THE Bears are back!
After a torrid start to the season, Redcar’s Ecco Finishing Bears bounced back to record a well deserved first victory of the season.
There was a mid-meeting wobble when a 14-point lead was slashed to just to just three, but they stuck firm then ended with a flourish to take three Premier League Cup points from their Media Prima Arena clash.
Once again No 1 and stand-in skipper Lasse Bjerre led by example, missing out on a six-ride maximum by the narrowest possible margin after being pipped on the line at the end of heat 11 by Theo Pijper following a valiant race-long battle to reel him in. One more lap and he’d have been past!
But it was a good effort from top to bottom. The two reserves still have work to do but it was much better from both of them – Rafal Konopka looking more composed and comfortable than he ever has and storming from third to first as he won heat two, while Ben Morley was on the pace and in the mix.
Hugh Skidmore was back to the Skiddy who won our hearts – and the Bears Rider of the Year award – in 2013 and 2014 while Matej Kus is always good for a couple of wins and more, and didn’t let us down in that score.
Jan Graversen was outstanding in his first three heats and provided one of the highlights of the meeting in heat six as he fought a determined and ultimately successful rearguard action to fend off the advances of ex-Bear Josh Auty, a rider who will battle until the end and never knows when he is beaten.
After sitting on a paid maximum with three rides done he tailed off as the track began to slicken off and failed to score in his last two but he did his job early doors.
With six races gone the Bears were sitting pretty at 25-11 up, having provided every heat winner up to that point.
But the black and white tactical double helmet colour so often seems to contain mystical qualities and when former Bear of the Year Carl Wilkinson wore it in heat seven, he and team-mate Alex Davies slashed the deficit to 26-19 with a big 8-1.
When Theo Pijper and Nike Lunna followed up with an unexpected 5-1 over Morley and Graversen the score was suddenly 27-24 and what had been a commanding position had been almost completely eroded.
Which way was it going to go? Were the Bears going to capitulate completely?
Three drawn heats stopped the rot and a run of three successive 4-2s made sure of victory before Bjerre and Skidmore combined for a final heat 5-1 over Auty and Pijper to end the night in style and brought home a maximum points haul.
There’ll be tougher tests ahead but this was a definite improvement and will bring confidence and belief into the team ahead of their Premier League opener against Peterborough next week, when injured skipper Stuart Robson is set to return.
BEARS: Lasse Bjerre 17, Hugh Skidmore 11+1, Matej Kus 9+1, Jan Graversen 7+2, Rafal Konopka 5+1, Ben Morley 4, R/R for Stuart Robson.
SCORPIONS: Carl Wilkinson 11+1, Josh Auty 9, Theo Pijper 7+1, Alex Davies 6+1, Nike Lunna 4+1, David Howe 3, Ellis Perks 0