Jack claims third in debut championship

SPROUGHTON trials rider Jack Sheppard has finished an impressive third in his debut season of European competition.

Stuart Watson

SPROUGHTON trials rider Jack Sheppard has finished an impressive third in his debut season of European competition.

With the European Youth Trials Championships being open to under-17s, Sheppard, who has only just turned 15 years-old, was up against a far more experienced field.

And it was not just age that was against him, the Claydon High School pupil having grown up in the flat terrain of Suffolk compared to the mountainous and rocky environments that many of his European opponents are accustomed to.

“I'd never ridden a bike outside of the country before so I wasn't sure how I would get on,” said Sheppard. “I'd set myself a target of making the top five so to finish third has exceeded expectations.”

Sheppard - one of just three British representatives in a field of 45 - started the three-round competition in the south of France back in March where he astounded onlookers by finishing second.

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The Suffolk teenager then went on to take fifth place in the mountainous Italian region of Crodo and second in the Tanvald mountains on the Czech Republic's border with Poland.

Those results secured a third place overall for Sheppard who was beaten only by the highly-rated Frenchman Tanguy Mottin and Spaniard Pol Tarres, nephew of former seven times world champion Jordi Tarres.

“It has been a great experience,” said Sheppard, “I have learnt a lot practising before meetings with the likes of Pol Tarres who obviously is getting the very highest level of training from his uncle.

“The trial format is different in Europe. Unlike here you are allowed to stop and hop around as much as you like as long as you don't go backwards, however, in Europe there are time limits for each stage so I have had to learn to stay cool under pressure.”

Domestically it has been another strong season for Sheppard. Having recovered from breaking a bone in his hand mid-season to win 'Class B' of the British Youth Championships last year, he was given special dispensation move up to 'Class A' a year ahead of usual regulation this year.

Competing against opponents two years his senior, Sheppard stormed into a Championship lead after three rounds before tailing off a little in the middle of the season. He now currently sits fourth place in the Championship table with one round remaining.

In addition, Sheppard has won the Derbyshire-based YMSA Championship - a competition regarded to be on par with the British Championship - with a round to spare.

With the trials season now coming to a close, Sheppard will ride in a support class for the British Senior Championships in order to gain even more experience.

He said: “In the future I'd like to be able to ride in the World Championships. It's such a high standard that only five people are currently good enough to compete in it at present but that is where I'd like to get to.”