Bruce Anstey: 'The doctors don't know how I'm still here' - Kiwi road racer talks about cancer battle

Bruce Anstey
Bruce Anstey made a winning return to road racing at the 2019 Classic TT after receiving treatment for cancer

When Bruce Anstey announced in April 2018 that he would be sitting out the forthcoming road racing season because of illness it came as a major shock to the sport's closely knit fraternity.

It was widely known that the popular New Zealander had previously been diagnosed with and received treatment for cancer but news that the illness had returned was met with a wave of sympathy and concern.

Anstey's partner Anny revealed on a Facebook post at the time that he had "multiple tumours in his lungs and a tumour on his spine and a blood clot on the lung".

The 52-year-old's impressive racing CV to date includes 12 Isle of Man TT wins, plus 13 and 10 victories respectively at the Ulster Grand Prix and North West 200 international events.

But in addition to his rare talent and exploits on the track, it is the quietly-spoken Kiwi's affable personality and laid-back attitude that have endeared him to legions of road racing fans across the world.

'I'm a bit of a mystery to the doctors'

"I had cancer 25 years ago and it decided to come back in 2018," explained Anstey.

"I've been struggling with that, going through all the chemotherapy again, it's been a bit of a slog.

"By the second half of 2019 I was just starting to come right and won the 250cc race at the Classic TT on the Isle of Man, then Covid hit and I just had to keep out of the way for the last couple of years as my immune system is all shot.

"It's all good now. I had another small operation in 2019 to get rid of the last of it and I've been clear since then although I am still having blood tests every three months.

"The first time I had the treatment I really struggled but 25 years on the drugs stop you feeling as sick so that was much better.

"It was still hard but it seemed a lot easier this time as I knew what I was in for.

"The doctors still don't know if the cancer was the original one or the new one. They don't know how I'm still here really, so I'm a bit of a mystery to them."

'Where do I start' - TT legend Anstey on fighting cancer & racing return

Anstey's ability to contend for major wins despite competing at just a selected few meetings each season has confounded observers of the sport for years and his consistency is evidenced by the fact that he achieved at least one podium finish at all three major internationals for 14 consecutive years between 2002 and 2015.

The Wellington rider was a Superbike TT winner in 2015, the same year that his achievements were recognised by his native country when he became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours.

He is also a former lap record holder for both the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course and the Ulster Grand Prix course at Dundrod.

'Classic TT in 2022 the goal'

"I don't know if I'll do the main TT again as I don't think I'm strong enough to do six laps," said Anstey of his plans for the future.

"But I really want to get out in the Classic TT again - maybe do the 500 and 250 races - that's my goal and hopefully that will happen in 2022.

"I definitely want to do the Classic TT and maybe some other bits and pieces in between.

"I'm just glad to be here and plan to get out there, enjoy life and have as much fun as possible."

Now resident in Northern Ireland

Bruce Anstey celebrates a victory in the 2017 Ulster Grand Prix with his wife Annie
Bruce Anstey celebrates a victory in the 2017 Ulster Grand Prix with his wife Annie

Previously resident in Windsor, outside London, Anstey is now living in the village of Cullybackey in county Antrim after recently moving to Northern Ireland with Anny.

"We needed a change. It's a lot quieter than where I was outside London and we are looking forward to it.

"I was at the Cookstown 100 on Saturday and it was great to be back out and about as I haven't been out for a long time.

"I hadn't been at a bikes meeting since 2019 so it was good to meet some old friends. Everybody is so friendly and it was nice to have a chat with everyone. It had been such a long time with Covid and everything."

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