RIDER NEWS: Copping back on track
A call-up into a Great Britain “B” squad for an unofficial Veterans Test Match against Australia during the 2017 World Tour has encouraged Norwich rider Steve Copping to return to regular racing in 2019 and try for the official GB Veterans squad
Steve’s cycle speedway involvement actually started way back in 1988 where he overheard a conversation about it by Graham Brown (cousin of Kesgrave rider Gary Brown) in a Science lesson at school. Steve asked where and when it was happening and it was the following day at the home of the now defunct Trimley Tigers. He went along with the intention of having a watch to see what it was all about but ended up racing, enjoying it so much that he embarked on his 1st full season in 1989. His 1st team debut came in the May against Somersham. Steve’s first trophy at Trimley came in 1990 as he was part of the team during that season which clinched the East Anglian Division 2 League Championship.
The Trimley team which won the East Anglian Division 2 championship in 1990. Steve is in the back row on the very left
1991 saw Steve become Junior Club Champion whilst 1992 saw him win the Club Pairs Championship with Richard Watts. More Club Championship success followed in 1993 as Steve won the Group B section. 1994 saw Steve clinch the award for being the top points scorer for Trimley in the East Anglian League. 1995 was Steve’s best year for Trimley as he rose to 3rd heat leader in the Trimley averages as well as finishing 3rd in the Club Championship and being voted as Most Improved Rider that season.
At the start of 1996 Trimley were down to 4 riders but fortunately (for them) Somersham were in a similar situation so the 2 clubs merged with the intention of splitting the home matches between the 2 tracks but problems with vandalism at Trimley saw that track close down with operations moving to Somersham which is how Steve became a Somersham rider from 1997 to 2009. 1999 saw more success come Steve’s way as he was part of the Somersham team which clinched the South-East Division 2 championship. It was also in 1996 that Steve took on the role of Club Secretary, a role which he continued until the end of 2004.
2005 was a significant year for Steve. It started with his 1st trip to Australia. There was a slight problem to overcome however-Steve had NEVER been on an aeroplane in his life!!! But that problem was overcome and, having only intending to do that trip just to say he had been to Australia, he enjoyed it so much that he has been on every trip since. 2005 also saw Steve start refereeing on a regular basis. He had been doing it on an occasional basis since the 1990’s but such was his progress from 2005 he was awarded his 1st significant appointment in 2006 with the pre-qualifying round of the British Under 19’s championship at Norwich. Early in 2007 Steve opened an email from British Cycling’s referees officer Mike Hack. There were 2 invitations but the one which stood out was an invite to referee the British Under 16 Individual Final at Ipswich. Steve actually couldn’t believe what he was seeing at first so he shut the email down and re-opened it-but it was true and was the biggest moment of his cycle speedway involvement at that point until October of that year when he won his first individual event-the 2007 Somersham Club Championship.
2008 saw Steve referee that years Under 16 Club Championship at Norwich where he took charge of Semi-Final 1 and the final. In October that year he was part of a small group that flew over to Edenton in USA for some racing.
2009 was a mixed year for Steve which started with him being declared eligible to race for Ireland 2 weeks before his 2nd trip to Australia where there were a few highlights, 2 of which took place on the same day as firstly Steve refereed his 1st event outside of the UK, the Women’s International Open at Salisbury. Later the same day came what was then the greatest moment of Steve’s career as he made his Ireland debut in the 2009 World Cup where he scored 5 points to help Ireland to a 4th place finish.
His trip would end on a sour note as he was hospitalised with cellulitis the day before the GB party flew home. He flew home himself 1 week later. August saw the then biggest refereeing appointment of his life come his way with Semi-Final 1 and the Final of the Open Club Championship at Norwich.
The 2nd semi-final of the British Individual Grand Prix at East Park saw Steve race his last event for Somersham and also his last event of 2009 as 2 weeks later he had a recurrence of the cellulitis which put him in hospital in Australia.
2010 saw Steve transfer to Norwich with the intention of getting some Premier League Combination matches but work commitments meant he was restricted in the Premier League to 1 appearance at Horspath (in the main team) and 1 at Poole (in the combination team). However Steve did represent Norwich in the European Club Championship and also raced in Poland for the 1st time at the 2010 European Championships.
2011 started with Steve flying to America for the World Championships in April and these saw the highest point of his refereeing career when he took charge of the Veterans and Junior World Individual Finals.
His trip nearly ended before it had even started as he was having a practice spin on the opening day of racing and crashed heavily, landing on his ribs with which he struggled throughout but still made it to the semi-finals of the Senior World Championship. All of that faded into insignificance 6 weeks after he returned home as he lost his mother to cancer. Steve refereed the British Under 10’s Championship in August, dedicating that to his mother and also to his grandmother who had died 2 weeks after his mum.
Steve was not originally intending to take his bike to Australia for his 3rd trip there in 2013 but he was nominated as the seeded rider for Ireland. That was the last year that the seedings were used in international competitions. 2014 saw Steve join the ranks of veterans and saw him pick up his 1st award as a Norwich rider when he was part of the Norwich team that finished 3rd in the Over 40’s Club Championships at Kesgrave.
Having been Assistant Team Manager to Gary Colby in 2012 & 2013 Steve became Joint Team Manager of Ireland alongside Gary from the start of 2014, a role which he continues to hold to this day
2015 saw Steve finish 4th overall in the Over 40’s category of the South-East Grand Prix series but after the World Championships, which were staged in England for the 1st time since 2003, he decided he was going to retire at the end of that season. He did so having achieved something he had strived for since starting racing, namely to race in a British Individual Final of some description as he lined up in the British Indoor Over 40’s Final at Ryton on Dunsmore where he finished tied for 6th with 14 points having won his 1st ride.
Although Steve had retired from racing he said he would help Ireland out if needed. He arrived at Bury for the 2017 Home Internationals and was informed that Phil Widdas had broken down en route so Steve took his place, scoring 5 out of Ireland’s 39 points as they finished 3rd. This encouraged Steve to enter the World Veterans Championship in Australia where he would also put on his Ireland shirt for the World Cup Qualifier, taking 1 ride for 1 point as Ireland failed to make the final. The Veterans World Championship saw Steve initially fail to make the semi-finals from a pre-qualifying round but an injury to Wednesfield’s John Whetton gave Steve a reprieve which he couldn’t capitalise on. Then came the moment which has prompted Steve to make his decision to return to regular racing as he got his GB “B” call-up, where he scored 5 points as GB “B” lost by 10 points.
(photo taken by Paddy Wenn using Steve’s mobile phone)
Steve pictured at Le Fevre just before the Australia v Great Britain “B” unofficial Veterans Test Match
Steve has raced during 2018, starting at Great Blakenham in the Home Internationals, scoring 5 points in the Veterans match and 2 in the Senior match.
Ireland’s Over 40’s team after the Home Internatonal at Great Blakenham
(photo taken by Charlie Chimp)
His comeback continued in the East Anglian Veterans Championship at Kesgrave where he finished tied for 6th with 10 points. The final 2 rounds of the South-East Grand Prix saw a “B” final win at Kesgrave and a 4th in the “A” final at Ipswich giving him 7th overall. In between these 2 events Steve made his Eurovets debut at Leicester, scoring 10 points.