Edinburgh Monarchs rider Craig Cook today revealed he has turned down a chance to ride and earn big money in Poland because he wants to hit the ground running when the new speedway season begins at Armadale next month.
Cook suffered an alarming dip in form for Monarchs towards the end of last year and insists that this second spell in the blue and gold race-jacket, marks a “fresh start” for him.
And he says his preparation for the upcoming campaign is going according to plan. “Everything is in hand, I haven’t got my bikes built up yet, but that doesn’t take long. I have been doing quite a lot of training, and running every morning. I have also been playing a lot of squash and have been doing moto-cross at weekends, I feel in great shape, and I’m planning to do my first practice session this Saturday or Sunday.
“I will have all new bikes and rolling chassis, but I need a new van for my equipment and need to find the money for that. I’ve found a couple of new sponsors during the winter but not as many as I had hoped for.”
Cook’s struggle to put points on the board during a topsy-turvy end to last season was a mystery to many people, not least himself. “I started off the season pretty well but then things went downhill, I was pretty run down and was under a lot of pressure. My dad, who was holding down a full-time job, was also my mechanic, and my full-time mechanic Mark, also worked full time, and it was hard for them to combine speedway and work.
“Because it was hard for them, it wasn’t enjoyable for me when I was on the track. But that’s in the past, 2012 is a fresh start.”
Cook doubled-up with Belle Vue Aces in 2011 and is seeking another Elite League tie-up this year, but said: “I did receive an offer from an Elite League team at the end of last year but nothing came of it, in truth I don’t want to be racing in the Elite League at the start of the new season because I want to give priority to the Monarchs and try to get back to the standard with them I managed at the beginning of 2011.
“I’m confident I will find an Elite berth and if that happens my dad will come with me full time.”
The chance to ride in Poland can often turn heads, but Cook admitted: “I couldn’t really go across simply because I don’t have any spare bikes, and besides, I don’t know what would be expected of me. It would be an idea to perhaps go over at some stage to get a practice and some rides in the second half. I would be wise to do that rather than jumping in with both feet.”
Cook is more secure in the belief that this year’s Monarchs squad are capable of reaching the Premier League play-offs despite scepticism that by not replacing No. 1 Kevin Wolbert, Monarchs might struggle to make a firm enough impression.
Cook said: “I think it’s a good team we have, when I was in the Workington side in 2010, I don’t think there was any of us with an average of seven points and over, yet we were a strong squad, and I don’t see why Monarchs should be any different. I don’t think we’ll lose any matches at home.”
Monarchs’ new reserve duo, Charles Wright and Aussie rookie Micky Dyer, carry a fair weight of responsibility at the tail-end, and Cook knows them both. “Charles can be up and down but he is a heck of a rider on his day and certainly has the ability to become a six-point rider.
“I raced against Micky when he rode for Dudley Heathens in the National League in 2010 and he’s a good rider who is pretty smooth and I think he can progress. As for myself, I want to get off to a flying start and begin the way I mean to go on.”
Monarchs stage their pre-season video show in the Thomas Morton Hall, Ferry Road, on Saturday, March 3 (7.30pm) and most of the team will be in attendance.