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Elite League Preview 2007

Stead Schlein Dryml

Predicted finishing positions relate to the league section of the championship.


BELLE VUE ACES

Simon Stead; Joe Screen; Adam Skornicki; Ryan Fisher; Kaj Laukkanen; Kevin Doolan; James Wright (covered by Joel Parsons)

Doubt there's a shortage of top line riders in this country? Take a look at this line up! The new promoters at Kirky Lane got off to the worst possible start when they inherited a team minus the talismanic Jason Crump. That they've also lost Kenneth Bjerre is another huge blow. Neither has been adequately replaced and a season of struggle looks in store for the Aces. Simon Stead leads the side and will find himself under pressure to return a constant stream of high scores, if his form dips then the Aces are in big trouble. The middle order consists of riders who've found their level and are unlikely to suddenly start returning heatleader scores. Both Laukkanen and Skornicki are capable of fleeting brilliance, though not nearly often enough to transform the Aces into challengers. It's only fair to say that the Aces look strong at reserve and that the return of the much-improved Kevin Doolan could be a master-stroke.

Key Man:Simon Stead - Can he cope with the pressure about to applied to his shoulders?

Prediction:11th


COVENTRY BEES

Scott Nicholls; Rory Schlein; Chris Harris; Billy Janniro; Olly Allen; Martin Smolinski; Morten Risager

The Bees are in the unique position of starting this season with the side that finished the last one. When you consider that campaign was far from a disaster that's not a bad achievement. The Bees' young side are now a year old and wiser and, to a man, still have untapped potential. That may be demonstrated best by messrs Schlein and Harris, both of whom stand on the cusp of genuine heatleader quality. If either, or both, makes the big breakthrough then the Bees could be difficult to stop. Given that Harris will have the distraction of a regular Grand Prix spot, he may find that Schlein makes that jump first. The Coventry fans will also be optimistic that Morten Risager has now served his apprenticeship and that bigger returns will now be forthcoming from that direction.

Key Man:Rory Schlein - If he can avoid injury then he can emerge as a world class competitor this year

Prediction:2nd


EASTBOURNE EAGLES

Nicki Pedersen; David Norris; Dean Barker; Davey Watt; Stefan Andersson; Lewis Bridger; Cameron Woodward

This septet are unmistakeably Eastbourne, in fact the biggest change has been off track with the departure of the long-serving promoter Jon Cook. This does look to be one of the better balanced teams in the league. They are fortunate to have a 'real number one' in Pedersen, he gives them a chance wherever they go. He'll be well supported by the remainder of the top five, including surprise returnee Andersson. Down in the reserve berths they're well equipped also. Lewis Bridger exceeded all reasonable expectations last season just by retaining a place on merit. Second seasons, like second albums, can be notoriously difficult and Bridger will do well just to consolidate his standing, further progression may have to wait for future seasons. Key Man:David Norris - If he can get back to anything like his 2004 form then the Eagles will be a major force.

Prediction:6th


IPSWICH WITCHES

Mark Loram; Zbigniew Suchecki; Chris Louis; Robert Miskowiak; Kim Jansson; Marcin Rempala; Tobias Kroner

The Witches retain the services of the Loram and Louis partnership that served them so well last season. Beyond that it's not a particularly impressive line up. Zbigniew Suchecki is an interesting newcomer and much will depend on how he fares. He's nominally the second heatleader as the season starts and he'll be doing very well if he finishes the season in that role. It does seem more likely that he'll drop down the order, at least a little, though these unheralded new signings can often adapt surprisingly quickly. The rest of the team will be largely familiar to Witches' fans, though none can claim a high profile throughout the sport as a whole. This does look like a team that won't last the distance, expect to see a couple of changes as the year progresses.

Key Man:Zbigniew Suchecki - Will this comparitive unknown prove to be a hero or a zero?

Prediction:9th


LAKESIDE HAMMERS

Joonas Kylmakorpi; Krzysztof Kasprzak; Adam Shields; Leigh Lanham; Paul Hurry; Henning Bager; Christian Hefenbrock

It's a new era down at Thurrock with Stuart Douglas replacing Ronnie Russell in the promoter's chair. A new name also, as the Arena-Essex moniker is replaced by the more specific Lakeside name. Despite these radical changes the side retains a familiar look, though given the club's recent record that's not necessarily a good thing. Solid would have to be the adjective of choice to describe this seven. They're certainly guaranteed to have a strong reserve pairing all season and will be a tough nut to crack at home. On the debit side they seem to lack a guaranteed high scorer on their travels. It'll be interesting to see which of the Kylmakorpi/Kasprzak/Shields trio emerges as the club's number one.

Key Man:Adam Shields - Will he emerge from the Pedersen/Norris shadow as a genuine number one?

Prediction:10th


OXFORD CHEETAHS

Jesper B. Jensen; Ales Dryml; Piotr Protasiewicz; Steve Johnston; Adrian Medzinski; Freddie Erikkson; Eric Andersson

Hey, you know what? This isn't a bad team. For some reason it doesn't look particularly eye-catching until you consider it as a whole. It certainly seems that the new promotion at Oxford, led by Colin Horton from Peterborough, have managed to build the strongest side seen at Cowley in recent seasons. There probably are a couple of question marks against it, the biggest of these obviously being whether Ales Dryml will be able to fully recover from his horrific crash last season. The other relates to Jesper B. Jensen, was his impressive 2006 campaign the start of a sustained period of excellence, or as some may suspect, just one of those once in a lifetime seasons that fair-to-middling riders sometimes enjoy? If both question marks are quickly erased then Oxford may once again be a force in this great sport.

Key Man:Ales Dryml - Can he really pick up from where he left off?

Prediction:3rd


Bjerre Kennett Bird


PETERBOROUGH PANTHERS

Hans Andersen; Niels Kristian Iversen; Kenneth Bjerre; Lukas Dryml; Danny King; Richard Hall; Piotr Swiderski

The reigning champions look strong again this time around. The loss of Ryan Sullivan and Jesper B. Jensen is partially redressed by the reintroduction of Bjerre and Dryml. That their signings of Bjerre and King were both controversial suggests that winning is becoming very important to the Panthers' management and there's probably not much wrong with that. There's no real obvious weak link in the side and Kenneth Bjerre will certainly lift his average substantially this year. If there's a negative it's probably that none of the others seem sure-fire picks to raise their averages.

Key Man:Kenneth Bjerre - At one time he was regarded as a better prospect than Andersen, time for him to start catching up!

Prediction:1st


POOLE PIRATES

Jason Crump; Bjarne Pedersen; Craig Boyce; Sergei Darkin; Edward Kennett; Troy Batchelor; Jason Doyle

There's no doubting the most significant addition to the Pirates' line up, Jason Crump has rejoined the club and brings a monster eleven point average with him. A rider carrying such a burden would often be a worry for any club, in this case, however, there seems little doubt that Jason will post a similar average this time around. He'll have strong backing from Bjarne Pedersen who is a nine point man in his own right. Such a strong top end does mean that compromises have to be made further down the order. The Pirates have opted to go for a potential packed bottom end, presumably in the expectation that one or other of the youngsters will demonstrate a dramatic improvement. It's not a bad strategy as Kennett, Doyle and Batchelor are all kids with genuine talent.

Key Man:Edward Kennett - Will be under pressure to score consistently in the main body of the team.

Prediction:7th


READING BULLDOGS

Greg Hancock; Matej Zagar; Janusz Kolodziej; Travis McGowan; Sam Simota; Mark Lemon; Danny Bird

The BSI experiment didn't seem to quite pay off at Reading last season. On track performances were good enough, their agonising play-off defeat bears testament to that, the problem was that attendances didn't measure up to expectations. In view of this it was widely anticipated that cut backs would be made to expenditure this time around. Certainly the departure of 'Sudden Sam' from his behind the scenes role suggests that this has happened, but the strength of the team seems to have been completely unaffected. In fact, the only changes to last year's roster see Danny Bird and Mark Lemon step in to replace Andy Smith and Charlie Gjedde. That certainly doesn't weaken them too greatly so we can probably expect to see them towards the top of the table once again.

Key Man:Danny Bird - Full time in the Elite league for the first time, how high can this bird fly?

Prediction:4th


SWINDON ROBINS

Leigh Adams; Seb Ulamek; Charlie Gjedde; Lee Richardson; Tomasz Chrzanowski; Mads Korneliussen; Andrew Moore

While some teams appear to be tracking two heatleaders, the Robins appear to have four. That their collective average still fits below the point limit indicates that some are carrying averages lower than their true abilities. A case in point would be Lee Richardson, clearly one of the most talented British riders around, but carrying an average of just six and a half points. His 2006 season was one to forget and surely this year he'll be back to something approaching his best? Further down the order the Robins are tracking a relatively experienced reserve duo in Korneliussen and Moore, while they'll do well at home they might find life difficult on their travels. Of course, the Robins will be led once again by Leigh Adams, an end of season average of less than double figures is unthinkable for the magnificent Milduran.

Key Man:Lee Richardson - Was 2006 just a blip on a career that should still be in its ascendancy?

Prediction:5th


WOLVERHAMPTON WOLVES

Peter Karlsson; Billy Hamill; Fredrik Lindgren; David Howe; Magnus Karlsson; Theo Pijper; William Lawson (covered by Carl Wilkinson)

There's a familiar look to the Wolves side this year as only Theo Pijper has not ridden for the club previously. He'll slot into a reserve berth with his former Edinburgh team mate William Lawson, a pairing that looks promising but which lacks significant experience of the Elite League circuits. David Howe rejoins the Wolves after a spell with Oxford. He's now in a support role and will be under less pressure than when he rode for the club previously, whether that helps his regain his sparkle remains to be seen. That a rider of his potential was considering a move into the Premier League is disappointing, hopefully his returns this year will remove all thoughts of such a move in the future. No Wolves team would be complete without a couple of the Karlsson brothers and the eldest and youngest are back in harness this year.

Key Man:David Howe - Is he ever going to fulfil the rich potential that he's always seemed to possess?

Prediction:8th

 

This article was first published on 15th March 2007


 

  • Dean Hall (a Belle Vue fan):

    "Ok so Crumpy has gone south!! But 11th no way, super Mort wont let that happen, sure it's going to be tough and a year of consolidation, 7th more likely!! We must be better than Arena sorry Lakeside shopping center!! Poole for title with Reading and Peterborough close behind."

  • Salty:

    "Oxford 3rd? Swindon only 5th? and Lakeside as low as 10th???. Whilst accepting that everyone has an opinion, I would be interested to know what drugs had been imbibed when these predictions were written."

  • Robert Griffin:

    "The Elite League champions will be Swindon, 2nd will be Coventry or Belle Vue and 4th in the play-off will be Reading. Peterborough aren't going to make it, they will just miss out on the play-off. Also Andreas Jonsson will be world champion, 2nd will be Hans Andersen and 3rd will be Nicki Pedersen."

  • Chris Young:

    "I can't really argue with your Elite League predictions. Belle Vue have been awful on the road conceding 50+ points every time. The loss of Simon Stead and James Wright has not helped and the less said about the guests Belle Vue have used the better. It is going to be a season of struggle, did any BV fan think otherwise? It's also a season for the promotion to find their feet, see which riders they want to keep and which ones just aren't going to cut it and build for the future. Wouldn't agree with your prediction for 1st. I'd have to say after Swindons 64-28 drubbing of Belle Vue they surely are the favourites for the title."

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