Josh Bates took his career to new heights on Tuesday after producing a lifetime-best performance to land this year’s British Under-21 title.
Digging deeper than he has ever done before, the Mildenhall Fen Tigers star kept his calm when it mattered most to produce a masterful display of riding and clinch the prestigious crown ahead of a strong field at Monmore Green.
“I can’t believe I have just done it,” said Bates. “I am over the moon and don’t know what to say.
“I thought I could finish in the top six, but I didn’t think I had any chance of winning it.”
Bates saw his night get off to the worst possible start after being excluded in his opening ride when out in front following a last-lap error, which saw him get his bike in a spin.
Despite the early setback, the 18-year-old never let it get to him, winning three of his next four outings and finishing second in the other one to seal a place in the semi-final.
At the same time as Bates progressing, fellow Fen Tigers star Joe Jacobs also made it through to the semi-final after clocking up 12 points.
With Jason Garrity soon asserting in the semi-final it was left to the two Fen Tigers stars to battle it out for the remaining spot in the final — one of which was to go Bates’ way.
Out gating his rivals in the final Bates saw his initial efforts cut short as his former Fen Tigers team-mate Stefan Nielsen took a tumble as the riders completed their first circuit.
In the resulting rerun — minus the excluded Nielsen — Bates was once again quick out the blocks, but for the second time in a row the heat was halted — with Garrity this time excluded as the cause of the stoppage — leaving the final a straight shootout between Bates and Adam Ellis.
There was to be no denying Bates, however, with him making yet another lightning start to outgate Ellis and claim a deserved victory.
“I thought I was up against it after my first ride. Being on the back foot made me work much harder,” said Bates.
“I did feel fast, but it was only when I got to the semi-final that I believed I could win it.”
Although Bates and Jacobs were the two standout performers for the Fen Tigers in the final, the club’s other two representatives in the competition also acquitted themselves well with Jack Kingston scoring five points and Connor Coles three.
Coles’ reserve partner at the club Connor Mountain also received two outings after being called into action as one of the two meeting reserves, picking up a point.
The Fen Tigers travel to Lincolnshire to face the Scunthorpe Stags in their opening National League encounter today (5pm), where they will be without Bates, Jacobs and Dan Halsey.
Rider replacement will be used to cover Bates, with Darren Mallett and Liam Carr coming in for Halsey and Jacobs.
The Fen Tigers will be back at full strength for the visit of Coventry Storm on Sunday (3.30pm).