OVER the years Eastbourne Eagles have been poor travellers. They are notorious for it and that Achilles heel is once again showing.
At home the team are mustard but are just falling short away from Arlington. They lost away at Swindon on Monday and that followed defeats the previous week at Peterborough and Poole.
On Wednesday night they rode at King’s Lynn but my deadline had passed by the time the result of this match was known.
I will admit that all these tracks never count as favourites if your home circuit is Arlington. They are much bigger and racing is totally different. Nevertheless, Eastbourne need to crack this and get back to winning ways on their travels.
Tracks where they might hope to do better are Wolverhampton, Lakeside, Birmingham; let’s hope they get some more points on the board quickly. Last Saturday they were thwarted by a thunderstorm which hit Arlington and washed out proceedings after heat six.
It was a pity as the Eagles were romping away with the match (24-12 up when the end came).
Swindon came with an “interesting” team; one that most observers deemed to be much stronger than their usual outfit.
Jesper B. Monberg was riding in a Danish league match and his place went to Nick Morris from Glasgow. Nicolai Klindt was in a world championship round and was replaced by Poole’s Darcy Ward. Maciej Jankowski received a late call to be reserve at the European GP in Poland the next day and Troy Batchelor from Peteborough came in. Add to that, rider replacement for Simon Stead and you can see why some home fans dubbed it a Swindon Select.
It certainly gave an edge to the meeting. Batchelor is probably the least popular rider to come to Arlington with many in the crowd holding a deep grudge against him over a number of incidents. He’s blamed over a crash with David Norris and was involved in an unsavoury incident in the pits on another occasion.
And what made matters worse was that Swindon were making threatening noises about Eastbourne using their No 1, Bjarne Pedersen.
Swindon sought to have him thrown out of the meeting, or would ride under protest, because they alleged he was practising in Poland on Thursday when he should have been riding for the Eagles at Peterborough. Pedersen was, in fact, in Denmark, receiving treatment to the back he injured on Good Friday when Joonas Kylmakorpi crashed into him.
It seems that just before tapes up, the protest was withdrawn with Swindon accepting there was no truth in the rumour that Pedersen had been in Poland.
Set against this background, the Eagles tore into the visitors and the crowd saw some excellent racing.
Lewis Bridger served up two master-classes on how to overtake.
He started from a 15m handicap in heat two because of a tapes offence – it doesn’t sound much to make up but can often prove insurmountable; as Scott Nicholls showed later in the meeting.
Bridger made light work of the task and with careful, controlled riding went through the field was in front at the end of lap three.
A couple of heats later Bridger came from the back to beat Batchelor in a sublime chase-down and pass.
Tomorrow (Saturday) King’s Lynn make their first visit to Sussex for some years, having returned to the Elite League in the winter.
Both teams are affected by overseas commitments for some of the riders but Eastbourne will have local lad Edward Kennett as a guest for Kylmakorpi. It’s a 7.30pm start.
Top riders for the visitors are Kenneth Bjerre, yet another rider who can claim to be an Arlington expert, Mads Korneliussen who has had his moments down here and former Eagle Olly Allen has made an impressive start to the year.
But the side confounded the pundits with a surprise 46-43 win at King’s Lynn on Wednesday night.
The success put them eight points clear at the top of the Elite League.
No 1 Bjarne Pedersen anchored the success with every rider making a significant contribution.