European Preview - Ekstraliga Round One
Robert Lambert is set for the official start of his 2021 campaign as the PGE Ekstraliga campaign gets underway on Easter Sunday.
Image courtesy of Taylor Lanning Photography
It’s a slightly delayed start as Saturday’s planned fixtures have been postponed due Covid, but Great Britain star Lambert is ready for his Torun debut as they make their return to the top-flight at home to Zielona Gora in the opening meeting.
The European Champion is not, in fact, in the initial team declaration for the Angels – but this is standard practice in Poland, and he is fully expected to line up in a top five featuring Chris and Jack Holder, Pawel Przedpelski, and one of Adrian Miedzinski or Tobias Musielak.
Lambert, who won the SEC title at the Marian Rose Motoarena last July, has raced two home ‘sparring’ matches so far, scoring a 15-point maximum against Division One side Bydgoszcz and adding eight (paid ten) from four rides against Gorzow.
Torun are seeking to re-establish themselves in the top league after a dismal 2019 campaign which saw them win only two matches – one of which was a 46-44 victory over Zielona Gora in their final fixture before relegation.
Meanwhile the visitors will hand debuts to GP duo Matej Zagar and Max Fricke, and Czech Republic youngster Jan Kvech has also been declared in the side.
Title holders Leszno commence their quest for a fifth successive Ekstraliga crown with a home match against Gorzow – the team they convincingly defeated to win last year’s Final.
The Lions won the second leg 59-30 to complete a 27-point aggregate success, and that followed a 55-35 victory in the regular stages of the league season in late July.
However, it is inconceivable that World Champion Bartosz Zmarzlik will endure such a nightmare as in the 2020 finale, when he scored just three (paid four) from five rides - and the meeting will feature a ‘second debut’ for Martin Vaculik for the visitors, as he rode for Gorzow in 2017/18 before switching to Zielona Gora.
Meanwhile Jason Doyle makes his first appearance for Leszno, who include Kacper Pludra at reserve – the youngster who was team-ridden by Piotr Pawlicki to a memorable 5-1 over Anders Thomsen in his one and only top-flight ride in the closing stages of that Final.
The hosts are now undefeated on their own circuit for approaching four years – it was Gorzow who were the last successful visitors when they won 49-41 in early August 2017, and this early clash of the giants promises to be a fascinating meeting.
The remaining meetings between Lublin and Czestochowa, and Grudziadz against Wroclaw, will now take place on Friday April 23 – meaning Tai Woffinden and Dan Bewley’s first match will be against Torun on Friday April 9.
Three fixtures in Division One have survived, with Saturday’s clash between Gniezno and Lodz postponed.
Elsewhere, relegated Rybnik face promoted Krosno on Sunday, whilst on Monday Tarnow take on Gdansk and Bydgoszcz go up against Ostrow.