EUROVETS: Reflections of Round One

One of the most popular series on the Cycle Speedway calendar is the Euro vets Grand Prix which brings together many of the sports main stakeholders and longest serving officials into friendly but competitive race action.

Events are split into three groups – over 40s, over 50s and over 60s. Depending upon race numbers on any given round, sometimes the groups are amalgamated to arrive at the required racing format. However, race trophies are then divided, so that awards reflect each age group classification.

This year’s Eurovets GP has just swung into action, with a highly successful opening round at the Oxfordshire village track at Horspath. For the first time in over a decade, a Cycle Speedway race event took place under a different governance hosting umbrella, with TLI Cycling being an ultra-accommodative and extremely cost effective alternative.

The main Eurovets promoters are Fred Rothwell and Kevin Smith who do a magnificent job of organising each round. Put them together and a more diverse range of accents could not be found on the planet!

With his rich Yorkshire vowels, Fred gets on with things in an unflappable manner, often determining complex entry lists and tight race results to everyone’s agreement. He then turns a fine wheel out on the track, a dodgy ankle not limiting his ability to compete or his boundless enthusiasm for the shale ways of the UK.

The stereotypical arch `cheerful cockney` is Kevin. With a lingo any `Eastender` would envy, Kevin is one of the sports friendliest characters. His upbeat manner only diminishes when he talks about his latest (sterling) efforts to keep his beloved East London afloat but come his next race, he`s all smiles again.

The East Londoner missed the opening round after a sad personal bereavement in the winter and health issues that even sagged at the normally positive mind-set of one of sports nicest guys. All the Eurovets crew missed Kevin at Hospath and we all hope to see him at the next round at Coventry.

Health problems also accounted for the absence of legendary Glaswegian Chick Mackie and Bury administration kingpin John Whiting. Both have been mainstays of the Eurovets troupe and it was oddly strange not to see them in attendance. Chic hopes to be back in July. There was no firm news on when Mancunian John will be back on a bike.

Talking of health issues, one rider who was pleased just to be lining up was Coventry`s Joe McLaughlin. For large parts of the winter, the 2013 British Final promoter was incapacitated by a succession of illnesses and the aftermath of a tricky operation.

To compound matters, just as he was recovering, Joe was hit by piecing and horrendous on-going pains in his right arm from mid March, which severely limits his gating and run-in to the first bend. He survived a final ride heavy fall on the affected arm, to regroup for a trademark win from the back to make the final.

The Coventry man has an ultrasound scan on Friday May 9th on his arm and his appearance at Hearsall Common the following day for round 2 is doubtful, particularly after another heavy fall in training last week which left him nursing 11 cuts.

Another rider who defied the injury odds was Birmingham`s polished Paul Timms. After breaking his collar bone in December during indoor training, the reigning Over 50s Eurovets champion aggravated the injury in March.

He delayed his return to the track until the opening Eurovets, calling upon just a couple of tepid training outings as preparation. Amazingly, Timms turned on the style at Horspath, overcoming obvious discomfort to win the final in fine style.

The opening round at Horspath witnessed a number of new debutants in the series. In the Over 40s grouping, Birmingham`s turbo charged Mark Winwood, Hellingly`s ultra-loyal Martyn Hollebon and Sheffield`s stylish Jason Burke were all welcome additions.

Winwood eventually capped a fine day by emerging victorious but Hollebon just missed the final, confirming how competitive these Eurovets rounds are.

In the Over 50s, Horspath witnessed a whole influx of new riders into this category of the Eurovets. Wednesfield provided comeback man Kevin Marson, looking as slim and fit as ever, and Dash Trophies director Steve Mullinder, who certainly cut a dash on the track.

Both the Aces made their presence felt, just missing out on the final and they are likely to provide keen opposition throughout the 2014 series.

A surprised but welcome debutant was tall in the saddle Dave Mould, father of Welsh wizard Ben. Dave showed a fair turn of speed, enjoyed himself immensely and managed to complete the whole day without saying “My thoughts only”!

A trio of newcomers came from nearby Swindon in the form of Paul Matthews, Martin Glover and Jim Collyer. The Oasis trio were always in the mix and look set to appear at Coventry in round 2.

Unluckiest rider of the day was unassuming quiet guy Steve Hodgkinson of Birmingham. He tallied 17 points but missed out on a final place after drawing (the wrong) lots.

The busiest rider on the day was again Wednesfield`s evergreen Mick Aris. Although in his early 60s, Mick regularly qualifies for both the Over 50s and 60s finals, as he did at Horspath, requiring `Mad Mick` to compete in a gruelling 12 races during the day. Typically, Mick was to be seen enjoying a well-earned pint in the village pub afterwards.

With many of the riders present holding senior positions within their clubs and wide influence within the sport, and with the opening GP held under the TLI Cycling banner, discussions between races and in the pub afterwards invariably centred on the new framework.

There was wide agreement that TLI Cycling provided an easy, affordable and very cost effective days racing for all concerned. From the easy to deal with TLI Cycling officials beforehand, to a years total race membership of just £10.00 per rider and, with no time consuming and costly rider levies to collect on the day, the user friendly TLI Cycling experience certainly won many converts at Horspath.

The next round of the Eurovets Grand Prix is at Hearsall Common, Coventry, this Saturday at the slightly later 2pm start time. For more information, please go to:, or ring Fred Rothwell on: 07949 710696.