James Shanes bids to write his own piece of track racing history in the European Grass Track Championship Final at Tayac, in the South of France, the next Saturday evening.
The young rider, who lives near Poole on the South coast of England, will attempt a hat-trick of consecutive wins in this championship, a feat achieved previously only by Dutch Jannick De Jong, former World Champion.
Only two other men – German Robert Barth and Stephan Katt – have three European crowns to their name, meaning Katt (who is also competing at Tayac), could be the first man to win four European crowns should he triumph in France on Saturday night.
Two more contenders have won the title before – British Paul Hurry triumphed back in 2005, while the only previous French winner, Stephane Tressarrieu had his time in the spotlight three years later.
The hopes of the host-nation do not however only rest on the oldest of the Tresarrieu siblings. Reigning World Champion Mathieu Tresarrieu, (11 years younger than Stephane) will try to do better than in 2016 when he was runner-up to Shanes, with Mathieu winning a European Semi Final at Tayac two years ago. Dimitri Berge, back on the World and European scene after injury should also have a major say, while Anthony Chauffour is the fourth host-nation hopeful on show.
In addition to Shanes and Hurry, Britain can count on two-times World Junior Champion Zach Wajtknecht, (winner of the semi final in England earlier this year), and Dave Mears, promoted into the starting line up following the withdrawal of Andrew Whitaker.
Christian Hulshorst and the promising Max Dilger join Katt in a three-pronged German bid.
The Dutch challenge certainly cannot be overlooked with youngster Romano Hummel looking the most likely to pick up the De Jong mantle; Marc Beishuizen was mightily impressive in the UK semi-final and has backed up that performance with strong showings around Europe since; Lars Zandvliet and Henry Van der Steen complete the Dutch four-strong hand.
The remaining three riders carry the Czech Republic’s hopes. It seems remarkable that current World bronze medallist Josef Franc has never made the podium in this European championship, while Hynek Stichauer and Martin Malek are more than capable of being spoilers.
The two reserves hoping for a ride are Briton Richard Hall and Gaetan Stella from France.
In the photo: defending European Individual Grass Track Champion James Shanes, who will try to achieve a hat track of back to back European titles in Tayac.