Article – Risks accentuate the bravery and tragic clarity of choice

DEREK BRIEN is the third. This year, he’s the third. The 36-year-old died at the mystically named Gorse Lea. They often do die somewhere beautifully named. Snaefell Mountain, Rhencullen, Stonebreakers Hut. Ballaugh Bridge. Greeba Castle. Lambfell Cottage. Peaceful names, remote places, sometimes on a majestic sweep of mountain with nothing but the stone walls and greenery. Laurel Bank. Gob-o-Geay. Glentramman. Brien’s tragedy is piled high on the list of names of those who have perished at the Isle of Man TT and again brings us to one of the most defiant pieces of rock on the planet. Like Everest the island accepts the riders every year and every year it takes a few. The unofficial list now is 234 deaths, not including officials or spectators. Everest’s appetite is just short of that and lists vary but one estimate stops at 216 deaths with around 150 bodies still on the mountain. Within a month Brien’s crash brings together two Irish people that died for the sports that thrilled them. On May 21st John Delaney failed to come down the mountain, the added anguish to his family being that his body remains in the Everest ice near the summit. Perhaps there is a strange comfort in that, and also for the family of Brien. What consumed both was more than a dalliance with the intrinsic appeal of danger but a relationship, familiar and natural, one that gave enormous pleasure. The Isle of Man TT is as stunning a spectacle as you will ever see. It is a place where mortality is force fed, where the riders appear to go too fast into bends but somehow come out the far side, where they rear out of the seat to use their bodies as air brakes, smash into birds at 180mph, hit sticks on the road, find slippery bits of white line on hairpin bends. It is the community as much as the sports themselves that are the attraction. Extreme bike racing and mountaineering are lifestyles and asking people to stop contributing to the body count is to ask them to change their lives because of our own buttoned-up sensibilities and infatuation with living safe and long. It is to say that doing one thing with a life is better than another. In that debate the bravery and the tragic clarity of choice of Brien and Delaney seems a creditable one to take. Saturday 10th June, John Watterson.
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