Published: 8 July 2021
Images: Andrew Parr
Following their recent victory at the Cycle Speedway British Club Championships, hear from Kesgrave Panthers about their club heritage, membership and why you should give cycle speedway a go. We spoke to club secretary, Marianne Woodhouse about why this Suffolk-based club is a great community for riders of all ages.
Tell us about the club and its history
Our cycle speedway team, Kesgrave Panthers, was formed in the 1950s. However it wasn't until June 1990 that the club opened a new track and moved to where we currently race, on the site of the Kesgrave Community and Sports Centre near Ipswich, Suffolk. At the same time, the club changed its name to the Kesgrave Kestrels. However, in 2008, the decision was made to revert back to the original name and the Kesgrave Panthers were reborn.
Who takes part and how regularly do sessions run?
As a club, we have riders of all ages taking to the shale-covered track. Currently, we have riders ranging from two to 62 years old, which clearly demonstrates that the sport we love, cycle speedway, really is open to everyone, regardless of age, ability or experience. Moreover, we are fortunate to have a dedicated team of volunteers and coaches, which enables us to offer three coaching sessions on both Monday and Tuesday nights. In addition to these training sessions, and the regional and national race meetings we compete in, we also operate our own, hugely popular, internal SPARK League competition. This takes place on selected Sunday mornings throughout the season and riders, after being sorted into teams and given their team jersey, compete against each other to score points and become SPARK League champions.
What’s great about cycle speedway?
What we love most about cycle speedway is that it is great fun and enables absolutely everyone to spend time on a bike. When racing four abreast around Kesgrave's narrow, banked track on bikes with no brakes, the adrenaline can't be beaten. However, it's not all about competing and winning medals, as our club places equal importance on forming friendships and building teams that both support and challenge each other to get better.
What would be your advice to someone wanting to give the sport a try?
Simply find your local track, come down and give it a go. Whether you are a balance biker, a teenager who loves riding their bike or someone who wants to return to riding, you will always find a place and a welcoming face. Whilst it is important to ensure that every part of the body is covered, apart from the face, any new rider can always borrow gloves, a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads if they don't have their own. Indeed, they can even borrow a bike!
Tell us about the club’s successes competitively
Over the years, Kesgrave has achieved a great deal. Our first national success was when Dean Webb won the British Indoor Championship in 1996 and, since then, we have won a further 15 British Individual titles, 11 British Youth & Junior League titles and 18 British Club Championships titles. Furthermore, last weekend, we were extremely proud to be crowned the overall 2021 British Club Champions at the British Championships, hosted by two local clubs, Great Blakenham CSC and Ipswich Eagles CSC.
As a club, we entered teams in six out of the seven categories that were racing over the course of the weekend - U12, U14, U16, Junior, Women's and Vets - winning the U12, U14 and U16 titles. A total of 19 riders represented our club at the British Championships and an additional seven riders took part in an U10 demonstration event prior to the commencement of racing on the final day. Our Instagram and Facebook pages kept friends and family updated with all the results and many of our Kesgrave community of riders were in attendance, even if they weren't involved in the racing, simply to cheer their teammates on.
What’s next for the club?
In terms of where we go next as a club, we want to continue to ensure that, first and foremost, our riders really enjoy their time with us, both on and off the track. Our aim is to continue to build strong teams in all categories and further encourage new riders into the sport. We have some incredible cycle speedway clubs and riders in Great Britain and would highly recommend that anyone wanting to try something new should find out where their local track is and simply give it a go. You won't regret it!