THE season starts here!
After a torrid first half of the season, revamped Redcar Bears served a notice of intent that they can, after all, salvage something from a thus far torrid campaign by becoming only the second team this year to beat the reigning champions in the Premier League.
The addition of Jonas B Andersen, who played a key role in a gritty, determined and deserved Ecco Finishing Bears victory, not only looks a shrewd piece of transfer business but has also led to a seismic shift in the dynamics of a previously ailing side.
New boy Andersen was tidy and quick on his first ever competitive ride in the UK, scoring seven (paid nine) points as the Bears gained a revenge victory for their heavy defeat at Armadale last Friday.
And he earned instant hero status with a vital victory when the heat was on in the penultimate race. For with Adam Roynon finishing second, it meant the Bears would take an unassailable lead going into the final heat of a memorable night at the Media Prima Arena.
His arrival has also seen Roynon drop out of the main body of the team which, for the first time this year gives the Bears a real sting in the tail and allows team manager Jitendra Duffill the option of throwing in a potential points scorer as a reserve replacement up to three times in a night.
He did so twice against the Monarchs. On the first occasion he boldly left out second string Jan Graversen who was coming off a paid win, and although Roynon was last in that one, he repaid the gaffer’s faith in him by producing that crucial second place behind Andersen in the penultimate heat when he came out in place of Ben Morley.
It wasn’t just about Andersen and Roynon though – the whole team looked in the mood for it as they twice battled back from behind to claim a morale-boosting win.
In fact one of the best rides of the night was from reserve Morley who showed both courage and maturity in refusing to be bullied out of the way by Erik Riss in heat 11.
No 1 Lasse Bjerre looked more like the rider we fell in love with earlier in the season too, giving us the odd heart in the mouth moment but fast and focused with it.
Bjerre retired from the first race with bike problems as the Monarchs began with a routine 5-1 but was never out of the top two after that,
Duffill’s men replied with a 5-1 of their own in heat two as Morley, not for the last time during the meeting, did well to keep Riss at bay after the German had started from a 15 metre handicap for touching the tapes.
The visitors began to flex their muscles mid-meeting and pulled out a 24-18 lead but a 5-1 from Roynon and Graversen over Riss and former Bear Justin Sedgmen in heat eight put the Bears right back in it.
Three consecutive drawn heats kept them breathing down their visitors’ necks before a 4-2 from Matej Kus and Roynon over Kevin Wolbert and Max Clegg levelled it up at 36-36.
That was the easy bit! Next up came a potential make or break showdown with Bjerre and Stuart Robson taking on Monarchs pair Craig Cook and Sam Masters who were both unbeaten at that point.
The visiting pair started as favourites for this one but Bjerre and Robson rode a phenomenal first lap to stamp their authority on the race. British No 2 Cook tried a big sweep round the outside on turn four but Robson was having none of it and the Monarchs man soon pulled onto the infield after being left at the back.
Still the drama wasn’t over. Robson was riding a wide line to pick up grip but a pre-meeting downpour had soaked the track and left it deep out near the fence. Robbo was comfortably second to Bjerre on the final lap when he lifted and fell on the back straight, allowing Masters – by then minus his steel shoe – past, although the home skipper remounted to claim a point.
It was a point lost but not a disaster, and when Andersen and Roynon brought home the bacon next time out victory was assured.
Edinburgh ended with a 4-2 but this was the Bears’ night.
BEARS: Adam Roynon 10+2, Lasse Bjerre 10, Matej Kus 8+1, Jonas B Andersen 7+2, Stuart Robson 6, Ben Morley 3+2, Jan Graversen 3+1
MONARCHS: Sam Masters 14, Kevin Wolbert 10+1, Craig Cook 9, Justin Sedgmen 5+1, Erik Riss 4+1, Max Clegg 1, R/R for Rob Branford.
MEANWHILE Rafal Konopka, dropped by the Bears to accommodate Andersen, has joined Peterborough as a replacement for the departed Ollie Greenwood.