Bomber happy to get on his bike for pounds and points

About 275 kilometres along the magnificent Baltic coastline from Stockholm is the city of Vastervik. Once a bustling timber port, it is now a popular tourist attraction which doubles in population during the extraordinarily light summer months.

One of the more unlikely visitors to this picturesque destination is Chris Harris, one of Britain's leading speedway riders, who makes a regular pilgrimage in pursuit of pounds, points and the best domestic competition in the world. The journey from his home in Coventry to Vastervik's speedway circuit is one he has undertaken for three years, about a dozen times a season, but he feels it is his destiny.

"I did not perform brilliantly at school. All I ever wanted to do was ride bikes. Thankfully, I had some ability for speedway," he says, having had just three hours' sleep following an evening race at Belle Vue in Manchester and an early-morning plane trip to attend the latest Swedish meeting. "Having been brought up on a farm, I couldn't work in an office, nine to five. I haven't got the brain power for that."

Welcome, then, to the demanding life of a modern speedway rider. Few British sportsmen embark on a more tortuous weekly professional schedule. Throughout the domestic season, which begins in March and reaches its climax in October, the Cornish-born 25-year-old will attend 130 meetings, racing for three teams: the Elite League champions, Coventry Bees (any time during the week); Vastervik (home and away meetings every Tuesday); and KM Ostrow in Poland (most Sunday nights). To the detriment of his carbon footprint, but to the benefit of the low-cost airlines, Harris made 80 flights around Europe in six months last year.

"It can be lonely. The travelling gets you down but you have to deal with it. I'll sleep in a van, on a plane or at the airport," says Harris, nicknamed Bomber. "It catches up on you."

Harris will be there when the Speedway Grand Prix circuit arrives in Cardiff on Saturday. It was at the Millennium Stadium 12 months ago when, in his debut season, Harris announced himself to the world's elite. Overtaking the former world champion Greg Hancock on the last corner of the grand final, Harris became the first home winner of a British GP since 2000. "I'm capable of winning on the world stage consistently. It'll take a couple of years but I have to be prepared to keep plugging away."

Although his form has waned, credit for that Cardiff ride should also go to the members of Team Harris – his manager, Chris Anderson, organises the travel, while mechanics Steven Midgley and Norrie Allan ensure that his 11 engines and eight fixed-gear bikes – with no brakes and top speeds of 70mph – are operational and transported safely.

All Harris needs to do is turn up and ride. Given that his three club contracts are performance-related, it is no surprise everything is meticulously planned. "The better you are, the better deal you get," he says. "But if I don't score a point in a meeting, I don't earn anything – and the mechanics still get paid."

The recognition Harris earns from racing abroad makes it all worthwhile. Last Tuesday, less than an hour after producing his best performance of the season, in which he was the joint highest points-scorer in five heats – helping Vastervik to a 56-40 win over local rivals Elit Vetlanda live on Swedish television – Harris was surrounded by local fans.

Speedway has a high profile in Scandinavia, but viewing figures have also quadrupled in Britain. "Footballers make me laugh when they moan about three matches a week," Harris says. "They only run round after a ball. We get knocked down, battered and bruised, then get back on our bikes. How can they be tired? That's prima donnas for you. They should try speedway."

Life and times

Born: 28 November 1982, Truro, Cornwall.

Nickname: Bomber.

Vital statistics: 5ft 5in, 9st.

Rides for: Coventry Bees (British League); Rybnik (Polish League); Vastervik (Swedish League); Slangerup (Danish League).

Individual honours: British champion 2007, British Grand Prix winner 2007.

Team Honours: Elite League champion 2005, 2007; Elite League KO Cup Winner 2006, 2007; Premier League champion 2000; Craven Shield winner 2007; Premier Trophy winner 2002; Conference League champion 1998; Conference League Knockout Cup 1998.

Interests: Football, motorcross, gym.

Extras: Before taking up speedway he was a farmer. Injuries suffered due to speedway include cracked shoulder blade and broken wrist.

Tom Bateman

The British Speedway Grand Prix is liveon Sky Sports 1 from 7pm next Saturday

There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice