One of my favourite MotoGP riders - Marco Simoncelli - was killed in the Malaysia race on Sunday.
I have hardly watched any races all year as I have hardly been at home at the weekends - unfortunately I did watch this one, and saw the awful crash. Everyone knew straight away that it was really bad, and I hoped against hope that somehow the outcome would be better than it looked.
He was a rider who has had a very controversial year - some very hard passes on some other racers, and some big names at that! - but also some brilliant, gutsy riding that has had many people shrieking with sheer joy at some of the moves he has pulled off. Some have ended in a crash shortly afterwards, but some have stuck and he had some fantastic results beating the full factory riders on many an occasion.
At the age of 24, it feels so cruel that we won't get to watch him race again. In a world full of riders who have been drilled for international sports stardom since a very young age, and who seem to have lost all ability to share the joy they surely must feel when they race bikes on the international stage, Marco was someone who stood out as a bit mad, a bit crazy (not least because of his huge hair!), extremely talented, and completely in love with racing.
I have been lucky enough to do some racing, and OK it's never been anywhere near that level. But the thrill of defying gravity as you tip into a bend, and chasing and/or being chased by someone else, and the sensation of not quite knowing if your next move is going to be rewarded with a higher finishing position or a trip to the gravel (possibly even to A&E!). Well I can relate to those.
Many ask the question, is it worth it? Seeing that crash, I have to say I did wonder. But then I reminded myself of how I feel when I'm on my bike in a race, and I know that it is absolutely worth it. It's like concentrating everything down into just a few minutes, but those few minutes are so gloriously intense. They may be intensely bad, or intensely good, but there's no halfway between.
I don't have any children or other dependents. I am lucky that my family support me in what I do, and are happy as long as I am happy. We have had our own tragedies in my family (as all families do) and we know the importance of seizing every moment and not taking the future for granted.
This sometimes means I am unable to plan for the future - for me it just may never come - and this makes me overly hedonistic at times. I would love to find a way to balance a little bit of planning so I am not left short, and can do the things I want to do, without feeling that I am missing out on the present and not living my life to the full.
Marco, I loved watching you race. I loved hearing you stand up for yourself and challenging those you didn't agree with. I will take your passing as a reminder that I definitely need that thrill of racing, and I can't live without it for too much longer.