This article first appeared on Spokesman Online, on 1st October 2012, shortly after Ipswich were confirmed as Club Champions.
2012 has been a remarkable year for Ipswich cycle speedway club, pinnacled by their success in the British Club Championship. What’s the story behind their success? How do they manage to recruit so many youngsters and them develop them into top class racers?
Spokesman put the questions to club chairman Jamie Goldsmith. Here’s what he had to say.
Firstly, many congratulations on winning the Club Championship. How does it feel to be the country’s number one club?
Given the previous holders calibre, the fact that they had retained it and also that Ipswich Eagles CSC in its current form has only been going for 10 years, it’s a massive achievement and one we’re all really proud of at the club for having achieved.
What do you attribute your success to?
The long term commitment from riders and club members alike when club stalwarts such as Tony Stant and Les Fellgett have been involved since the re-birth of the club and along the way others like Dave and Cathy Hill, Ivan Pike and Bill Brooke have all helped to ensure continuity. Seeing riders riding at senior level now that have been here since the start and seeing the pictures of them as young boys and girls in the club’s tuck shop all those years ago, tells the story itself really.
There’s one particular picture in the hut of about 20 plus very young Ipswich riders following a youth and junior event many moons ago. When I mention that the likes of Leon Mower, Jordan Stant, Lauren Jacobs, Laura Dale, Richard Fellgett and Dan Knights are still at the club, it truly shows the commitment.
Did you target the club championships as one if your major goals at the start of the season?
Like every year we always strive to reach the top at any age group. Some we feel we have a better chance than others, but certainly no one had actually sat down and gone through both our potential teams and other clubs to work out the likely outcomes overall, but I do know that one of our members, Phil Clarke, was keeping a close eye on what was needed to be achieved over last weekend.
To be fair we knew after picking up third in the U10’s and then winning at both U13 & U16 level followed by a very pleasing second place at U19’s that we would be in the mix.
The 2012 championships went down to the wire. Did you feel confident going into the final day at Leicester?
In terms of the senior event, with injuries to both Richard Williamson and Ian Grange having ruled them out for most of (if not into retirement in Ian’s case) the season, we have good riders in Jamie Chittock, Josh Brooke and Leon Mower, and then we have our up and coming young guns in 16-year-olds Ashley Hill and Lewis Roberts.
This in our minds was where we would either win or lose the Club Championship on Sunday, but at the same time with Poole in the other semi-final all we could do was concentrate on getting to the final itself and hope to finish level or ahead of Poole irrespective of qualifying. At the end of the day, both Poole and ourselves failed to make it through both finishing fourth in our respective semis. This left the mammoth task of taking the trophy and title from the South Coast Club up to our Ladies and they didn’t disappoint.
Over the last couple of years the club has tried really hard to encourage girls into the sport and with Danielle Riley joining us this year on a first from Norwich, Laura Dale making an appearance along with first year Rider Lisa-Marie Brumpton and of course ever presents Lauren Jacobs and Gemma Hill (spare a thought for Chloe Pearce another new rider who fractured her arm in two places only two weeks before the event in training), we knew the Women’s event would be a close event between ourselves and Leicester. To be honest we here at Ipswich thought we had just enough to take the title away from the Leicester Ladies, but all credit to them for retaining the title seven years on the trot.
Obviously all the various age group competitions which make up the Club Championships are important but what one in particular stands out?
As you say, it is an overall club performance that has helped us to achieve this, but without a shadow of a doubt the performance that stands out the most to me this season and to those people lucky enough to have been there to see it, would have been the way our U16 team performed on the day.
In their semi final, they went through the card unbeaten, 64 points out of 64. I’m told that a certain Midlands based cycle speedway legend remarked that in all his years in the sport he had never ever seen that happen at any level. This is the same group of riders that have also won up the British U13 team title two years on the trot and with this U16 title have made it three British team titles in four years, plus the majority of them also won at U10 level too.
Not only that but they all regularly ride in the Elite Combination team and rotate through our South-East Division One and Two sides and one or two are starting to put pressure on the seniors for their places in the Elite team itself. It needs to be said that whilst our seniors and women’s team were taking the plaudits on behalf of the club in Leicester on Sunday, the U16’s secured back to back South-East Youth league titles with a win against Norwich at Ipswich.
Not only do you need quality riders on the track but you need a solid, supportive backup team off track. Who among the backroom staff have been instrumental in Ipswich’s success?
On the track without a doubt the two names that spring to mind easily and that is Tony Stant (pictured left) and Les Fellgett. Both have been here since the club started and have guided all age groups at one time or another. Tony manages our SE one and Two squads along with Sundays senior and women’s team and ably stepping in last year to manage the Elite team as well whilst Les has been the current U16’s manager for the last two or three years and the U13’s before that.
That said all our managers have played a part in the club’s success and acknowledgement needs to go to Bryan Harvey U13 team and British champions manager, Phil Clarke U10’s, Leon Mower U19 and Combination manager, with Pete Williamson stepping into manage the Elite team this year and Tony Stant again for when Pete’s been unavailable. Meanwhile our coaches Dave Hill, Mike Chaplin, Bill Brooke as well as those managers above have helped with general training of all ages at one time or another through the season.
Off the track the committee has worked tirelessly to try and improve facilities and conditions for the riders. With the help of rider’s parents it has been a real team effort.
A special mention must also be said for previous club members and chairmen, Ivan Pike, Dave Hunting and the recently deceased Dave Andrews without whose input 10 years ago the club wouldn’t be here today and again whose initial drive and experience has helped mould and shape Ipswich into the club it is today.
Many clubs envy Ipswich’s youth development programme. How many under-19s do you have in the club, how do you attract them and keep their interest?
We currently have 40 plus U19 members that regularly compete whether it be locally, regionally or nationally and with at least 12 plus new members joining in the last two or three weeks, since the Ipswich Tour of Britain/Skyride Come & Try session on the British Cycling stand, as well as the regular school Fetes and Come & Try sessions we arrange throughout the year as part of our partnership with Suffolk’s Children’s University Scheme, we currently have 50 plus junior members on the books.
We try to keep them interested by holding club night training sessions (juniors 6.45 until 8.15 and seniors 8.15 to 9.30) on a Monday and Tuesday throughout the year with our Academy for new members and novices on a Friday (7.00 until 8.15). We are constantly mixing it up so that riders ride above their level in a safe environment to gain valuable experience. Team managers rotate riders to suit opposition where ever possible. For example former British U10 champ Jack Chaplin (11-years-old) has this year made his debut in our Combination team as has Pierce Bacon, whilst Lisa-Maria Brumpton, Pierce and brother Harrison, Jack Chaplin and Ben and Alex Harvey have all stepped up to fill our U16’s spots on occasions at South-East Youth Level. Friday night is really about fun with plenty of bike games, relay racing on bike and foot, limbo poles, bike handling skills and the odd proper race thrown in.
In terms of racing we encourage as many members as possible to attend the various individuals both locally and regionally and more experienced/seasoned members regularly help out those riders whose parents work or who don’t drive to get them there and back again. It really is a Club for All at Ipswich.
At the other end of the scale, not entering a club in the Veterans Fours could have cost you the title. Do you have any plans to expand that section and perhaps entice some familiar Suffolk names back into the game?
We do and have already put plans in place with two current vet’s members and a very lively third hopefully going to sign for us for next year. I’m looking at building both ends of the spectrums where possible and also really encouraging girls to sign up and race which is easier now that we have the European and British Champ Lauren Jacobs for them to look up to and to help mentor them. I’d like to see a club that has depth at all ages and both genders.
Last weekend Ipswich also won Youth League (pictured below) which, like the Club Champs, involves a lot of travelling. How do you manage to fund it?
As a club it’s appreciated that our junior members’ parents spend a lot of time, money and effort in getting their kids not only to training and local/regional racing but also around the country to ride and help the club in pursuit of success. In terms of travelling nationally, the kids all love meeting up with and speaking and racing against different riders and those riders that they may have met in previous years competitions. However, before my time as Chairman the club believed that the loyalty and commitment shown by our riders does encourage all of its riders to travel and offers a small contribution towards petrol costs when racing as part of a club team outside of the South-East region.
Finally can you hold on to your title on 2013?
We’d like to think so, especially if we can field and enter a Vets team to gain those valuable extra points that wouldn’t have made it as close as it was this year. But I’ve no doubt that Pete Barnes and Poole will be looking to recapture the trophy and title they’ve just lost as well as a host of other teams such as Sheffield, Wednesfield and Horspath who will be looking to put their name on it. It’s always going to be a tough year when so many clubs have so many talented riders at different age groups across the country. This year we just did enough in each category to see us over the finishing line first, but here’s to 2013 already in the hope we can go back-to-back like Poole.