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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 10/02/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) ''It were nothing bad. I mean, I broke my back and just hurt, like, some ribs and my legs. But it's all part of it. Nothing serious.'' 

There's no sense of false bravado in the statement or its matter-of-fact delivery by Guy Martin. He's used to the disbelieving looks.

''No, nothing serious,'' he emphasises. It would be easy to take him at his word if not for prior knowledge of his 275kmph motorcycle crash in the famed Isle of Man TT in 2010.

The record-setting British motorcyclist, popular TV personality and lorry mechanic' should, by all rights, have been killed by the crash's impact or been consumed by the giant fireball it produced. Instead, he walked away with punctured lungs and broken vertebrae. And the legend of 'Mad' Guy Martin grew. It grew further still with his return to the most dangerous race in the world in subsequent years.

''It's a part of racing motorbikes, having a crash... Wouldn't change a thing. You need the lows to appreciate the highs,'' the self-described ''speed freak'' said, when asked if he was worried about going through something like that again.

''Yeah, I'm always crashing. Well, not always. I didn't last year.'' Nor last week at the fourth annual Trans Hajar Mountain Bike Race, in which Martin was an enthusiastic, if inexperienced, participant in a 90-strong field of professional bikers.

Though as assured a rider on pushbike as on motorbike, Martin wasn't competing for the prize money in his Oman debut, only the pride of accomplishment. Held at Al Salil village, an hour's drive from Muscat, the gruelling, four-day race over distances, both long and short, on rugged gravel tracks, rolling, graded trails and a rock garden, with steep ascents and deceptive hills made harsh demands of his technique and biking nous.

''I've done 24-hour solo races for years. I thought, looking in from the outside, the race was going to be easy,'' Martin said, wolfing down spoonfuls of salad.

''The days are not so long and the distances are nothing really. But it was faster than I like. Sprint racing is not my thing. It was an eye-opener.''

Though benefitting from cloud cover for much of the race stages and the early starts, the mercury did become a factor. ''I didn't account for the heat, coming from an English winter,'' he admitted.

Hard to make the transition to 20-plus racing conditions when you are just a plane-journey removed from racing in sub-zero temperatures. He'll go back only with ''a lot of learning, a lot of learning,'' but there was one record he was proud to have intact.

''I haven't crashed a mountain bike yet. Didn't want to be crashing here either; thought it might be a long time before I get found. And I didn't want to have to cut my own arm off!''

While there was little danger of a 127 Hours-like scenario playing out, burst tyres and shifty soft soil hold hazards of their own. When your shoelaces are clipped' to a bike that's high enough to keep your feet ofthe ground, even the gentlest trails and littlest stones become factors. Hubris hurts.

''I don't fear it though. I always think what will be, will be. I take everyday as it comes.'' Which is why Martin hadn't prepared himself (''haven't scouted ahead or planned strategies'') or his bright-orange bike for the desert (truthfully, he ''didn't know how'') and why he competed at (some would say) a disadvantage compared to his more-seasoned rivals.

''I didn't wear lycra-spandex and I didn't shave my legs. I wore different (the usual) tops and shoes. And, yes, a roadbike helmet.''

A necessary concession, Martin agreed. One his worried, disapproving mother is glad for. It's likely saved his life more than once over the years as he's tackled treacherous race courses and tested his limits. On his TV show last year, he broke the British absolute motor-paced cycling record, pedalling at over 180kmph and clocked a world-best 134kmph sledging down a ski slope.

Other ''wild, mad even, but controlled larks'' have included lake-surfing on a motorcross bike despite ''always ending up in the hospital when riding one''.

''If I smell motorcross bike, I think hospital. All the time,'' he laughed. That mix of derring-do and debonair has proved irresistible to his legions of followers, not all of whom are necessarily motorsport fans. There are social media sites devoted to his many on-camera, off-the-cuff cracks and his sometimes incomprehensible Lincolnshire farmhand accent (that's ''fahhhmhand'').

Not that he's noticed. ''I don't have the Internet or a television at home. This is my telephone (he holds out an antique). I just don't need the information,'' Martin said, running a hand through the trademark auburn Wolverine' sideburns the 30-something been ''growing since I was 16''.

''But that's all part of my television life. I lead two separate lives now. I have my normal life, work and racing. And then I have my TV life, which is very different. It's two very different people. At home, I'm always in the shed. Soon as I finish work, I'm working on making things go faster.

''It isn't really the speed thing that attracts me. I love to make stuff go faster. Altering the engines, altering the chassis.'' It was this, his first love that the speed fascination came from. ''As a six year old, I used to take apart lawn mowers to pieces C to make them go faster. I didn't start motorbiking till I was 19.'' The rough, calloused hands and black under-nails attest to his love for his self-defining 'greasemonkey' identity as a truck mechanic.

''Fixing lorries, not the TV, is my favourite job. Been that way since I was a child. My father is one (and a former racer himself). So it's in the blood, I suppose. And it's just grown from there. ''There's a lot more pressure to work on the lorries than on the TV. I would never say TV is my job. You get job satisfaction. I don't really get that from the TV.''

A fortnight after that crash in 2010, he was back at work. It was ''hard'' for him to ''take another week off from work'' to come race in Muscat, though it was the ''chance of a lifetime''.

His flight home was on Sunday. He's back to work on Monday. But now that he's got the race under his belt, he knows what to expect if he gets another invite to Oman. Being put up in a tent for the duration of the race wasn't a problem, neither scorpions nor snakes. And he loved being able to walk about without drawing attention.

''It's just all this hair. It's too much. If I'm back, I might just shave it off. Everything but the sideburns.'' No. Not mad. Not really. Just different.


A Mad Dash To The Top

Martin has never won the Isle of Man TT (left), but has 13 podium finishes in nine attempts.

In his TV documentary, Speed with Guy Martin, Martin and his team broke the British and Commonwealth motor-paced cycling record, at a speed of 180kmph behind a modified racing truck.

In the same show, he also set a new world sledge speed record of 134kmph down a 37 slope in Andorra on a


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