Eagles ace has extra incentive

Cameron Woodward has revealed why he will have extra motivation to shine on his first weekend as a speedway jet-setter.

The Eastbourne Eagles rider, who impressed in three of the four recent Craven Shield fixtures, is beginning his first season in the Polish top flight.

His first Elite League meeting of the season, at home to Peterborough tomorrow, sees him come up against one of the riders who might just deprive him of a place in the Ekstraliga over the coming months.

Woodward and Panthers ace Kenneth Bjerre are both in the Rzeszow squad which is headed by Eagles star Scott Nicholls and also features Davey Watt.

The season is just about to start in speedway-mad Poland and, although Woodward is not too stressed about how he fares in his debut season, he knows Elite League performances can help him get more rides overseas.

That all starts against Bjerre and former Eagles rider Morten Risager in heat three tomorrow.

Aussie ace Woodward, looking at home in his first campaign out of the reserve berths, said: "It has been good so far. I've got to keep it going.

"I worked really hard last (Australian) summer. I lost weight and spent all my money to get some really good equipment.

"I had a good summer at home and that builds your confidence up.

"Moving out of the reserves had to be done. It's not worrying me at the moment.

"The only problem is I don't get to do as many races.

"You only get four rides unless you get a heat 15, which is hard to get with Lee (Richardson) and Scott and Eddie Kennett. But it has been good so far."

The sort of weekend on which Woodward is about to embark is commonplace for top riders.

He will race at Arlington tomorrow, catch a 7am flight from Stansted on Sunday and then help Rzeszow take on local rivals Tarnow in a pre-season fixture before flying back on Monday.

His return flight is due in at 1pm, giving plenty of time to get to Brandon and face the Bees.

Speedway photographer Mike Hinves has a role to play. Hinves lives near the M25 and regularly puts up riders before dropping them off at Heathrow, Stansted or Luton.

He will have an Australian house guest tomorrow night.

Woodward said: "I'm looking forward to it.

"Kenneth Bjerre is one of my team mates at Rzeszow. They have a squad system and I suppose we are kind of competing for a place."

He added with a laugh: "Whoever is going well gets the team spot so I'll be looking to beat my team mates.

"l've signed for two years so if I only do two or three meetings this year it's no loss.

"I haven't got any equipment over there and I'll meet my mechanic for the first time this weekend. It's a learning year."

Peterborough have the firepower, most of it Danish, to make life difficult for Woodward and colleagues.

It was Bjerre, remember, who came to Arlington last term and posted the finest set of times seen at the track all season.

Anything quicker than 56 seconds around Bob Dugard's 275 metres of lovingly tendered red stuff is considered quick. Tony Rickardsson's track record of 55.1sec has lasted for five years and Nicki Pedersen has a personal best of 55.4sec.

On September 1, 2007, Bjerre compiled a six-ride paid maximum that featured winning times of 55.3, 55.4, 55.5 and 55.7.

No wonder Eastbourne tried to sign him the previous winter.

Panthers cruised in 51-42 that night. Earlier in the year they scored a 50-44 success in what was almost certainly David Norris's last ever meeting.

Times have changed since then, though, and the mood around the Eagles set-up is upbeat.

Woodward said: "I'm really happy with how competitive we have been as a team.

"We've beaten two very good teams on aggregate. I know you don't get the bonus point any more but to outscore Poole and Swindon is encouraging.

"Then you see Swindon go and beat Coventry on aggregate in the Elite Shield. They are all really good signs."

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