There's something not quite at this year's Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races this year. It's probably one of my favourite events I look forward to all year. Sure, I love the MotoGP and world Superbikes, but that 60-odd kilometre Snaefell Mountain Course is something else.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The speeds the riders reach on those narrow, off-camber and bumpy public roads hemmed in most of the time by either houses or flint stone walls defies belief.
It is a track on which the smallest of mistakes can be fatal — there have been 257 deaths, including two so far this year, on the Isle of Man TT course. Seven New Zealanders have been killed since 1911.
Gone are the days when regular Grand Prix riders used to make the annual sojourn across the Irish Sea to risk life and limb. These days it's only the hardy, or in some cases the plain mad, who hurl themselves around the narrow country lanes at breakneck speeds.
My issue this late May early June, is that one of New Zealand's unsung motorcycle racing legends, Bruce Anstey, is not racing this year. It seems strange to sit down in front of the television and look through the rider starting list and not see Anstey's name in any category. I reckon it's the first time since 2002 (although he did have the odd start in the late 1990s) that the Kiwi's name hasn't appeared.
The 13-time TT winner has 38 podium finishes, and is a former outright lap record holder, has been struck down with cancer, again. Anstey's racing career was well on track to greatness when out of the blue he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1995. He managed to race in 1996 but had to miss out in 1997 having to undergo treatment.
Recovering from his treatment he made a comeback and over the years become one the most successful and respected public road racers winning at the Isle of Man (both the TT and the Classic TT), the Ulster Grand Prix and the North West 200 and collecting more podiums at all three than you can poke a stick at.
For those who truly understand motorcycle racing, those three public road courses are the fiercest in the world, and the most lethal. To race on just one of them you must have nerves of steel, but to have won on all three numerous times, and hold the lap record, some would suggest you might have to be a bit mad.
Anstey is by no means mad, in fact he's so laid back people who meet him think he's about to doze off. While not quite a recluse, the Kiwi has no interest in publicity and is a very reluctant interviewee, shunning the majority of requests for a chat unless you just happen to be at the circuit.
That reluctance to to be in the public eye is no doubt why it was on his partner's social media site that the racing world discovered that earlier this year Anstey was diagnosed with cancer again, this time in his lungs and on his spine, in addition to a blood clot on one of his lungs, ruling him out of racing for the 2018 season.
"So folks, some of you already know our s*** news," Ramsey wrote on Facebook. "Unfortunately Brucey has become ill. He has multiple tumours in his lungs and a tumour on his spine and a blood clot on the lung just to kick him while his [sic] down.
"I doubt very much Bruce will see any racing this year but we won't rule that out lol. He is waiting for a treatment plan and should be starting it very soon.
"Sorry for the s*** news folks. Onwards and upwards."