Edinburgh’s Neil Chatham produced an impeccable performance to strike gold at the FIM International Six Day Enduro (ISDE) event, the sport’s blue-riband competition.
The 23-year-old former Stewart’s Melville pupil’s achievement in Sardinia is further enhanced after admitting that he did not ride competitively at all last year after graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University.
Riding in the E2 category with bikes fitted with either a 250cc or 450cc engine, Chatham finished 16th from 117 competitors in the individual event and, by finishing ten per cent within the overall winner’s finishing time, earned a gold medal – his second time of doing so after achieving the same feat in Finland in 2011.
Chatham, who has been riding motorbikes since the age of four, said: “It’s the biggest event I have competed in and is a milestone of my achievements on the bike.
“It’s great to come back and win this because in 2012, I actually took a year out from racing as I was finishing up university and was starting a new job, so this year I’ve only really got back into it.
“My whole year has been spent training hard and working towards Sardinia, so to come back with gold is fantastic.”
In the team event, the three-man Scottish contingent, comprising Chatham, Aberdeen’s Frazer Norrie and Ricky Mair from Inverness, achieved the nation’s best ever result, finishing in ninth position on the Mediterranean island. “It’s the best result Scotland has ever had,” said Chatham. “The amazing thing is this year marks 100 years of the Scottish Auto Cycle Union (SACU) so to get inside the top ten in the ISDE out of 139 teams competing is just brilliant.
“I had a number of incidents and was quite lucky to not break anything.
“I had a few cuts and bruises but nothing that could prevent me from riding.
2I think with all three of us, our ambitions outweighed our ability on this particular course because the conditions were just completely different to what we are used to.
“The dust was really bad and a lot of the time you didn’t know what you were riding through, but everybody was giving it everything they had.”
A regular on the Scottish and British enduro circuits, Chatham will now face the challenge domestically as he moves up in discipline from junior to senior category after just recently turning 23. Nevertheless, his performances on the international stage have shown he is more than capable of mixing it with the very best in the business.
As next year’s ISDE event is being contested in Argentina, the costing and logistics that such a trip entails will ultimately depend on support from external sources as well as personal income.
“Argentina will all really come down to the funding for the Scottish team as to whether or not we go.” Chatham explained. “It’s being held in Slovakia in two years’ time so I will definitely be going out there. I spent a lot of money myself going out to Sardinia, so it can be really quite costly.
“I hear a lot of sports people complaining about lack of funding in other sports, but this year we’ve been really well supported. We were provided with a truck and all the costs for our fuel which was well in excess of £2000 to get us to Sardinia and back.
“We are quite short on funds compared to bigger teams like France or Italy, but that’s because the sport is just so big over there. But in Scotland, there has been a small group of people who have put a large amount into the team, so it’s hugely appreciated.
“I’ve already got a sponsor for next year – Better Bodies Glasgow – so that will really help me with a lot of things.”