Spying on the opposition

Birmingham v Poole
BCTG Elite League Match

On the day when Andy Murray played his first Wimbledon final, Cycle Speedway had its big day too. Advertised as a top of the table clash, Birmingham v Poole was a classic. Some matches were called off due to bad weather, no such problems at Perry Barr, track in superb condition, everything was ready for the Sky TV cameras to arrive. Unfortunately camera crew were not available for some reason. Perhaps unpredictable weather conditions put them off. Their loss, I would say. Two very similar teams, with very even squads, mixtures of youth and experience, big names on both sides, what a treat for true racing fans.

First race had a European no2 Maciej Ganczarek on grid 3, powering around Dominik Rycharski who suffered a wheel spin, it seemed like the Poole pair was on the perfect route for maximum points only for Harrold and Rycharski outfoxing young Morgan, first sign of what the match would be, powerful individuals not always want to shepherd their young partners for teams’ sake.

Heat 2 had arguably two best gaters in the sport lining up on extreme grids, Marcus Wadhams on the line and Greg Gluchowski on the outside. Tricky Birmingham starting grids caught up poor Marcus and he was left good couple of pedals behind from the start but again team effort earned Moanrchs a draw with Tom Colling relegated to the back. Heat 3 and the first super substitution of the day, Paul Heard in for Scott Millward, against the virtuoso himself Marcin Szymanski and young Leyton Glover. Paul held his gate and astonishingly left Marcin at the back. Szymanski tried it all, but just could not even reduce the gap. First advantage for the hosts.

Next race and another 6:4 for the Monarchs, but they were on the 7:3 after the first bend only for an unbelievably quick move from Ganczarek to split the pair by passing Chris Timms. It was good to see Chris keeping his head cool and taking the third place for the team, he did fancy his chances against the Polish Champion.

Tom Reed’s first race was a team effort to a draw against Heard of two, just gating around Aron Morgan. Tom could easily challenge Heard after a massive gap appeared on the first corner created by Morgan, but he opted to sit for Jack Harrold at the back trying his luck against Reedy.

Heat 6 and the first disaster struck for Poole. Good start from Czestochowa’s Konrad Pietak he held off fast starting Greg, but he never gave up, trying every trick in the book to get passed his Polish mate, but Konrad’s super-fast pick ups were just too good for Greg’s efforts, things got even worse, desperate Gluchowski overcooked it on the very last bend caught the track with his left pedal and hit the floor, gifting the Brummies third heat advantage, 6:4 and a 6 point lead.

Marcin Szymanski gating round Dominik, just as they were going into the bend caused Rycharski’s bike to straighten up only for Jack Harrold to “receive” out of shape Dom and ruin Birmingham chances for anything more than 3 points. Good ride from Poole’s youngster Glover hanging up there behind super fast Pole for a bonus point. When the going gets tough… stick your gater on one. That’s exactly what Birmingham did, Wadhams fending off ever persisting Ganczarek, Morgan doing enough to stop Groves, 5:5.

Race before interval and another catastrophe for the Comets. One of the most interesting heats so far, with Gluchowski speeding away from the tapes and Tom Reed looking after Millward it looked like a much needed heat win for Poole, only for Chris Timms using his track knowledge to the best and passing Greg on the away straight in the meantime unlucky Reed lost his pedals and hit the ground hard. As it was, Poole were going from 6:4 to a 4:6 and if that wasn’t enough Timmsy “mugged”  lonely Gluchowski and got his partner round for a first maximum win for the home side and the cheering fans. Great result from 2 and 4. 48:42 at the interval, and what a second half in prospect.

Second half began with third straight win for Paul Heard. The ex Sandwell rider looking very comfortable on any track he races on, his bike set up is very aggressive with his tyres having a maximum grip round the bends. Konrad’s third place resulted in the gap reaching 8 points, a dangerous moment for the Barnes/Sutton duo. They needed the answer quick, and they got it. It must be said it wasn’t straight forward at all. Szymanski made the gate with Chris Timms on tow. Timmsy being a competitive type chased former World Champion from the word go, with Wadhams at the back, he had nothing to lose. He had Marcin all worried and it did look for a moment he might find a way past him, as they were going into the pit bend Szymanski had Timms all over his rear wheel keeping very tight line, Chris picked up early and he had momentum going from the bend, only for Szymanski to stop him with his shoulder and elbow combination. The clash resulted in disappointed Timms tasting the dirt looking for some compassion in Al Bentley’s eyes. Another 7:3, another bonus point for Leyton Glover doing well to hold off Marcus for 4 laps.

Next race and it’s all going Birmingham way again. A fine start for Rycharski and a win, Greg doing the chasing again, Jack Harrold found way pass a below par Colling. It’s back to 6 points for the red and whites.

Heat 13 could have change the match in my eyes. A couple of re-starts with riders looking after their opponents, taking the bend very wide. Third time asking and a super gate for Ganczarek with Morgan in second it looked like a nailed on 7:3. Millward and Pietak aren’t as track crafted as Timms or Heard, so this was the race to do it. You could understand taking a draw from the inside gates when you’re winning, but being 6 down Poole simply had to take any advantage at this point, with draw not good enough. Once again very fast today Ganczarek powered away for a heat win and left Morgan high and dry, only for Pietak and Millward finding way through for a 5:5, and happy days for the Monarchs.

Heat 14 was a great example of racing on the highest level. Exactly how the sport should be promoted and why we should have the best riders in the top level of racing. Wadhams showed once more one of his trademark electric gates, with Szymanski going round Timmsy it was looking like another draw, Tom Reed was making sure Chris stayed last. You could just sense Szymanski’s intentions to get a race win, with Wadhams in front surely it was just a matter of time… Marcus had other plans and he rode a text book race for… three laps, when he started to look for Marcin and considerably slowed down allowing Szymanski to catch him up. Tasting Wadz’s blood, he just went for a last blast round the boards and Wadhams gave up on the very last straight when he slipped. A fine, well earned win for Poole and it was back to 4 points only. Heat 15 was Tom Reeds second on the trot. The natural talent from Exeter didn’t have his day today. As Heardy went all the way from 4 to 1 Reed clashed with Nathan Groves who unexpectedly appeared from nowhere, and it looked like Tom just didn’t expect him to be there. Second place from Glover gave Poole a 4:6 but it looked a very difficult task with both powerful Birmingham’s reserves having one more ride each 6 point deficit looked like a mountain to climb, especially that Poole had twice outside grids with three to go.

Cycle speedway is a very unpredictable sport and heat 16 was a great proof of that. Poole had to do something in this race, they were trailing and were running out of races. Ganczarek on four would be any manager’s dream weapon. Again he went out of those grids with one intention, to win, only for Scotty Millward to come with move of the match. Must say, not many dare to challenge fast and athletic Maciej, but Scott did. He tricked him going into the third bend and took him wide, allowing both Colling and his team mate Harrold to come past them. He then simply rode Ganczarek around Perry Barr’s circuit and it looked like a drawn heat and a great situation for the Brummies before last two races. Unfortunately Millward slipped going into the pit bend, almost went sideways which gave Ganczarek, just behind him, no options but to ride into the poor lad. Scott was excluded for bringing Ganczarek down, which was strongly commented by a crowd member, which resulted in a yellow card. It did look like a right decision to me. In the re-run Harrold tried his best to hold off the pewerhouse from Wroclaw, but it just wasn’t enough, and Poole moved to just a point with two races to go. Text book 5:5 for the Monarchs with Wadhams going from the outside and Rycharski holding off Glover, it did look a bit messy with Wadhams’ legs giving up and brave Leyton catching them up, Greg had an easy win.

Last race of the day, match score still unknown, tactical games… the only thing missing was the Sky coverage.

In for Groves and Pietak came super pair of Heard and Timms. With inside gates and unbeaten Paul, you wouldn’t bet against them, even though Poole had Marcin Szymanski on 4. First time of asking Szymanski gated round Timms but ref not happy with the proceedings blew the whistle with Timms at the back. Second time round, Chris held his gate, with Marcin looking for a switch, he took the bend very narrow, where nobody dares to race and track’s surface very soft there, he fell to the jubilant cheers from Birmingham’s crowd. Heard and Timms registered a second 7:3 of the day for the Monarchs and cemented a 92:87 win.

Looking from the stands you could see that today’s match was won by a team unit. Birmingham rode for each other, looking after their team mates. Poole’s squad, although very strong on paper, simply lacks of ability to team ride. With the quality of riders they have, they should be beating anybody. Elite League is the most competitive ever and simply does not forgive missed chances. A great display tastes better when you win.

Birmingham 92

D.Rycharski 3,4,1,4,2′ 14+1
J.Harrold 2′,1,2,2,2 9+1
N.Groves 3,1,x,2,x 6
M.Wadhams 2′,4,2,3,3 14+1
S.Millward x,2,4,2′,ex 8+1
K.Pietak 2,4,2,3,x 11
C.Timms 2,3′,1,1,3′ 10+2
P.Heard 4,4,4,4,4 20

Poole 87

M.Ganczarek 4,3,3,4,4 18
A.Morgan 1,3,2′,1,2 9+1
G.Gluchowski 4,1,2,3,4 14
T.Colling 1,3,1,1,3′ 9+1
M.Szymanski 3,4,4,4,1 16
L.Glover 1,3′,3′,3,1 11+2
O.Sidwick 1,x,x 1
T.Reed 2′,1,3,2,1 9+1

Referee A.Bentley (Wolverhampton)