Dan Gilkes is Sheffield’s new Rising Star. The 19-year-old arrives at Owlerton heavily recommended by Tru Plant Tigers’ team manager Simon Stead who has worked with the youngster over the past couple of seasons within the Great Britain international set-up.
Gilkes is currently building up his fitness having spent a chunk of the 2022 campaign on the sidelines with broken ribs and a broken arm – of which he had the metal platework removed from last week.
But Stead says he has been introduced at Sheffield with the intention of keeping him involved on a longer term basis and is excited to see how Gilkes progresses during his time with the club.
Said Stead: “I was absolutely delighted that Dan’s name was still on the list of riders available to us when it came around to our Rising Star selection. That’s because he was my No.1 target anyway and I was desperate to work with him.”
“I spoke in some depth with Dan towards the end of last season and told him I genuinely felt the time was right for him to step up and make the move into the Premiership – albeit on his limited bike time and Championship racing this year due to injury.”
“Dan is somebody I’ve been working with for quite some time now in the GB Academy and with the GB squad. He is somebody who never fails to impress me with his level of application and dedication to the sport. He is the perfect fit for us and somebody I feel I work very, very well with and someone I think I can help continue to develop.”
“We see this as a long-term thing and that was made very, very clear to Dan throughout our discussions with him. He is really, really happy to be involved with Sheffield and while it will be a huge challenge for him, if what I’ve seen of Dan up to now continues and develops even further with us, then we really have got a shining light on our hands.”
“Sheffield fans really can trust me on this one when I tell them that they can look forward to seeing a talented, young British rider who will give his absolute everything for the club.”
It means Connor Mountain will depart the Sheffield side for 2023 having ‘graduated’ from the Rising Star scheme – but Stead is keen to see him return to Owlerton at some point in the future.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Connor in a Tigers’ racejacket,” he said. “He was exceptional for us in 2022 and I was desperately disappointed that no matter how hard we tried, he just didn’t fit average wise with what else we’d already got lined up.”
“Trust me, we explored all options to try and keep him involved in the team but for next year, it just didn’t work unfortunately.”
“I know a lot of Sheffield fans will also be disappointed by that but right now all we can do is thank him for his tremendous efforts and like I’ve said, I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see him racing for Sheffield because he did us so, so proud and he leaves with our very best wishes.”