Liam Rudden: The 2018 Monarchs are an exciting squad of racers

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TWO months into the speedway season and I’ve yet to muse on the exploits of this year’s crop of Edinburgh Monarchs, or to give them their proper title for 2018, The Staggs Bar Monarchs.

They’re so named after the Musselburgh watering hole became team sponsor. Kudos to landlord extraordinaire Nigel Finlay.

Speedway backed by an award-winning real ale pub... a match made in heaven, for the fans obviously, not the riders.

Talking of which, what a team the Monarchs’ promotion have assembled; young, inexperienced in some cases, but absolutely committed and fuelled by a raw, often scary desire to win.

It has been a start/stop season so far with bad weather taking its toll early on (why anyone would plan fixtures for March/early April is beyond me) and the fact that numerous clubs now race on Fridays, in the past almost exclusively Edinburgh’s race night.

As such, it has taken this team a bit longer than normal to gel, especially as two of the new boys are racing their first UK season; 21-year-old American Max Ruml and Swede Joel Andersson, 22, who despite their inexperience are proving to be two of the most exciting young riders in the league.

Then there’s our No 1, 26-year-old American Ricky Wells who is quite simply peerless right now and arguably enjoying his best season yet, and German team captain Erik Riss, another 22-year-old he boasts one of the most dramatic riding styles you’ll ever see - an old head on young shoulders.

His brother Mark, 23, too has flashes of brilliance.

In the reserve slots, 21-year-old Aussie Josh Pickering is a battler who regularly demonstrates spectacular feats of passing and, while it was sad to loose Matt Williamson (another talent yet to be fully developed), in 21-year-old Argentinian Coty Garcia we have a nail-biting addition to the team, albeit that I’ve been known to look away during some of his more exuberant moves.

If there was any doubt Staggs Bar Monarchs have the potential to take on the best it came at Ashfield Stadium last Sunday where they were racing arch-rivals Glasgow Tigers for a quarter final place in the KO Cup.

With a slender two point lead from the first leg at Armadale (not bad considering a month previous the Tigers came to Armadale and beat the home boys by seven points), few really gave the Blue and Gold a chance of advancing in the competition.

After all, Glasgow’s top five are established riders, including a three times British Champion.

With two Monarchs failing to finish in Heat 2 and young Max taking a nasty fall that saw him carted off to hospital in the next race, it seemed fate had already shown her hand.

Thankfully, fate hadn’t taken into account the sheer determination of the rest of the team. Led from the front by Erik and Ricky... well, long story short, Monarchs stunned their west coast rivals, winning by three points.

If that’s not a sign of their huge potential, I don’t know what is.

And as for next year? Well, as I said, it’s a young team, just wait ‘til that potential matures. Just like a well brewed ale, eh, Nigel?