Denmark got almost the best possible start to the 2019 World Cup season. Actually it was Niels Kr. Iversen's evening in Warsaw last Saturday, but the fact that 30-year-old Leon Madsen sensationally triumphed in his first race as a permanent participant in the grand prix series sends alarming warnings about the coming months. Leon Madsen will now play a leading role, both for the European Championships on 10 August and at the World Championships on 7 September at Vojens Speedway Center.
By Ib Søby
It is not always the most elegant speedway driver who wins a grand scale grand prix in front of 55,000 eleven audiences and millions of TV viewers. Just ask Niels Kr. Iversen or Frederik Lindgren, after this year's season opener in the Polish capital. They, along with Patryk Dudek, had the best conditions to finish at the top of the podium, but all had to watch the victory slip away to an angry fighting Leon Madsen, who won his only heat victory when it really mattered, namely in the final.
The raw will sometimes make the difference - just ask Nicki Pedersen.
And raw will was exactly what Leon Madsen had put into his tank, along with the fragrant methanol. He would did not disappoint himself, and got himself huddled and fought to the finals, by virtue of some spectacular action and overhaul. Especially the one in heat 19 against Emil Saytfudinov.
In addition to closing his mouth on all critics, Leon Madsen also proved that the constellation with him and Niels Kr. The Iversen for this year's Pair World Cup - Speedway Of Nations final in Togliatti in July is just right.
When you consider in the grand prix context that the riders like at the season end where the medals are to be distributed, which have been most often from the very beginning and scored double-digit points in the first grand prix, then Saturday's result in Warsaw can only send waves of joy through the corridors at NERI in Brøndby, and at home in the coaches 'teams' rooms.
Media attention will increase significantly. Vojens is back with two big events this year, and Madsens and Iversen's upcoming trip will seem like a juicy carrot for the many great talents that are jumping on the Danish speedway.
All of a sudden, it looks like 2019 could be a year when the speedway gets hot again, because it is a year without the Olympic Games or the final rounds of Football.
The new Madsen
The fairytale poet HC Andersen's tale of the ugly duckling who turns into a swan may well suggest certain parallels to Leon Madsen. As a 13-year-old, Vejledrengen became the YGT champion - the unofficial 80cc World Cup - in Vojens in 2001. Since then it went up and down, despite the obvious talent. Madsen is a bit of a blacksmith of his own, and thus not always best friends with his colleagues in the equestrian yard. For a number of years he ran for North Zealand's Slangerup in the Danish league and for British Poole. The U21 career was crowned with the World Cup silver in Gorzow in 2009.
In line with the growing maturity as a speedway driver, Madsen has also endured a long series of injuries and surgeries that have put him back in development during the period. The firing of the Danish senior team, the night before the World Cup final in Målilla in 2012, was also a bitter pill to swallow for Madsen.
He began to concentrate on Poland, creating a lonely existence in the speedway-happy country, while injuries and dizziness were still pressing. One transition was Leon Madsen's observation for lymphoma, and had a gland removed in his arm while a violent depression required medication.
The meeting with girlfriend Magda Bradtke - who gave birth to daughter Marika in March - has been crucial in Leon Madsen's transformation. Magda brought calm to the busy speedway everyday, and Leon found that he couldn't stand milk, eggs and chocolate. Slowly, he and Magda changed the rhythm of life with regular healthy eating, exercise and rest, based on the residence of Gdynia.
Before long, mental profits and results in the Polish league began to emerge.
The superb victory at last year's European Championship Series finish in Katowice gave Leon Madsen stellar status in the Polish speedway environment, and with the triumph on Saturday, the international bookmakers have to revise their ranking of favorites for this year's World Cup series.
Leon Madsen became Denmark's 11th grand prize winner since the system was introduced in 1995.
Danish Grandprix winners:
Nicki Pedersen (17)
Hans Nielsen (6)
Niels Kr. Iversen (5)
Hans Andersen (4)
Tommy Knudsen (3)
Peter Kildemand (2)
Kenneth Bjerre (1)
Bjarne Pedersen (1)
Brian Andersen (1)
Michael Jepsen Jensen (1)
Leon Madsen (1)