Edinburgh Falcons Cycle Speedway Club kick off their 2013 season this weekend in the hope that two of the side’s youngest riders return to the track as they left it last year.
The Redbraes Park outfit begin competitive racing against Newcastle on Sunday in what will be the first of three challenge meetings ahead of their Northern League season opener against Astley & Tyldesley next month.
After a promising start to the league last term, the Falcons became afflicted by inconsistency that saw their early-season title aspirations fade as Stockport went on to secure the 2012 championship crown.
However, despite some individual performances on the track falling below expectations, the emergence of talented brothers Chris, 16, and Mark Lee, 15, has provided an air of optimism ahead of this year’s campaign.
Club secretary Gavin Kennedy, who also rides for the club and has several Scotland caps to his name, is relishing seeing the Craigmount High pupils taking to their bikes for a second season and believes the duo are more than equipped to lead the Edinburgh charge.
Kennedy said: “We ended up finishing mid-table after a really strong start last year. It would be fair to say we fell away in the second part of the season, but the major positives to take from last year were the performances of some of the younger riders at the club. Both Chris and Mark forced their way into the first team and made great strides throughout the season – they were exceptional. So as far as the 2013 season is concerned, we are hoping that they can continue to show their talent. But the difficulty with having kids is we don’t want to put too much pressure on them.
“We’ve tended to rely on our more experienced riders but I think now for the first time in a while we have a reasonable school of youngsters coming through. The squad is pretty much the same as last season but we have a young polish guy, Kamil Grezla, coming back and he’s looked really good in pre-season training. He’s another one we have high hopes for.” With the cycle speedway season running parallel to the motorised alternative of the sport, the riders have been out of practice since October last year but have been stepping up their preparations in recent weeks both on-and-off the track. Kennedy is therefore hoping they hit the ground running against Newcastle before facing a double-header next weekend against Coventry and Leicester.
“We’ve been training now for about five weeks with a mixture of both gym and track work but you can train as much as you like, it’s about putting that out onto the track. It’s good to get a couple of challenge matches under your belt so hopefully by the time we have ridden those three matches we will be ready to go. I don’t think it is beyond us to mount a league challenge although we’re probably not favourites. Stockport and [last year’s runners-up] Bury are the early favourites but we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got.”
Efforts within the last year to expose the sport to a younger generation have paid off with an inter-school league now in operation, an opportunity Kennedy hopes to capitalise on when it comes to the club’s recruiting process in the near future.
He said: “I have been doing a fair bit of work with Trevor Bryant who runs a bike club at Liberton High School and we’ve been involved with about a dozen schools across Edinburgh, Fife and latterly Glasgow. For us, the biggest challenge is the transition from school racing to getting them involved in week-to-week club racing.
“If we can adopt a model similar to football academies for cycle speedway then that would be superb.
“Ultimately we want to secure the long-term future of the sport in Edinburgh.
“I think more so now we are starting to see a trend of guys who are involved in other cycling disciplines picking up on cycle speedway. I think it would be fair to say there is a much greater interest in British cycling on the back of the Olympics.”