EDINBURGH MONARCHS reserve star Erik Riss may have realised his ‘coming of age’ moment against Plymouth Devils at Armadale last week.
The young German was head and shoulders above everybody else as he powered his way to a paid 18-point maximum from his six outings and confirmed that perhaps he really is the class act the Monarchs speedway management privately hoped he would be.
Granted, the opposition wasn’t the strongest he will encounter, but Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess today said the teenager did everything that was asked of him – and more. And what better way to prepare himself for his promotion into the main body of the team in July, his second stint in Monarchs’ top five. Harkess said: “Erik rode very well into the first bend and created the situation for himself to win races from there. He was also very controlled, which is what it’s all about.
“There will be harder tests of course, than Plymouth and when Erik returns to the main body of the side, he will find it tougher. But against Plymouth he did everything we hoped he would do and everyone at the club was very happy with him.”
Riss has been under a bit of pressure to eradicate some irksome clutch problems which have seen him give some opponents yards of a start out of the gate. And Harkess revealed: “A lot of his team-mates have been giving Erik a lot of help with this and trying different things to sort the situation out and you hope these problems have now been solved. They were not at Redcar last Thursday, but they were against Plymouth 24 hours later and we hope that is an end to them.”
The manner in which Riss not only defeated his Plymouth opposite numbers but some of their higher grade riders as well, was impressive.
“He did really well,” said Harkess. “And it was the third time he came out and won the opening heat. It wasn’t a weakened heat either, all four of the programmed riders were out.”
Asked if thought the clutch gremlins were starting to affect Riss mentally, Harkess replied: “Winning becomes a habit and, if Erik is out winning races as he did against Plymouth, he will start to believe he is capable of beating anybody. But, if he comes out in the heat two reserves race and doesn’t get anything, as happened at Redcar, then that sets him back. When you are winning everything becomes so much easier.”
It seems certain that the trepidation Riss felt when he was thrust into the main side when the season began in April won’t be quite so severe now. Harkess said: “Erik is more experienced now so the jump from reserve shouldn’t be so bad for him. And, importantly, the one place that has become less of a problem for him is Armadale because he rides it every week. He still has to go to a lot of the tracks in the Premier League that he hasn’t seen before and sometimes it takes one or two races to find your away around certain venues.
“Erik was an inexperienced rider when he first came to us and everything is a steep learning curve for him.”
But Riss has now assumed a pivotal role within the Monarchs team and could be the unassuming hero if his upward trajectory continues.
“You reflect on his Plymouth performance and he really dominated the first and second bends when things were tight”, said Harkess. “He got stuck in and only time will tell what his paid maximum means, but it has to have given him a huge boost. Armadale was a big challenge to him because it was a small track and he hadn’t been used to that and had to change his style to suit the place. He doesn’t have the leg trailing style he arrived with and has adapted.”
Riss felt elated inside after his paid maximum, but quietly said: “It felt very good for me and I always enjoy winning races, who doesn’t? I managed to get into the first corner in front which gives me less work to do! I just hope I can continue like this for the rest of the season. Edinburgh have been so good in giving me my chance in the UK and I want to do the best I can for them.”
Team-mate Rob Branford will rejoin the side at the tail-end following a shoulder injury and Harkess underlined just how important his partnership with Max Clegg will be.
“Your own reserves must match the opposition’s. You cannot have a match when your reserves get outscored because it makes life difficult as we found out at Redcar. We need Max and Rob to be scoring regularly.”
Monarchs moved to the top of the Premier League on points difference following their 64-28 win over Plymouth. The next action at Armadale is on July 10 when Monarchs tackle Sheffield Tigers in the league.
Before then, Sam Masters and Kevin Wolbert defend the Premier League Pairs crown at Somerset on Friday won by Masters and Max Fricke last season.