Mildenhall Fen Tigers rider Sam Bebee targets British Under-21s final on long-awaited return to action at Mildenhall Stadium
Sam Bebee is confident he can make up for lost time on his first competitive start in more than two years when taking to the tapes in the opening British Under-21 semi final at Mildenhall Stadium on Sunday (3pm), writes Graham Clark.
The Feltwell-based rider will bid to claim one of the six qualifying spots on offer when participating in his first meeting since the second leg of the Mildenhall Fen Tigers aggregate defeat to the Eastbourne Eagles in the National League Play-Off final in October 2018.
Having missed the 2019 campaign through injury – and with last season cancelled due to coronavirus – Bebee has ensured he has put in plenty of practice laps ahead of his first assignment before joining forces with his Fen Tigers team-mates later this month.
“I definitely feel like I can get one of the top six spots and it would be great if it happens, but this is my first meeting back since 2018. However, I really want to qualify as it is my last chance in the competition,” said Bebee.
“In practice I feel really good on the bike and I feel faster and better than ever on the bike. Practice riding is completely different to a race situation, but I have been doing as much of it as possible and I feel like it is really paying off.
“I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Aside from making sure he is dialled in on the bike the 20-year-old has made extra efforts to ensure his body, both mentally and physically, is in peak condition to help give him the best possible chance of hitting the ground running against an exciting field.
“Mentally I feel stronger than ever and I feel more confident in myself. The injuries I have had have been and gone and I’m back as a different person,” added Bebee.
“I’ve put on over a stone in muscle which will help me control the bike and put it where I want it. Physically I’m so much fitter than I’ve ever been and that has helped me put in as many practice laps as I have done.
“I’ve been doing plenty of mountain biking which works all the right muscles and plenty of gym stuff at home which has all been going well.”
Bebee, who is one of four members of the current Fen Tigers team set to contest the meeting alongside Jordan Jenkins, Elliot Kelly and Sam Hagon, insists he feels no additional pressure on his shoulders despite his first start back being in front of a home crowd.
“If anything it gives me more confidence with my first meeting being back at Mildenhall as I will have lots of family and friends there pushing me on as it is like a second home,” added Bebee.
“With the time I’ve had off I don’t feel under any pressure apart from the pressure I put on myself. At the end of the day though anything can happen out of those gates as we are all after the same thing.”
Sunday’s meeting will bring to an end a 21-month absence without fans at Mildenhall Stadium.
Promoter Greg Palmer said: “It’s hard to think it has been so long since we ran speedway at Mildenhall.
"The four of us are a mixture of excitement and nervousness just now, we have worked so hard behind the scenes with our wonderful staff to ensure everything is set up right and now we cannot wait for that first race and to get back to what we love seeing: great speedway at Mildenhall!
"Things will be a bit different and there are a number of covid requirements placed on us and that we have placed on supporters, I am sure this won’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the meeting though and I would like to thank supporters for their positivity ahead of the start of the season which has been a great plus for us.
"We have had great support from Neil Vatcher in getting this meeting to Mildenhall – and the U19 Final later in the season – and we would like to thank him for all his help.”
Butcher to miss start of season
Meanwhile, the Fen Tigers have been forced into an early change to their lineup after the club announced on Monday they will be without the services of Arran Butcher for up to six weeks after the 20-year-old suffered an arm injury at a grasstrack meeting over the weekend.
Jason Edwards will race in the Newcastle semi final due to a clash on Sunday with a meeting with his Championship club Eastbourne.