YOU know that light we saw at the end of the tunnel? Turns out it was on the front of an express train heading our way and coming to run us down.
After getting off the mark against Scunthorpe last week, Redcar Bears were mauled 49-32 at home by Peterborough Panthers in their first Premier League meeting of the season.
And they’ll be without Hugh Skidmore, arguably their best rider on the night, for around a month after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in a crash which caused the meeting to be abandoned two races from the scheduled end.
Skidmore had gone into heat 14 having dropped just one point to an opponent while returning skipper Stuart Robson – riding at No 3 with Matej Kus switched to No 5 – bounced back from a spill in his first ride to give a marvellous display of the skill, guile and trackcraft he has gleaned from a long career.
It says something about the way he’s started the season that Lasse Bjerre had a disappointing night by his standards when he ‘only’ scored eight points from his four rides but even so his performance wasn’t too shabby.
But thereafter the Ecco Finishing Bears struggled. Badly.
When four of your riders score just seven points between them at home, you know you’ve got problems.
With two inexperienced three-pointers at reserve, this is a team which needs all its top five to come to the party, and two of them didn’t.
Peterborough are one of the strongest teams in the league but there are a few others just as capable, and some more so. And you have to say that the only possible way the Bears can hope to compete with them is by making changes because they’re simply not strong enough as it is.
The night started with the Bears’ old No 1 (Panthers guest Richard Lawson) getting the better of their new No 1 (Bjerre) as the visitors opened with a 4-2, and when early leader Rafal Konopka was passed by both opponents as Peterborough slammed in a big 5-1 next time out, you sensed it was going to be a long night.
The gap was up to 10 points after only four races although Skidmore and Robson responded with a 5-1 in the following heat, the skipper using all his years of experience to find a way past Lawson and then keep him behind.
Bjerre won heat six on his second bike after suffering an engine failure at the tapes, and with Jan Graversen coming home third, the gap was down to four points.
Was a comeback on the cards? Errr, no. Back-to-back 5-1s in Peterborough’s favour made sure of that.
Robson went out in black and white for heat nine and duly partnered Skidmore to an 8-1 but it was all downhill after that with Peterborough ending the curtailed meeting with a pair of 5-1s followed by consecutive 4-2s.
The second of those 5-1s saw Kus slip from first to last while Robson was denied victory when Claus Vissing found a way past in heat 12.
And Bjerre ensured he wouldn’t be on Lawson’s Christmas card list any time soon in heat 13. Lawson went crashing into the air fence shortly after the start and although all four riders were called back for the restart, Bjerre did seem rather fortunate to escape an exclusion. Lawson’s reaction – which resulted in the pair having to be separated at the pit gate – made his feelings on the incident crystal clear.
It was all over before heat 14 could be restarted. Skidmore appeared for all the world to be the victim of first bend bunching when he went crashing into the air fence, although when the red lights came on, he found himself excluded.
Any perceived injustice quickly became the least of the Bears’ worries however when medical staff attended the stricken Skidmore, who was in considerable pain. A county ambulance was called for but, with the meeting already held up while track paramedics tended to him, it became clear the remaining races wouldn’t be completed before the 10pm deadline and a halt was called.
BEARS: Stuart Robson 10+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Hugh Skidmore 7+1, Matej Kus 3, Rafal Konopka 2, Jan Graversen 1, Ben Morley 1.
PANTHERS: Richard Lawson 10, Simon Lambert 9+1, Claus Vissing 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Michael Palm Toft 6+1, Lewis Blackbird 5+2, Oliver Greenwood 3+1.