With Saturday's Scandinavian World Cup Grand Prix in Swedish Målilla, the intensity of the medal match is heightened and the tension around the top eight, which gives direct access to next season, is sharpened. After five of the ten World Cup races, Leon Madsen leads in the overall position with Bartosz Zmarzlik and Emil Sayfutdinov. All three drivers have 61 points, but they are also pressed by Martin Vaculik and Patryk Dudek.
By Ib Søby
With a distance of only 350 kilometers from Copenhagen, many Danish speedway fans will probably make the trip to the idyllic Smaland to see as many as three Danes in action at the highest level of the speedway world. Zealand has suddenly been given an extra motivation factor, with Slangerup star Mikkel Michelsen making his real grandprix debut. Michelsen, who is already third reserve in the series, replaces Swedish Antonio Lindbäck after his uncanny crash in last Saturday's European Championships in Vojens, where 25-year-old Michelsen just triumphed.
- Mikkel Michelsen impressed last Saturday by making a super start in the final. He had the tough starting gate 3 with a white helmet, but he showed that he is able to stand the pressure, says coach Hans Nielsen, who naturally makes the trip from North Jutland to Småland.
– It is clear to see how Mikkel Michelsen has developed from U21, where he has won a lot, to a stable level as a senior. He has matured in the Polish league following the move from Gdansk to Lublin, where he now competes in the best row, says Hans Nielsen, who himself has a personal relationship with Lublin in eastern Poland. It was Nielsen's first club in the speedway-happy country 30 years ago.
Madsen is struggling with health
This year's big World Cup surprise, Danish Leon Madsen, is struggling against time to get ready for Saturday's showdown. Last Friday he crashed violently in Poland, announcing a cancellation for the European Championship in Vojens the following day.
Against Ritzau, Leon Madsen declares himself doubtful of the grand prize, and should he become clear, he will not run at full force.
- It won't be at 100 percent. Far from. If I drive on Saturday, it will be to limit the loss to the others, says Leon Madsen to the Danish news agency.
Leon Madsen injured both his ankle and shoulder during the crash Friday.
- The ankle is fine, but it is mostly my shoulder that I deal with because I have already been injured in the right arm and broke it twice, so I have lost most of the muscles in my shoulder.
- It has had a proper blow, so it still hurts to move. I have a lot of pain in it, says Leon Madsen, who also suffers with a threatening disc prolapse, why he should be operated on immediately after the season.
New air for Iversen?
Niels Kr. Iversen has recently had trouble finding the top speed needed to win heats. On Wednesday night, however, the seven-time Danish champion scored a total of 17 points for Esbjerg in the Danish league.
- I think we'll see Iversen again at full strength soon. After all, he started well at the first Grand Prix in Warsaw and despite a couple of poor World Cup races, he is still only three points from the top eight. At the same time, we must remember that the next four courses in Målilla, Teterow, Vojens and Cardiff are really good for Iversen, according to coach Hans Nielsen.
Through several seasons, Niels Kr. Iversen had some of its best results after the summer break, and if that rhythm recurs this year, the Esbjergenser may see light at the end of the tunnel.
- A good result on Saturday may be the turning point for Iversen, because there is certainly nothing wrong with his attitude and burning ambition to deliver for himself and Danish speedway, says Hans Nielsen, who is looking forward to the weekend in Smaland.
- I want to be on the spot for all three Danes. It is about building mental profits, analyzing the course development and assisting with tactical decisions. Both during the race itself, but also around Friday's important training - and especially the time run on the right to choose starting numbers, says Hans Nielsen.
The evening's wild card is awarded to 26-year-old Swedish champion Jacob Thorssell. He is born in Åtvadaberg and runs in Målilla for Dackarna in the Swedish league. In England he runs for Wolverhampton and in Poland's second best row for Gdansk.
Judge is Polish Artur Kusmierz.
1. Bartosz Zmarzlik, Poland 61
2. Emil Saytfudinov, Russia 61
3. Leon Madsen, Denmark 61
4. Martin Vaculik, Slovakia 59
5. Patryk Dudek, Poland 55
6. Frederik Lindgren, Sweden 47
7. Janusz Kolodziej, Poland 44
8. Maciej Janowski, Poland 36
9. Jason Doyle, Australia 35
10. Artem Laguta, Russia 34
11. Niels Kr. Iversen, Denmark 34
12. Max Fricke, Australia, 31
13. Matej Zagar, 30
14. Antonio Lindbäck, Sweden 30
15. Robert Lambert, England 24
16. Tai Woffinden, England 21
Danish Grandprix winners in Sweden:
1995, Linköping, Tommy Knudsen
2004, Nya Ullevi, Hans Andersen
2010, New Ullevi, Kenneth Bjerre
2013, Stockholm, Niels Kr. Iversen
2015, Målilla, Nicki Pedersen
2018, Målilla, Nicki Pedersen