New season. New bike. New team.
Sunday saw the 2013 Elite League opener, and a proper clash of the titans, Horspath v Wednesfield. Prior to the meeting we were talking with Mark Boaler about the pressure being on us. After all we were at home and simply could not afford a slip up. Not a comfortable position to be in, first match of the season. Points lost in that match could never be recovered,it is much easier to lead than it is to follow. I know that, as we have been always chasing Hammers and praying for their slip up, while with Leicester. Two seasons ago they have snatched the title on points difference only, so obviously we simply had to win.
We have a few new faces around the Village this year, me being one of them. Although I know all the people from my first spell with the club, it is still kind of a fresh start. Being on that side of the pits does bring a lot of good memories, great wins, good friendships, simply good times. It fills you with confidence and gives you a massive boost. To be a home team around the tricky Horspath track lifts a massive weight off your shoulders. Great talent around you, and vast experience would be a perfect combination of a winning team.
Track surface was very demanding, after heavy rains night before. It was tyre packed and looked really smooth, but you can just sense how technical it will become after a couple of rides. I was out in second race and had a grid 4 to start with. After an awful gate I was back against the wall last out of the first corner, but I felt quick around the track, I quickly split the Aces apart going around Lee, to be fair he was more interested in covering his lines from Wayne Hutt’s challenges. I had to ride tactically as Griff wasn’t shifting at all, and Lee was on my tail. I knew I would only have on last chance on the last bend. I did have the line, but sunk in the depths of Horspath’s shale. In the meantime Wednesfield were falling apart, clearly nerves played a massive part. exclusions followed by non starts from the gate gave us a healthy cushion, they started claiming the inside. My second ride before the interval was again of the outside, this time I have been given 2 following last heats misfortunes, we didn’t want to find ourselves at the back again. After a defensive gate I have set off to give Ben Mould a bit of runaround. Caught him quickly and made a pass on pits bend. Fair play to him he has stayed on his bike, as he received a bit of a blow. Next race, after the interval I was up against my old team mate Craig Marchant. Craig is a starting specialist so I knew I had to pull on out of the bag as his elbows seems to be reaching from kerb to kerb. I had Heardy on my right too, just to make it more interesting. After two pedals I was up on Craig, but his elbow, hitting my hip or side slowed me just enough to give Paul enough edge to commit into the first corner which resulted in a pile up.
Had to change the front wheel quickly, as my tyre slipped off the rim slightly causing an optical wheel buckle. Second time of asking I must have the quickest start of the meeting, cleared Craig by a mile and won comfortably. Next race was a similar scenario, off the outsides again, grid 2, Marchant on the line. I didn’t make the start so I took care of the man on the outside and was happy in second. As the race went by, my partner got excluded which left me on my own and Craig’s pace was giving me no room to race at all, which ended up with me coming last and a throw away 7:2. After the match Bob Prince, the referee for the day said that he could not see what happened between me and Craig as he was busy excluding Rudman, which is fair enough, Horspath must be the most difficult track to ref anyway. I have made an error, should have look behind rather than forward.
Last race of the day was heat 18, luckily meeting was already won. I had Ben on the line, I was on 2 with Heardy on 3 and Boaler on the outside. Again, got a good gate from the start, but Paul’s incredible pace going into the first bend was too much for me, squashed again managed to round off Ben and chased after Heard. I was catching him, but not enough to even attempt any manoeuvre, the boy is fast. Important thing is we got the win. First match out of our way, we know where we are, and I know where I am. Inconsistency from the tapes, I need to better my reaction, I know I can gate really well on that Archie, as I did in that race with Craig, I just need to gain that focus, get concentrated.
Next race is in two weeks, first away fixture at Sheffield. It will be an extremely difficult encounter. Sheffield have a super strong team this year. They are also highly underestimated. The only good thing about them is that their best riders don’t enjoy their home track as much as they should and they have a couple of riders that haven’t been racing for some time, which could be tricky, coming back to such a competitive league, it isn’t easy. I look forward to it. I enjoyed my last visit to the Graves and hope to explore the track even more on an Archie.