By now I was riding so far over my head that it was only by the grace of God that I was still upright. I was braking so late into the corners, I could barely hold onto the bars as the fork twisted and rattled and bottomed out from the punishment. I only backed off the gas long enough to keep from punching a hole in the fence—but I still couldn’t get away from McQueen.
I couldn’t go any faster—but neither could he. Something had to give, and on the last lap it did. Running flat-out in fourth gear down the fastest part of the track, my front wheel found a giant hole, and the bike instantly went into full-endo mode, pitching violently forward. I saved it just in time to see McQueen pass me in a shower of ugly brown dirt.
I began to take suicidal chances to catch him. I full-throttled jumps that I would have normally treated with fearful respect. I found new, fast lines—and it was paying off. With three turns left to the finish, I was 20 feet behind and closing fast…
Hesitation equals failure, and for me, failure meant getting beaten by a 41-year-old actor
If any got in the way, Intermediates were viewed as little more than obstructions to forwa
Long before the money and the fame, Steve McQueen earned the right to call himself a racer
With the final turn in sight, I moved to the outside and held on. I would rather crash than fail! McQueen heard me on the outside, so dove deeper toward the inside of the corner and squared it off.
And then it was over: He beat me by a couple of inches at the checkered flag. I didn’t slow down even after we crossed the finish line.
I was taking off my boots when my dad came by, carrying a folded yellow piece of paper. It was the sign-up sheet from the day’s races. I turned it over, and written on it was, “All the best, Steve McQueen.”
I had ridden harder and faster than I ever had before, and maybe McQueen had, too. We beat the hell out of each other for 30 laps, and only a millisecond separated us at the finish line. No amount of money or fame could have bought him his placing today; he earned it with his skills, determination and courage. I still have that piece of paper—and a vivid memory of racing against the King of Cool.