Motocross star Jake aims for the top
Motocross prodigy Jake Nicholls is preparing to put his horrendous injury record firmly behind him ahead of another assault on the MX2 World Championships next month.
Motocross prodigy Jake Nicholls is preparing to put his horrendous injury record firmly behind him ahead of another assault on the MX2 World Championships next month. STUART WATSON spoke to the tattooed teenager about boxing, broken bones and sacrificing school.
MEET Jake Nicholls - Suffolk's very own Mr Glass.
Just like Samuel L Jackson's character in the film Unbreakable, the 18-year-old motocross rider seems to have an unenviable knack for breaking his bones.
But while the fictitious character can point towards a rare genetic disorder for his mishaps, Nicholls' misfortune comes from riding a motorbike over unaccommodating terrain at ridiculous speeds.
“Everyone gets hurt more than once in this sport, but I am starting to get a bit of a reputation now,” said the MX2 World Championship rider. “Things just seem to happen to me.”
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Last season a particularly spectacular crash saw the fearless teenager add a punctured lung, two broken ribs and a snapped collar bone to a staggering list of major injuries.
To name every one here would take up too many column inches (see accompanying graphic) but to give you some perspective Nicholls had broken his left arm alone five times before he had even reached 12-years-old.
Putting obvious pain and discomfort issues aside, his injuries have led to a severe loss of earnings in what is a pay by performance sport.
And having dropped out of school at 15 to pursue a professional career in motocross, he knows his back-up options would be limited should anything more serious stop him from riding altogether.
“In my first race back after the big crash I received another minor injury to my shoulder and ended up having to take another two weeks off. I knew at that point that things had to change,” said Nicholls, who lives in the village of Brightwell just outside of Ipswich.
Subsequently he approached an old friend of his, former amateur boxer Steve Potter, in a bid to get his battered body into peak condition. Two weeks later he qualified for the Swedish Grand Prix, while a strong finish to the season saw Nicholls storm up the leaderboards having missed the first four rounds of both Championships.
“Things have just got better and better for me since I started working with Steve,” said Nicholls.
“I've known him ever since the age of 10 as I did a little bit of boxing as a kid. He's changed me really. He's got me in a whole new mindset.”
During the off season of November and December, Nicholls has really whipped himself into shape. He has barely touched his bike, even though he has a private track behind his house, and instead has spent six hours a day physically training.
“A lot of it is boxing based, which I do in my shed,” said Nicholls, “But I also run, cycle, weight train and circuit train.
“Boxing is so good for motocross as in many ways it is quite similar. Your body takes a real beating on the bike and, like boxing, one moment's lapse in concentration will see you get hurt.”
This is not the first time that Nicholls has attempted a good pre-season training regime. Before the start of the 2006/7 season the then 16-year-old spent two months in Exeter at a training camp led by former four times world champion Dave Thorpe.
“It just didn't really work for me,” admitted Nicholls. “I didn't really have the right mindset then. I was only in it for the ride. I was so far away from home and I ended up doing the training just because everyone else was doing it. I didn't really see it as part of my overall goals.”
In stark contrast, Nicholls is now very much in the right mindset. His impressive finish to 2008 has seen him earn a ride with Dutch-based team Red Bull KTM Racing, a strong factory outfit with big ambitions.
He said: “This is the best pre-season preparation I have ever had. I'm the fittest I have ever been and I have now got a better bike and a better team.
“Staying injury free is always my goal at the start of a new season but then something bad always seems to happen. This time though I'm prepared. I know I've done every single thing I can to be ready.
“I've looked at everything weak in my body and changed it. I just don't see injuries happening now. It's now all up to the Gods, but I honestly believe I'll be alright. I do not ache when I ride a bike anymore.
“I've only done about eight hours riding this year but already I feel in better form than I ever have done before at this time of year.”
Nicholls will head to Spain later this month for 10 days testing before moving on o his team's base in Holland for a further fortnight's preparations.
“Last year I had a taste for success and it made me realise I could do it,” said Nicholls.
“Ever since I started racing I've always wanted to be a world champion. This year could determine whether I make it or not and I've seriously got the fire in me to do it.
“The top three from the class have moved to America this season so I'm aiming for a top 10 in World Championships and at least a top three finish in the British Championships.”
Jake Nicholls Career Stats:-
2006/7 - Turns professional and joins Suzuki. Steps up to senior racing to become one of the youngest ever to enter the MX2 class (250cc four-stroke). Finishes 6th in the Under-21 Championships and 12th in the British Championships.
2007/8 - Becomes one of the youngest ever to enter the MX2 World Championships where he finishes 36th in his debut season. Finishes 11th in the British Championship, despite missing the last two rounds through injury.
2007/8 - Misses the first four rounds of the British and World Championships through injury. Still manages 12th and 36th place finishes in the respective Championships overall following a strong finish to the season.
2009 - Joins strong factory outfit Red Bull KTM Racing for the 2008/9 MX2 Championship season.