many more people came past me than I went past, but I usually managed to hang on to each fast set for a little while, and spent hardly any time in the wind by myself.  I felt like I was at the right pace, not pushing myself too hard, but hard enough, iyswim.  I'd told Keith that I wouldn't be at The Cronk before 10:45, but checking my watch that was exactly when I did arrive. I looked for Keef, but didn't see him, and he never saw me, either.  A quick look at Google Maps now suggests that The Cronk is 19.4km from the start, which in 35 mins is not a bad pace <sums> Hmm 33km/h, which on a fat tyred sit-up mountain bike is pretty bloody good for me. I knew the first climb of the day was only a few km away, so I paced myself to Ballaugh, but was heading for the first off road section before 11am, which felt like a good time check.

 The weather wasn't as windy as last year, and the rain was holding off.  I headed up the first climb, which is quite a long one, and cycled almost all of it until a chap in front of me lost traction and I had to stop too.  It wasn't a  problem, as it was steep enough that walking was no slower than riding, and pretty much everyone else was pushing too.  Once up onto the top, I knew this year was going to be better than last, as the killer headwind which had greeted us here last year was absent.  But it was wet and muddy up there - there were puddles of mud everywhere, so I communed with my inner ten-year-old and joyously splashed through them.  The route was a little different from last year, and I seemed to be on the run down to food station on the Drysdale road in no time.  In fact it was about 11:45.  Still I felt really good, and unlike previous years felt no need to stop for food or water.

 This part of the route undulates up and down on fire trails and farm tracks.  I generally lost places on the climbs, and gained them on the downs.  I can climb, but I can't do so quickly, so I just have to set a pace that I know I can tap out continuously, and this is where I think I lose out.  But on the downhills I took no prisoners, often going 'off line' to bounce over the bigger rocks past people, cheerily calling 'on your right|left' as I went.  But on some parts it was impossible to overtake - I'm not going to make a big deal out of this, as with the best will in the world, I doubt I could have been slowed more than 5 or 10 minutes over the whole route.  Anyway, only one person overtook me all day going downhill (in the grassy field where I crashed in fine comedy style last year), and I quickly got him back once he'd demonstrated how much grip there actually was.

 Soon enough I was at the check-point at St Johns, and I did stop here to eat something, and drink some proffered water (tho my camelback was still lasting well).  According to the timing system, my first leg took me 2 hours 42 mins, meaning I was there at about 12:50.  As I cycled away on the road I heard "Go Champ!" and looked round to see Andy Cowie of this parish, with the lovely Samantha.  Thanks for turning out to support, guys.

 I then had a bit of a dip - only half-way, and the road turned up again.  I wasn't sure I wanted to do another 2.5 hours on the bike.  This part of the route was different this year, and, I think, slightly easier, but not much - the first off-road climb was bloody steep, and I and everyone around me got off and pushed up it.  And then it was back on for a long, long slog up hill.  If I hadn't been muddy before, I definitely was now, as the ground was sodden.  Still, every so often the route turned downhill, and these bits were fun.  At one point I came across 3~4 people cautiously negotiating a rocky downhill into a hairpin, and I just blitzed past them on the outside in a slither of loose rocks, rode the berm round the corner and accelerated off down the next pitch.  I felt so exhilarated I couldn't help shouting "Woo hoo!" as I did it.  Hope they didn't think I was being rude.

 Shortly after this we headed into the purpose-built single-track section in the Arrassey Plantation, which was properly technical, and very enjoyable.  Unfortunately it was over a little too soon, but then I was soon upon the last food/drink stop.  I checked my watch, and had 40 mins until my target of 5 hours - I wasn't going to make it.  And I needed a break, so forced myself to stop for a couple of mins, eat, top up the camelback (which was nearly empty) and stretch out my legs.  I headed off up the next climb, which I knew was the last real big one.  The food and drink seemed to work, as 20 mins later I felt much better, and was able to ride without suffering too much.  Pretty soon we crested a rise and could see the southern tip of the Island, and I knew it was mostly downhill from here.  The off-road path here is very narrow, making overtaking all but impossible, but the people I caught weren't going much slower than me anyway, and I was able to scoot past on the couple of occasions that the path widened.  Then I was on run down to the road at Port Erin, and soon across to the bottom of the climb up to Cregneash.  This is a real, real killer, but I knew just to put the bike in bottom gear, and tap away.  I was still putting a lot into it, tho, and while I was able to raise my hands above my head as I crossed the finish line (damn I wish I could find a photo) I really needed to get off the bike and lie down for a couple of minutes immediately after.

 But then I was ok, and was able to get up, get a coffee and some cake, and sort out the logistics of meeting up with Keef with a dead phone battery.  Which the wonderful people at Manx Timing Solutions sorted out for me.

 My final time was 5:20:37, and I was in 599th position out of 1263 finishers (although only 1147 made it to the finish - the rest stopped at St Johns)  I crossed the line some 5 or 10 minutes ahead of Connor Cummins, which I was really Very Pleased With Indeed, but the final results placed him some 3 minutes ahead of me, so he must have started a fair bit later.  Damn.

During much of the second leg, I told myself that I wouldn't be doing it again.  And, I think, I probably won't, by myself.  However, if any of my regular cycling friends fancied it, I could almost certainly be talked into it....

First meeting after TT 2013

July 30th, 2013
In order to keep my TT Mountain Course Licence up for next year, I need to do a few more meetings, so went back to the Island to ride Dave Clarke's 650 twin at the Andreas Racing meeting at the end of July. The unexpected summer had extended to the Isle of Man, but was dampened by a storm on Saturday night.  Still, the roads to the circuit were already drying nicely as we drove out from Ramsey to Jurby International Speed Bowl Raceway, and the forecast was for another good day, with maybe the chance of a storm.
 
At the riders briefing there was a minutes silence for the riders lost at the Southern 100 - David Dukes, Paul Thomas and Mark Madsen-Mygdal, and then a parade lap (3 actually) of the whole field, plus some road riders, including Mark's dad Dave, who I've known moderately well since the 1980s. The meeting also had a slightly subdued feel as two local men had died 24 hours earlier when their small fishing boat had overturned.  As is the case with the Island, almost everybody knew them.
 
Practice
By first practice the circuit was completely dry - I got out at the back and felt like I overtook *everybody*.  I was actually disappointed to find I was 8th (middle of the 3rd row), but with local Ramsey mates Steve Ault on one side, and Andy Cowie on the other, we knew we'd have some fun.  My time was a 1:19, which turns out to be the pace I got down to last time out at Jurby on the twin, so not a bad start.  This event is referred to by Keith as "The Wacky Races", as it's a combined grid of 'post-classics', 'singles, twins & triples' and 'steelies'.
 
Second practice (for 650 twins & 400 fours) didn't feel a whole lot faster, but was - a low 1:16, putting me third on the grid!  Front row!!!  Pole was local hotshot Callum Callister, and 2nd was Johnny Barton, who was 12th in the Lightweight TT with his twin, so no slouch.
 
Races
First race was the first Wacky Race, gridded with mates Steve & Andy.  I managed to beat Andy (on the venerable Thundercat) off the line, but Steve launched his TL1000 well, and showed no fear in the traffic.  I got behind him, into 9th place, and then followed him for 5 frustrating laps - my bike was much more nimble through all the direction changes, but Steve's 1000cc v-twin leapt off the corners, and he was good on the brakes too.  I kept harrying, waiting for a mistake, and he made one - on the last corner - just outbraking himself a little and leaving room for me to get up the inside.  
8th place overall, 2nd in class, best lap 1;16.2
 
Second race was the 650 twins/400 fours.  I took my unfamiliar position on the front row, the lights changed, and pole man Collister fluffed the start.  Johnny Barton and I leapt through.  I'd only recently come in from my first race, while Callum and Johnny only entered the 650 twins, so I 'had my eye in', and charged after JB down the back straight, noting that my bike was actually a bit quicker, and maybe I could make a move on the flat-out kink 'Snuffies', but thought better of it...but Callulm Collister had no such compunction, and stuffed it underneath me.  He spent another half-lap getting past Johnny, and then cleared off.  I kept Johnny honest for the rest of the race, losing time through backmarkers then clawing it back, and was very pleased that he was only two-anna-bit seconds ahead at the flag.
3rd place, best lap 1:14.0
 
When I checked the results, I was actually lost for words.  A 1:14!!! A 1:14.zero?!?!?  How had I found 5 seconds since first practice? How was I riding up with the likes of Johnny Barton and Callum Connister (who, it has to be said, did a 1:12.2).  Hmmm
 
Bit of a break before the second run through the card, so it was out of leathers and into shorts for the glorious Jurby weather.  Not a sentence I've written many times.
 
For the second outing in the Wacky Races, I knew I had to get ahead of Steve Ault from the start.  I got a great launch, but so did he, and we both ran around the row in front, him on the left, me on the right.  He arrived at the chicane slightly in front, but on a very tight line, and I just forced my way round the outside. First job done.  There were 4 steelies in front of me, but the one just ahead looked a bit ragged.  I pressed on, and a lap later he ran wide at the flat kink Snuffies, sitting up and heading for the grass.  In the heat of battle, I shouted 'Yes!' inside my helmet.  I suspect I have issues...   I focussed on the 3 steelies ahead, but they slowly but surely out-paced me.  Still, first in class would do...until John Craine came past on the last lap on his 675 Triumph.  D'oh.  I'd been caught napping.
5th place, 2nd in class, best lap 1:14.8
 
Last race was the 650 twins, 400 fours.  This was back to back with the Wacky Races, so unlike Callum and Johnny, I had hot tyres and my race face on.  The flag dropped, I stuck the front wheel in the air, got it down, and followed them both into the first corner.  But I was able to get better drive onto the back straight than Johnny, and got past cleanly before Snuffies.  I focussed so hard braking into the bus-stop that I miscounted the down-changes and ended up in first, with the rear wheel all over the place.  But I kept it together, and kept my head down.  Callum road away from me (another fastest lap of 1:12.2 from him), but while I expected a challenge from Johnny, it didn't come.
2nd place, best lap 1:14.7
 
 
So - two 2nds in class in the Wacky Races (both behind a 675 Triumph) and a 3rd and then a 2nd in the 650 twins.  A bloody good day out, in glorious weather.  Drink was taken later that evening.

Moments...

June 9th, 2013

I'm sat on the ferry, sailing away from the magical Isle of Man.  This might be my last post for a little while, so I thought I'd just try and capture some moments from the last two weeks

  • first night of practice, unable to figure out much of the circuit, and wondering if I'd made a huge mistake
  • Second night of practice, flying the ZX10R between the hedges, and loving and revelling in the power (and wheelies)
  • Standing in the queue for the portaloos in Parc Ferme with Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald, amongst other famous TT racers
  • Hearing that my friend, Inky Anne, was OK after her outfit crashed at the Les Graham Memorial
  • Lining up for the start of my first TT race, the six lap Superbike, waiting for the flag, and launching down Bray Hill
  • Wheeling off the yumps after Ballagearey on the run through Glen Vine
  • Wheeling off the yumps after Cronky Voddy on the way down to the 11th Milestone
  • Standing on the pegs to try and turn the bike through Barregarrow
  • Finishing my first TT, and barely being able to get off the bike afterwards
  • Starting all 7 solo races, and finishing 5 of them
  • Lining up on the grid on the ManTTX electric bike in the TT Zero race
  • Jumping from a slow 100mph average to a much more respectable 107mph on the Supertwin in my second practice on it
  • Clocking 14th fastest time, at 109mph, in the last practice on the twin.
  • Catching and passing people in the first lap of the Lightweight
  • Racing back and forth against Maria Costello for 2 laps, and passing her on the way in to Ballagarey, and again alongside over the jump at the Wagon and Horses
  • Getting it damn near perfect round the Mountain Box on the twin
  • Becoming more and more comfortable with the fast and scary corners - Ballagarey, Crosby, Gorse Lee, the end of Cronky Voddy, Hillberry.  
  • Finishing 17th in the Lightweight, with a last lap of 110mph, and winning a replica
  • Managing a 116.7mph on the ZX10R in the Senior (but so wanting it to be 117 or 118...)
  • Catching and passing Paul Ducket in the Senior (until he woke up and got back past and cleared off)
  • Finishing the six lap Senior TT
  • Receiving my replica and finisher's medal from Phil McCallen
  • Having my dad there to see all the races
  • Doing all the above with the help of my mates Alex, Simon, Barry, Keith, Adie, Andy, Virginia, Alex H, Mike, and my dad, amongst many, many others.  And (mostly) having a laugh along the way.

Senior Race Day

June 8th, 2013

The Senior Race is the traditional closing race of the TT, the last race over the Mountain Course on the Friday afternoon of race week.  After a fairly relaxing day off on Thursday, we were back on it this mornng - the crew (Alex, Simon and Keith) were up at six and in the paddock at 8am, and I drove over from Ramsey with my dad not long after.

The main race of the day for us was the Lightweight, for 650 twins, as this was the one I had the best chance of any sort of result in.  The first 20 riders in the programme are seeded, and start in that order - everyone else is in qualifying time order.  Wednesdays practice time (see here) didn't count for this, so I was to start in 27th place, which was quite a bit further up the grid than the other races.  The race start had been brought forward 30 minutes to 10:15, which was a bit of a surprise, but we were all ready to roll.   As we lined up on Glencrutchery Road, it was another beautiful hot and sunny day on the Isle of Man - surely the best race week weather I've ever seen.  I paddled forward, got to the front of the queue, waited for the flick of the Manx flag, and once again was away down Bray Hill.

I knew the trick was going to be getting up to speed quickly on my first lap - while I'd done 109mph on Wednesday afternoon, that was after 4 laps of the 600 race, so I 'had my eye in', so to speak.  But I felt pretty good as I headed round the course, and was encouraged to see other bikes ahead of me, meaning I was making ground on earlier starters.  I think I passed three people on the first lap, but I also got passed by Maria Costello, who had started 10 seconds behind me.

The preferred strategy for a three lap race is to pit at the end of lap 1, which I did, along with most of the field.  As always, the crew handled this impeccably, and I soon away on lap two.  I caught Maria again and got past, and hoped I might be able to get the 10 seconds start difference back from her, but she was having none of it, and came back at me again.  In fact, the last two laps were a great battle, back and forth, and speaking to her afterwards, she was having as much fun as I was.  It almost went wrong at the end of Sulby Straight, when after draughting past her I ran out of brakes for Sulby Bridge, and had to use the run off while Maria swept away to Ginger Hall, no doubt laughing in her crash helmet.  But I only lost a few seconds, and got my head down over the bumps to Ramsey, and made most of it back up as we started the climb over the mountain for the last time.  By now I knew Maria was going to beat me, as there was no way I could make up 10 seconds in the last 12~13 miles, but I still wanted to finish ahead, and managed a pass over the top.  But Maria wanted to finish ahead too, and was right alongside as we took the chequered flag.  The results sheet says she was ahead of me by 6/1000ths of a second at the line!  Plus, of course, the 10 seconds that she made up after starting behind me.  

I had a couple of targets for this race - to do a 110mph lap, to get a replica (bronze for finishing within 110% of the race winner's time, silver for 105%), and to maybe get into the top 15 (for which there is prize money!).  Well, I managed the 110mph lap on the last lap, and got a bronze replica too, but only managed 17th place.  It's the nature of racing that you always want to do better, but I'm very happy with this result.  If it hadn't been for the exceptional pace at the front of the field (4mph fastet than practice!), the bronze replica might have been a silver, but I certainly can't complain about that.

Lightweight TT Results

There was only around 90 minutes from finishing the Lightweight race to the start of the Senior, in which time I had to rehydrate, eat something, clean my visor and fit new tear-offs, and generally get prepared.  All of which was managed, and the race was started and I was about 4 or 5 back from the start gate when there was a delay, and we were told that the race had been red-flagged.  There had been a big incident at the bottom of Bray Hill, with a bike crashing into the crowd and injuring multiple spectators.  80% of the field was out on the course, so in a way I was lucky not to have started, and we could just put the bike bacl in Parc Ferme.

There was an extensive delay - 11 spectators were taken to hospital, although thankfully none of their injuries were life threatening; also, the rider was perfectly ok.  But the police needed to record the scene, and clear the carnage up, and all the bikes round the course had to be brought back to the paddock, and then re-fueled and fitted with fresh tyres (for the top teams), etc.  There was even a question mark over whether, with 11 new arrivals at A&E, Nobles hospital had the capacity to cope with any other casualities that might result during the race.  But eventually it was announced that the race would restart, for the the full six laps, at 4:30pm, so we went through the whole start process again, and this time the race got away cleanly.  

For this, the last race of the week, my aim was to just enjoy myself, relax a bit and see if a bit more speed came from not trying too hard.  I'd found in the Lightweight race that I could carry a lot more corner speed through a lot of corners than I had realised, in a higher gear than I had initially tried, and I hoped a similar 'more haste, less speed' approach might work well on the 1000, as well as being less physically demanding.  So with this in mind, I covered the initial laps to Ballacraine, and was pleased to see another bike in the distance - perhaps it was working?   In fact it was, as my opening lap was the fastest of the whole fortnight, but also the rider in front of me, Paul Duckett, was having an erratic start to his Senior race.  I caught him eventually, diving underneath at School House corner on the way into Ramsey,  but he came back past me on the start/finish (I must be really rubbish ou of Govenors Dip, as I've been passed a lot on the start straight....).  So I chased him again, getting back past att he 13th where he was inexplicably slow on the exit towards Kirkmichael.  This was job done, I thought, and headed round and across the mountain to my first pit stop.  But then on lap three Ducky came past again, and this time just cleared off into the distance.  Speaking to him later, he told me he'd "been asleep" for the first two laps.

While I wasn't finding riding the ZX10R as tiring as I had in the opening race , it was still pretty physical.  Right at the end of lap three the two leaders on the roads, John McGuiness and James Hillier, came past me at Govenors Dip, but then immediately headed into their 4th lap pit-stop.  This was sort of expected - they started over 10 minutes ahead of me, and were lapping more than 2 laps a minute faster.  Of course, at that pace they quickly made up the 45~60 seconds that spent in the pits, and came past me again about half-way round the course.  Now I was aware of being caught by the front guys, of course, made obvious by pit boards being made ready in hedges, and the TV helicopters in the air.  But only a couple more actually came past on my fifth lap, and then once I'd started the sixth I knew the fast boys would all be finished.  I was relieved to be on my last lap, and knew that I was slowing down, but it's easy to make a fatal mistake in these circumstances, so tried hard to keep my concentration up.  It was enormously gratifying that all around the circuit, despite being the last bike on the roads, hundreds and hundreds of people in the crowd waved as a I passed them. 

As I came down the mountain to Douglas, I knew I was going to finish my final TT race, and the most prestigious, the Senior TT.  I took the chequered flag and gratefully pulled off the road onto the pit return lane.  Again, 100s of people clapped and cheered me - what a feeling!  Simon was waiting to take the bike from me, and Keith had to help me remove my gloves before I could get my helmet off -  I was done in.

Senior TT Results

My fastest lap was the opening one - 19:23.822, which is 116.709mph - which is my fastest ever round the TT course.  And my total race time was under 2 hours, which was also very pleasing.  There were around 67 starters and I finished 47th out of 50 finishers.  Very much at the back of the field, but as everyone says, finishing a Senior TT is achievement enough.