Kelvin Tatum reflects on the World Cup final and where Great Britain need to improve in the future.
Last Updated: 02/08/10 12:46pm
It was a decent peformance from Great Britain in the World Cup final, but in the end they weren't quite good enough.
After such a strong performance at King's Lynn on Monday there were a lot of people that though they would get a medal and for a long time on Sunday, it looked that way.
They pushed Sweden really hard but in the end came up short - and have to learn from this going forward.
They had made an excellent start on the Saturday before the abandonement came but you can't say that was the reason for us not getting on the podium. On Sunday, they started slowly in tricky conditions, but then again so did Poland - but they got stronger as the track got better.
Unfortunately for Great Britain as conditions dried out and racing lines appeared on the outside, we just weren't good enough. As the track got better, we didn't.
The joker backfired when Chris Harris came off and that might have made a difference, but in speedway you only have 60 seconds out there and split-second decisions need to be made. In Chris' defence, he came roaring back and his ride to win a heat later on was one of several sensational rides, but other than Lee Richardson, he was the only Brit to really make an impact.
Scott Nicholls will have been disappointed with his performance. He picked up five third places which was well below the standards he set on Monday night at King's Lynn. He is an experienced rider and there is no doubt he would've expected more.
You can forgive Tai Woffinden because he had a couple of smashing ride and is still young. There is no doubt in my mind he will become the real deal over the next year or two.
Simon Stead needs to improve. He is another decent rider but was found out at the very highest level. It might sound harsh, but he wasn't quite good enough in such company.
So there is plenty for Great Britain to work on, on and off the track. All in all you have to say it was a decent performance over the week to get there and with a little bit of luck, I could've been sat here talking about a bronze medal, not what might have been.
I think Rob Lyon is the right man to lead the team. He is a decent guy and the riders seem to respect him and want to ride for him, which is vital. That part of the job is in hand and I have no problem at all with that.
I do though, have a problem with the British Speedway Promoters Association (BSPA) in terms of the support they give to the Great Britain team. For a start I didn't see a single representative out in Vojens. The Danish, Swedish and Polish officials were there with their teams, but unless I was very much mistaken, I didn't see any of the British heirarchy.
Riders need to feel they are doing something really worthwhile and having officials around, encouraging them, makes them really feel part of an overall effort. It was the same even when I was captaining the England team and it is one area where the BSPA can really improve.
I know they have the busy domestic competitions to take care of, but from my perspective it doesn't help our cause on the international scene if the Great Britain team goes into World Cup finals almost feeling they are out on a limb.
On the track we need to improve our strength-in-depth to compete at this level; right now we seem to be lacking two or three world-class operators. These guys often excel in the Elite League but speedway is no different to cricket - there is a huge step up from club to country.
Woffinden's time will come, and the likes of Ben Barker, Edward Kennett, Lewis Bridger and Daniel King - who was reserve out in Denmark - are the guys I will be looking to make the step up and ensure that in time, we can use this last week as a platform.
Elsewhere, you have to take your hat off to the Poles. When Tomasz Gollob slipped off on the first corner of the first heat on Sunday it looked as if the weight of being favourites and the column inches given to the fact they had never won the World Cup outside Poland might, be too much for them.
But their class came through in the end and Gollob, who is clearly in the form of his life, hit back with four straight wins and of course, you almost knew he would be the one that sealed it in the deciding race.
Jaroslaw Hampel was also very strong and Janusz Kolodziej did his bit, but I have to give special praise to Rune Holta. He might not be the most talented rider around, but boy does he have a big heart - and that can make all the difference when tension is running high.
Denmark had terrific support but just weren't quite there when it mattered. Not one of their riders made it into double figures for points and I have to say I did expect more from Kenneth Bjerre, in particular.
But I cannot forget the final lap from Niels-Kristian Iversen who came from nowhere to beat Andreas Jonsson on a joker in Heat 19. We saw some great rides as the track dried out, but this really was speedway from the gods and deserved a gold medal on its own.
It also summed up Sweden's day, really. I was surprised they didn't pose more of a threat because on paper, this was a proper outfit with a lot of quality. For me Fredrik Lindgren was the big disappointment; he is a Grand Prix regular, but on the biggest stage of all, he just didn't deliver.
It was tough out there, particularly early on thanks to the heavens opening 45 minutes before the start, but it made for some great races. We were almost counting down the seconds until the track dried enough for racing lines to appear on the outside and when they did, boy did we see some action.
The Danish crowd were also great. You could see and hear how partisan they were and they were clearly gutted when they were pipped at the last, but they still played their part in a thrilling final at the end of a difficult week.
It was a shame that some spectators had to leave Vojens before Sunday's second attempt but I hope they managed to catch the action because it was a terrific advert for our sport.