Following a 2019 season ruined through injury, Jake Nicholls will be back swinging on his Buildbase Honda this year for Dave Thorpe’s outfit and battling his new team-mate Tommy Searle for the British MX1 championship title.
Jake broke his leg in an Eastern Centre event two weeks before the final round of the 2018 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship while holding a comfortable lead and ended up missing out on the crown by five points to Evgeny Bobryshev.
NOTE: A version of this interview was first published in TMX in late 2019
Complications then kept him out of the saddle for most of 2019 but the 29-year-old from Suffolk is up for the challenge in 2020, although – obviously – the first thing any rider wants to do is beat his team-mate and Searle, 2019’s champion, is going to be a tough nut to crack.
“It should be all right,” said Jake. “I’ve got my hands full but I’ll have my hands full with everyone in that series. It’s looking like it’s going to be a good line-up I think.”
With Searle, Shaun Simpson and Bobryshev back in the mix, Jake knows next season will be tough!
“I think Tommy, Shaun and Bobby will definitely be there… it’s looking mega from that side of things so it’s going to be good.
“The team-mate thing always motivates me. When I was team-mates with [Stephen] Sword all those years ago it brought me on so much because I was the dark horse and he was number one, so it should be good.”
Jake was initially linked to a ride in MX2 for 2020 but he’s decided to stick with the 450 class for now.
“When we were talking about 2020 I said I’d be up for trying a 250. I really liked the bike to be honest and it was quite a difficult decision but I feel as though I did so many years on a 250 it’s really natural for me to ride one – I rode one from the age of 13 until I was 23 – and it’s easier for me physically.
“A lot of people think you’ve got to be much more active on a 250 – which I guess in a lot of ways you do – but the way we ride 450s now is exactly the same, we just don’t change gear as often.
“I’d like to race for quite a few more years yet and I feel like it’s too soon to go back down. Perhaps I should do that when my body’s not quite as strong as it was. I feel like I’m in my prime and I am strong and it would be a little bit of a waste to go on a 250.”
The broken leg he sustained at Blaxhall is fully healed but now Jake faces a fight to rebuild the strength he has lost.
“My leg’s good – I’ve just got to get it a bit stronger. Running is my main training and not being able to do it has been a nightmare but I ran three weeks ago for the first time since my injury which was massive for me. I was told I’d never be able to run ever again.
“I’ve just got to get it a little bit stronger now but I’ve got two months before Christmas to really crack on with that so I’m excited. This year I couldn’t even do one-legged exercises because it was so painful so I couldn’t build it up.”
Jake actually returned to racing last summer and took the overall at round four of the Michelin MX Nationals and scored well at the sixth round of the Maxxis but further complications with his leg forced him off the bike again.
“When I came back I feel I did really well and I won at Canada Heights and I was really pleased by that and at Hawkstone, I was just off the podium after crashing in the first turn of the first race.
Then I put it down again at Foxhill and, although I wasn’t back to square one, I tore a muscle in my calf which at the time felt like I’d just rebroken my leg.
“There were two races left and me and Dave said ‘what’s the point in coming back again?’ so I stopped for the year.”
He won’t be drawn on his goals for the season but a first British ACU adult title is the obvious target.
“I still feel as though I’m the best I’ve ever been and with that bike and with that team I can do it all and get back to where I was.
“Now I’m fully fit but just need to build some strength up in my leg and also build my strength up all over. That’s like a normal winter so I’ve got a clear run now. I’m fine and I can start riding and building up whereas last year I was still having operations.”