THEO Pijper will continue to ride through the pain barrier for Edinburgh Monarchs after surviving a high-speed crash in the World Longtrack qualifiers in Finland last week.
As the Dutchman gears up to face Newcastle Diamonds in tonight’s Premier League KO Cup quarter-final first leg tie at Armadale, he revealed just how lucky he was to escape with just two broken ribs and a deep gash on his leg after one of his rivals rode over his chest in the dramatic accident.
Said Pijper: “I came down at over 100 miles an hour and was lying next to the safety fence when a crazy German hit me in the chest at roughly the same speed, so I wasn’t feeling too great straight after it, but things like that can happen, longtracking is a very dangerous sport.
“I was fortunate, my bike and helmet were totally wrecked and I could easily have been out for the season, I was quite lucky.”
Pijper shrugged off his discomfort and turned out for Monarchs at Somerset Rebels on Tuesday and helped his team-mates pull off a remarkable 46-44 triumph in front of the Sky Sports cameras in a meeting described as one of the best ever at the Oak Tree Arena.
Pijper scored seven points and said: “When you get out on to the track you don’t feel the pain, you block it out. I’m an old man in the job and know what I can do and what I can’t.
“I was still in some discomfort, it’s a long drive to Somerset from Edinburgh, but it was worth it after the result we got. It’s more the after-pain you get when you dismount the bike depending on what position you have been sitting in, which can hurt a bit.
“I’m on painkillers at the moment and the bottom two ribs on my left side are still pretty sore, if it had been the ribs higher up in my body, it would have been a lot worse.”
But Pijper added he never contemplated pulling out of the Somerset fixture. “Speedway is my job and it’s how I make my money so I didn’t think about not riding. I’m not going to let Monarchs down. I felt sorry that the team lost to Redcar last Friday because I was in Finland, but it couldn’t be helped.”
Monarchs are still basking in the sun in the wake of their Somerset victory, but Pijper stressed their focus must now be fully trained on defeating Newcastle, and by a healthy margin if possible.
“I think Newcastle might be a harder match than Somerset was,” said Pijper. “We need to keep our feet on the ground because I think both legs are going to be very tight.
“I think Newcastle will run us close tonight and we’ll do the same down at their place on Sunday. We need to ensure that we make some good starts, and if we do that, we should have a good home leg.
“These are big matches for us with the chance to reach the semi-finals. We are on a high after Somerset and we have to try and keep that momentum going.”
Newcastle have often been a bogey side to Monarchs in the past, especially at Armadale, and without doubt they pose a clear and present danger.
The Tynesiders are in decent form, but did drop a home point against Ipswich Witches last weekend which was a surprise bearing in mind they had won at Suffolk just days earlier.
Pijper said: “Newcastle have a host of good riders who are all capable of scoring points and will be tough opponents. We must hit them hard at the beginning, we must start strongly.
“If we can carve out a big lead to take to Newcastle so much the better, but their track isn’t always the easiest to ride. I have had some good meetings there but also some bad ones as well.
“If you are in the mix from the gate then you have a chance of winning races.”
The match carries some added spice with Andrew Tully returning to Armadale for the first time since joining the Diamonds on loan during the winter. The Monarchs asset was a prolific scorer round Armadale and will be keen to show he has lost none of his old fire despite just recently returning from a pre-season injury.
The other big threat is bound to come from Ritchie Worrall, who like Monarch’s Craig Cook, has been piling up points for Newcastle. Both ties could be absolute crackers and only a brave man would wager on the outcome come Sunday.
Mildenhall’s Josh Bates will once again deputise for Monarchs’ injured reserve Mitchell Davey.