The 2016 is now upon us and my winter preparations have been good. It’s a bit different for me, I have my lad full time as my wife is a teacher. I have to juggle him a little bit; I have him all day and then drop him off to a babysitter, nursery or the in-laws so that I can go and do my training. Its tiring because I’m up early then I’m in bed late but I enjoy it because I don’t get to spend a lot of time with him during the season.
Bike wise, we started building the bikes in the second week of January and I won’t lie we only finished doing them the night before Press Day! We built four bikes and the bikes we took to Italy are the Polish bikes as they were going straight to Poland after. The English ones were done but we needed to put the finishing touches to them.
I’m at Ipswich and Coventry in the Elite League again in 2016 and it’s nice to be on the bike more. For too many years I just rode in the Elite League, riding once a week or once a fortnight and that’s not enough. Last season my schedule was full and flat out and although it was busy I enjoyed it and I feel you ride better when you’re on the bike more. It’s the same with anything; if you sat down for a week and didn’t walk you’d be a bit shaky when you got up! I think being on the bike more was reflected in my scores last season. I made it very clear at the end of last season I wanted to stay at Ipswich and Coventry and both clubs were pleased to have me back so it makes it easier for me. It was nice to enjoy Christmas knowing my contracts were sorted out.
I’m delighted to be captaining Ipswich again this season and for me as captain and number one I like to get out there and win heat one. Obviously I like to win any race but if I can get out there and win heat one I think it relaxes the boys a bit and gets us off to a good start and I can give feedback on the track. I wouldn’t say I’m an old rider but I’m actually the oldest in the team now which is a strange feeling! I’ve got the most experience though and if I can help them in any way I will, we’re a team and we’re all in it together.
I try not to make too many personal targets for the season. I’m one of these people that always give 100% so I’ve got no questions to ask myself because I know I’ve done my best. Sometimes it’s good enough, sometimes its not, that’s just the way it is. Obviously I want to win some silverware, I want to better my third spot in the British Final and qualify for Team GB again but I don’t let that get to me, I do my talking on the track.
With the World Cup Final in Britain this year, it’s easy to have half an eye on that as a target for the season but personally I don’t think about it. In my head you’re probably always going to go with Tai (Woffinden) and Bomber (Chris Harris) and that only leaves two spots and Cookie (Craig Cook) and Scotty (Scott Nicholls) are both at Belle Vue, so if they’re going good they’re both going to get it as its their home track. I’ll score points and if my form is good enough and I’m in the mix, then great.
There’s been a lot of changes in the team here this season and I think it was needed. There was so many riders that had been here too long, and I was one of those riders in the past. I was here and felt like I got stuck in a rut and I left for a couple of years to go to Peterborough and it was the best thing I did, as a couple of years later I came back stronger and a better rider. So I think for those riders and the club it was needed and hopefully it will be for the better.
We went away in pre-season as a team to Italy as you all know and we were lucky in a sense that we had Paco (Castagna) in the team, as his parents own a hotel in Italy near a track and it was all organised around him. We spoke and worked out the rough costs and we all wanted to do it and race. It feels like we’ve been together so much and the season has not even started yet which is nice. A lot of the time, events like ‘Meet the Riders’ are the first time you get to meet some of the team but we all feel like we’ve been together ages, it’s a good feeling.
My good friend Ritchie (Hawkins) has taken over the role as Team Manager this season but I don’t think our close relationship will be an issue, its business and I’ve got a job to do and so has he. There will be times where we have a few words together but it’s nice knowing you’ve got someone who will back you 100%. It will be nice to go and win meetings for him and he wants to win as much as us. It will be good, we’re best mates, we do everything together and we’ll be travelling together which we’ve always done anyway, so nothing has changed really!
We start up against Scunthorpe in the League Cup and they are obviously going to have an edge over us a reserve with Carl Wilkinson at reserve, who has been an established heat leader in the Premier League, even last year he was and they’ve got him at reserve for a few weeks, so that will be difficult. On the other hand we’re much stronger in the main body. I’m sure Wilko will get seven rides but we’ve got the team to answer any questions thrown at us. We’ve got a very strong one-to-five so I think that takes the pressure off the reserves a bit. The reserves, Darryl (Ritchings) and Paco (Castagna), are both learning a bit, they’ve both not done Premier League before really but we have a good balance in the team to cope with it. As for Peterborough, I love the place. It’s a bit of a specialist track I suppose, not everyone likes it, you’ve got to ride the fence really as that is the quickest line, which is tough if you’re not used to that. Its where I learnt to ride at the age of 15 and it was my first team and it’s a good race track. They’re strong but again I believe we can go away and get something out of it, if not win.
All the best,