Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Camas man goes for gold (flag), holds torch

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Courtesy of Drew Colburn Drew Colburn mans a marshal's post in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race.

As the Olympic flame made its way to London for the 2012 Games, Drew Colburn got to do a quick bit of torch-bearing.

Colburn also got to do a lot of flag-waving at a major international sporting event in the British Isles — but not in the sense of “USA! USA!”

His flag-waving was more in the spirit of “slow down, or you will die.”

The Camas resident volunteered as a course marshal in June during the 2012 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle races. It’s a series of high-speed, high-risk events that Colburn describes as “the world’s most dangerous race.”

It was the third time in four years the motorcycle enthusiast has volunteered at the event on the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland.

It’s a great way to see the racing action close-up, Colburn said. The 373/4-mile road course is closed for the race, so the action passes houses and through towns along the route.

“You’re within touching distance of the riders,” he said.

Colburn has worked as a radio operator and flagger at spots along the course.

“You warn them (the racers) if there is debris on the track or low visibility,” he said.

At the points where Colburn was working, “they were going by at from 115 to 130 mph,” he said.

So, while you get to see the action up close, you don’t get to see it for long.

“It’s hard to read the number on the bike,” he said. “You identify it by the color” of the bike or what the rider is wearing.

The pace slowed considerably on June 2, when the Olympic torch relay visited the Isle of Man on its way to London.

Police constables Malcolm Walkden and Daniel Crompton helped Colburn track the torch along the relay route.

At the exchange point, “I asked an Olympic official, ‘Hey, mate: Can I have a go at holding the torch?’ He hesitated, and said, ‘Yeah, but hurry!'”

Constable Crompton snapped one photo before the Olympic official grabbed the torch back, relit it and handed it to a runner.

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.