Cycle speedway to some is a strange sport, to many it is an unknown part of cycle sport but those who race week in, week out, it is their sport. Fast, tactical, dangerous and one could say rebellious, but, not too dissimilar to riding the wooden boards of a velodrome.
To wear the World Champion bands in any sport is, arguably the pinnacle of a chosen sport but for the current womans World and British cycle speedway Champion it has a sense of being a hollow one. 17 year old Lauren Davies tells us why.
"It was cycle speedway that really triggered my dreams to race bikes and it has given me the best start I could ever have hoped for to open the door to track which is really where I think my future now lies but I don't think I tried hard enough racing cycle speedway to feel my titles were special"
Davies was part of Team GB that travelled to Australia to compete in the cycle Speedway World Championships where she won every heat in the final to bring the title back to the Northern hemisphere, So why stop now?
"I don't think there is anywhere to go in the sport, I've won the World title, the British title, the Under 16s title so I don't think there really is anything else to achieve in the sport"
Joining Leicester Monarchs some four years ago Davies found the physical side of CS much to her liking and with a sprinters mentality the youngster was soon gracing the podium steps as part of the dominant Leicester womans team who won the British team title in 2010,11 &12. Davies started to collect trophies and titles taking the open title in 2012 whilst still an Under 16 and in 2013 added a raft of wins to her palmares including the open final for the second time.
Four laps of an 90 metre shale oval in less then a minute against 3 other riders all going for the same race line can be intimidating to many but Davies likes the elbow to elbow side of the sport and by her own admission prefers to race with the men just because its faster and harder, so how does she prepare mentally before a heat?
"Before a heat I run through how i think the race will go, I know how the others in the race ride so I have an idea, you can't be 100% but I'm never too far out but when I'm on the line everything changes, my mind goes blank apart from the tapes going up then its thinking about my pedal strokes and the line into the first bend then once you get into it you can try and put ideas into the race"
In the 2013 open final Davies missed a pedal stroke in a heat that would ,and ultimately did, secure the National Championships, that must have been a worrying moment
"It could have been but I knew I didn't have to panic, it was just a matter of picking up the speed again and getting back to the front of the race."
Since the upsurge in cycling participation in recent years in the U.K how does Davies see cycle speedway's growth in popularity or indeed has there been an increase in numbers in cycle speedway
"I don't think the numbers have increased at all, infact I know there are a few riders who have decided to leave the sport so I really don't think it will grow in numbers, I'd say the numbers will roughly remain as they are now at best. It will never get to be a big sport. I don't think the majority of riders take the sport seriously enough to attract new riders, speedway is a grassroots sport and I suppose it will always be just that."
There was talk recently of cycle speedway moving away from British Cycling in the future , while a number of the sports older members seem to approve of the idea what does the World Champion think of the suggestion
"I think it will happen, maybe not in the near future but it will happen at some point and that maybe the end of cycle speedway. Without British Cycling I can't see how it can continue, the tracks will go, funding will disappear. I don't know what the answer is but something has to change to make it appealing to both sides, if things don't change it will die. I don't think anyone has a passion for the sport anymore, its stuck in its ways, it will never appeal to a youngster seeing the sport for the first time I don't think. I travel round the country racing but get home and don't feel anything for it, its so far behind road and track and cycle cross. I just don't feel a sense of achievement anymore when I win."
So what does the current World Champion want to do now she has 'retired' from cycle speedway?
"I really see my future at the velodrome, I love riding on the track, I'm attending Sprintfest at Manchester with Tim Buckle soon so hopefully that may open the door for me, if i ride well. I was nominated for Leicester's young sports women of the year which was a complete shock too me, I didn't win though, Grace Garner won but she so deserved it, she trains so hard. Again even though I won so many titles last year it all seems so hollow compared to what she does even though I'll always be grateful to get to the top three. I have to bring everything I've ever done in cycle speedway to the track now but I think I've got a sound base from where to start."