Mikkel Michelsen begins the second year of starts in the Speedway Euro Championship series. A year ago the Dane was close to the podium, but eventually he had to settle for fourth place in the general classification. Now, he thinks first of all about the progress and making next steps on the road to speedway development. We talk about what happened in the 2018 season and how it affected the rider. We are discussing goals for this year's games, as well as ambitious plans in the context of a not too distant future.
How do you rate your first year of starts in the SEC cycle?
I think it was a great debut, the more so because at the beginning I could not ride one hundred percent because of an earlier arm injury. I'm happy because I managed to finish the cycle in the top five and I did not have to qualify for this year's edition. It is always good for the rider, but I do not hide that after the last round in Chorzów I was a little disappointed. I went there very good competition, but I dropped out in the playoffs and I was not able to enter the final. It probably cost me the loss of a bronze medal.
You only missed one point to the podium. How did you react to it?
After my last run I was very frustrated. I knew that I was close to the medal and I really need very little to get it, but unfortunately it failed. I was angry then, but today it's been some time now and I can be happy with my achievement.
Have you ever wondered why you failed to get a medal?
Ten days before the start of the first round in Gniezno I sprained my arm and I was not sure if I would be able to go in this competition at all. After the training, we even started talking with my team that I think I'd better let go, because I felt too much pain. In the end, I managed to take off. I scored nine points and entered the finals, so it was pretty good. Of course, this is no excuse, but this injury could have some effect.
I have been racing really well throughout the season, but it was a little less successful in Daugavpils, which probably also deprived me of the chance to win something at the end of the season. I've never been too good at this track. It's a treacherous oval, but I'm not going to justify it. The wine is completely on my side. I had great motorcycles, I just could not drive well enough.
What are your impressions after the SEC debut season?
I think this is a nice alternative to the Grand Prix cycle. Of course, my main goal is to qualify there, and I suspect that many riders approach it in this way, but the first impressions associated with the European Championships are very positive. Behind this is a harmonious group of people from One Sport, which is heading in the right direction and has an idea how to develop this cycle. This was especially evident during the last competition in Chorzów. It was an amazing event, something special for competitors and fans. Sometimes, even the smallest things do a great job and make the whole atmosphere and envelope much better. I mean, for example, comfortable locker rooms or nice staff. Each rider has enough space. I'm looking at all this with really great optimism.
What did you learn thanks to the SEC starts?
Each time there are sixteen good riders at the start, so if you are able to achieve good results here, you gain much more confidence. From the very beginning I feel very comfortable in this cycle. I have the impression that it helps me to become a better rider and to cope with the pressure. I have learned a lot of things that I can use not only here but in the speedway in general.
Based on what you say, I conclude that it is worth being part of such a cycle.
Of course, this is very helpful. I think it's the right place to show a good form and present an effective ride. It is best to combine this with good results in the Polish league, because everyone is looking at it. If you manage on these fronts, people start to open their eyes. As I said, my main goal is to get to the Grand Prix. It does not necessarily have to be this year, although I will go in Challenge and I have a great chance, but I will be very happy if I can win the European Championship first.
Will you aim for gold this year?
Recently I finished in fourth place, so now I would like to stand on the podium first of all. Of course, for every competition I will go with the thought of winning them, but sometimes other riders may appear who will be better. If I jump on the podium, I will be very happy. If I can only keep it, I will also accept it, but I will treat everything else as a big disappointment.
Do you think the second season at the SEC may be more difficult for you?
If we look at the cast, it seems to me that it is a bit stronger than last year. There are many good rider in the stakes. From the beginning you have to be in shape and keep it throughout the whole cycle, because one weaker round can destroy all the work and take away the chance of winning.
I have the impression that your career is gaining momentum. In the SEC you are going to fight for the highest positions, you aspire to the Grand Prix, and besides you have returned to the Polish PGE Ekstraliga and you are one of the best riders there. Slowly knocking to the world leaders. What it comes from?
A lot of factors decided about it. When I signed a contract in Leszno in 2013, I was promoted to extraleague at once, and I did not have any experience in the Polish league. I suspect that it was too early for me. At that time I had a school and I wanted to finish it, so it suited me that at the beginning I did not have to race in Poland every week. After two years in Leszno, I went to Ostrów, who was then in the first division. I scored a very good season, so I went back to Ekstraliga straight away. It seemed to me that I was ready for it, but in Tarnów I went off a very weak season. Then we sat with my mechanics, talked a bit, and found that we needed two years in the first division to build everything from scratch.
What does it mean?
I wanted to be ready in terms of equipment and team. I had to become stronger on the mental side. I knew it was necessary to give it all a concrete shape. During this time, I worked hard to become a better rider.
How did it look like?
I invested a lot of money in my equipment, engines and team matters. I hired new mechanics. Now I have two very good professionals. There is no effective driving without efficient people in the machine park. They are doing a great job. They never complain, even when we have more difficult moments. They always try to do everything that I can to race on the highest level possible. I think it is one of the most important things that I have such a solid team side by side. Thanks to this I feel very comfortable. I do not have to stress. I'm sure the boys know what to do, so I can concentrate on racing.