EUROPEAN PREVIEW - PGE Ekstraliga Play-offs
Polish Ekstraliga play-offs top the bill on a busy weekend with Tai Woffinden and Dan Bewley in action on Sunday evening.
Image courtesy of Steve Hone
Wroclaw topped the regular season standings by six points from Lublin, but the fight for gold begins from scratch again as they face a play-off semi-final against defending champions Leszno.
The hosts have dominated in recent years but not so in 2021, and it could prove to be a swansong in their colours for Emil Sayfutdinov who seems set to leave during the winter.
Woffinden will lead off in the opening race along with Artem Laguta, up against Sayfutdinov and Jaimon Lidsey – whilst Bewley will take the No.8 position for Wroclaw.
Bewley is expected to take the riders of the declared Mateusz Panicz throughout the first leg, but it is a move which ensures Wroclaw have maximum options should they hit trouble during the meeting.
Leszno are without regular reserve Kacper Pludra, who was injured when racing for Rawicz recently, so Krzysztof Sadurski steps in along with Damian Ratajczak.
The first meeting this season between the sides saw Wroclaw defeat Leszno 47-43 at home, before they turned on the power to win 49-41 in the return fixture on the away track.
The other semi-final, taking place on Sunday afternoon, is Gorzow v Lublin, with the home side boosted by the availability of Martin Vaculik, Szymon Wozniak and Wiktor Jasinski.
The last meeting between the sides at the venue was a 52-38 Gorzow victory early in the season, before Lublin responded 46-43 in the return.
Division One play-offs are expected to provide close contests as the four clubs were separated by just four points in the race for promotion.
Leaders Krosno race their first leg at Gdansk on Sunday, with Rybnik facing Ostrow on Saturday.
In Division Two, the play-offs start on Sunday lunchtime with Landshut taking on Rawicz, whilst league leaders Opole visit Daugavpils on Monday.
There was a busy week of action in the Swedish Elitserien as play-off time approaches, with Woffinden very much involved for Dackarna whose third position in the table is a comfortable one.
Woffinden scored 11+3 from five rides in a massive 61-29 win over Vetlanda, where Jason Doyle scored a paid maximum, and Woffinden then top-scored with 12 from five in a 49-41 victory at Indianerna.
Robert Lambert was also in the major points for Lejonen with 16 from six although they were edged out 47-43 at Rospiggarna.
Smederna are five points clear at the top despite being held to a 45-45 home draw by Indianerna, with Grigory Laguta scoring a 15-point maximum, whilst Vastervik hold second place after a massive 65-25 win over Piraterna (Adam Ellis scoring two from four for the visitors) and then anther huge result, 61-29 in Vetlanda with Artem Laguta and Fredrik Lindgren unbeaten.
Rospiggarna were also double winners across the week as they won 52-38 at Masarna, with Patryk Dudek scoring a full 15 – and with Masarna then losing by the same score at Piraterna on Thursday, it means the reigning champions are out of play-off contention.
Meanwhile Leon Flint continued to gain experience in the Allsvenskan League, scoring five points for Valsarna in their 54-36 defeat at Griparna.
Elsewhere, the opening round of the World Under-21 Championship Final series takes place at German venue Stralsund on Saturday.
Polish duo Jakub Miskowiak and Wiktor Lampart start amongst the favourites along with Czech racer Jan Kvech, with the remaining rounds set for Krosno and Pardubice.
Unfortunately, there are no British riders in the series this season after Tom Brennan and Drew Kemp had to pull out of their semi-final in Gustrow due to concerns over quarantine regulations.
Despite the success of Robert Lambert and Dan Bewley in the competition in recent years, GB riders were then overlooked for the three seeded places to join the six automatic qualifiers from the two semis.