Paul Broome, who grew up in Guilden Sutton and went to Upton High School, is now back in his adopted home of New Orleans after being the first of five British bike racers home in the Dakar Rally. He tells The Chronicle what the race meant to him.
ALTHOUGH I'm now back at home, I still wake in the middle of the night thinking I am in the rally.
The race was only 16 days long, but four days in it felt like it was my whole life. I couldn't remember a time before it and I couldn't envisage it ever finishing!
It was all you'd think about - you got up when you were told, got on your bike and rode.
My emotions soared higher and lower than I ever thought possible. Even when I heard that my friend Elmer Symons had died, it was necessary to file this horrendous moment in the back of my mind so I could continue and deal with it later.
Elmer lost his life in an accident in Morocco. He was a South African living in the US and he was staying at the same hotel as us in Lisbon at the start.
We got to know each other - he was a really nice guy. Before the race, I remember wishing that I could be more like him. He was the youngest of our group and the most enthusiastic.
But, despite the tragedy, I could only allow myself to think about getting to Dakar - nothing else. It's horrible but that's the only way to reach the finish.
The glossy Dakar Rally you see on TV with the front-running professionals is a completely different rally to the one the amateurs take part in.
The top 20 professionals are racing each other. For the rest of us, it is always a race against the clock.
Only the strongest survive. You see people sliding as the days go on, getting further and further towards the back. Starting later, arriving later, more exhausted - one day, they're simply left behind.
There were times when I wanted to just stop, get off the bike and go home.
But the thought of my family, friends, sponsors and especially my girlfriend Susan kept me going.
I knew the rally wasn't just about me. There were friends and fellow motorcyclists who were living their dream through me.
People were sitting at their computers following my every movement - I couldn't let them down.
Sometimes I secretly wished the engine would fail or the bike would break. But that Honda engine never gave up, so neither did I.
So what do I do now? This moment is pretty scary. All of a sudden, I don't have 1,000 things to do every day to get ready for the rally.
I don't need to get up at 4am to run 10 miles, train on the motorcycle and sort out sponsorships.
Would I go back? Yes, in a heartbeat. I've learned some valuable lessons and feel that I could definitely get a very good finish on the right bike with the right sponsorship.
In the meantime, I plan to write a book, marry Susan and start a family. That seems easy now.