London has its Olympics right now. Cycle Speedway had its Games over the weekend. European Championships had just gone and they were pretty much the best ever. Fantastic track, very strong field, good crowd and exciting racing. I had a rare privilege to be seeded straight into the semifinals, which could be a benefit providing you know the tracks and you don’t oversleep and switch off during the weekend. Knowing that I was selected for the Euro Team Cup for Poland I went for a quick spin on Saturday morning just to keep the legs moving.
Euro Team Cup was an affair on its own. Very tight racing, very level and close, with just one point separating England and Poland. There was some refereeing issues during the meeting. I personally don’t think that it was a perfect choice for the meeting. Finals need a strong ref, that can’t be intimidated and influenced by anybody. I know it’s probably the worst job out there and I have a huge respect for all of you guys in white and black. To be fair, whatever went on that night did not change the meeting. I think England deserved to win it. Simply consistent riding and picking up the points. You can tell how much they enjoy riding with each other, which is completely opposite in our camp. Pressure and not enough support within the team isn’t the way forward. There is a lot of tension in Polish National Team and I can’t see us getting back to winning ways, unless we solve it. I loved the way our supporters were lifting us, they
were fantastic. It’s great to be on the track with crowds like these.
I was happy with my performance, although I suffered from rustiness and my legs went a bit after my ride one, miss one, 3 laps, 4 laps but still decent effort.
Anybody that knows me and follows my career knew that this year wasn’t the best so far and not to my usually high standards. As the pre-event spokesman write up said I am having a pretty inconsistant season. It is due to various reasons, which I would like to keep to myself. Certainly not due to lack of effort or training. Overall it was a big unknown and I honestly did not know what to expect from the weekend of racing. I knew I can be up there if I was on form, but I simply didn’t know what form I was carrying. My goal was to be in the final and make the team. Luckily I was automatically picked so didn’t have to prove anything, that took the pressure off. I was going into the Semis on the back of a solid performance on Saturday. With two grid two’s I was positive I can make the top eight. As the racing went under way I started easing into it and was feeling better and better. Managed 16 points and topped the second semi. Shock elimination of Andy Angell ensured me how realistic my goal was and how tough the field was this year.
Listening to that draw for the final I was dredding that number nine. There is a little bit of history attached to that number. There is no doubt that it is the worst possible draw out there. Not only you are “gifted” with two grid fours, but you have twice “ride one, miss one, ride one” scenario, which basically takes a lot of energy out of you, especially that you have it in your last two rides, and by this point you don’t have that much energy left. Nevertheless there is a number of titles won from that very number, none other than my World Title last year in USA. Also previous year’s effort by Marcin Paradzinski at Leszno was from number nine. Pudney, Cross and few others in British Finals managed to do it too, so there was a bit of hope.
After that perfect win in America I followed my mental preparation I did over there. Correct mind set can’t be underestimated. I suffer a lot from pressure if not handled in a proper way. The key is to calm yourself down and not to allow your emotions to take over. Take it as another cycle speedway meeting and it would be down to you to do your best. The idea was to keep smiling after 20 heats. If I was to be happy after my efforts, it would have meant I gave it my all.
It started with a grid three with Ganczarek on four and Paradzinski and Pronobis on my left. I had a game plan which had two levels of execution. First was to hold my gate, second was to pull a line and drive up the inside. Two out of two, perfect start, 4 points and leading from the start.
After a short break it was my first ride miss one ride one. Now I have to say that this was my weak point and a little lack of self belief. There is so many thoughts going through your mind and even with the best mind controlling efforts you just cannot shut some of them down. I thought a third would be a good result out of that race, so the plan was to gate around Steve Harris. Two years ago it would not be a problem, but now with my gateing untested and in doubt I really had to mean it. It went to plan and I was sitting third which was good enough, but I was looking forward and waited to attack. When Daniel Ordon slipped in front of me I tried my best to avoid him and was hoping that Steve would do the same, but he is too experienced to do that, he knew that it would put him out of the race and riding into Daniel would most probably give him another chance at me.
In the re run I gated again, but as I was going into the bend I saw Ben Mould looking for me which automatically triggered my self-deffense mode. I imidiatelly slowed down and waited for Steve. I think I should have had a go at Ben, after all he had two on the trot and he did a three lapper before the stoppage, that was a mistake by me, but as I said I would have been happy with a third before the race so didn’t race it how I should. Steve passed me on the inside and I cruised home in third.
Next race was crucial for me. If I was to do well, I had to win it, and to win it I had to hold Marcin Szymanski off the gate. It was my grid one and again a couple of years ago I would be happy with that but now I had to use all my knowledge and track craft to beat him. I gated well and went off. As expected Marcin tried every trick in the book, but I was smart enough to read his efforts well enough to ride the way he wanted to attack me. A massive win for me put me on 10 points and joint top of the board after 3 rides with grids 4 and 2 to come.
I must say that my legs recovered quickly after all that and I was feeling very well, waiting with confidence for my next two rides.
I knew my last ride was winnable if a title was at stake, so I immediately started to plan things for the next ride. Ipswich is a very wide track and it is extremely difficult to gate from 4. It’s such a long way. Again two levels, first to gate over Lee, get some speed and see what happens. I knew I had to go from the start, drop wasn’t an option simply because Lee would have read it and that would give me too much work to do from the back. Gate was there and I managed to come out from the first corner in third and went for Lewis Osborne on the away, straight blocked him, drifted wide but quick enough to be in front and went after Paul. I knew that a win in last would give me 17 points if I could keep the second place. My next race was too important to gamble for a win in this one, I would have little chances catching Heardy anyway so I settled for second and tried to recover as quick as possible. With Timms on 12, I knew that even if he would have won (which he did) it would only put him on 16, so a win in the next would guarantee a podium.
I only had my mind on Rycharski, he was of one. I hoped for another gate to be fair but he held me, so I had to keep going around him. As we separated from the rest I was waiting for my move and went for the same manoeuvre I executed on Jason Ashford in the Memorial I won back in March. I dived Dominik going into the first bend on the third lap and held the win.
It was for the rest to deliver now. Heardy had grid one to come and I knew he would win, Marcin had a grid 4 but he had a point on me, so a win would have give him a title outright. He only managed a second and it was back to what I love the best, run offs.
For once luck was on my side, but with such quality field it wasn’t an advantage at all. We have seen what Szymanski could do of four many times over the weekend, and I was hoping it would go my way and maybe Paul would ask him a couple of questions. Unfortunately he decided to ask me a question instead which eventually gave Martinez a win on a plate. As Paul did not move from the start it gave Szymanski a clear run on me which I had to deal with, that obviously exposed my inside a little bit too far, enough for Paul to squeeze in. By doing it he put me and himself out of the race, so I was a little bit disappointed it didn’t go all the way for four laps. Great performace in his first senior European final.
Best rider in the world finally delivered and got his only title he was missing in his collection. Paul got a second I’m sure he is happy with that. Third for me is good enough. After all I kept my record: ten years in top 4 is something I can be proud of. 17 points with two grid 4’s is not bad either. With one mistake in the process, that was my chance gone.
I can only hope that I will get back to my true form after that. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. Future is Torun and I believe we can win the league this year. I will also have another go at the Polish Championships later in the year.
I just want say a big thank you to all my sponsors this year.
You guys make it much easier to reach those goals.
Special thank you to Steve Mullinder from Dash Trophies for his amazing set of clothing.