Brilliant Russia upset all the odds

OUTSIDERS Russia sprung one of the biggest upsets in FIM Speedway World Cup history at Vojens on Saturday, as World Champions Denmark lost Nicki Pedersen with a serious injury.

OUTSIDERS Russia sprung one of the biggest upsets in FIM Speedway World Cup history at Vojens on Saturday, as World Champions Denmark lost Nicki Pedersen with a serious injury.

Inspired by the captivating skills of new Grand Prix wonderboy Emil Sayfutdinov, they booked a place in next weekend's final of the FIM Tobet Speedway World Cup by sensationally overcoming big guns Sweden and Denmark to win Event One.

The Russians, who have never lifted the World Cup, took the lead in Heat 2 and remarkably only briefly relinquished it to Sweden after Heats 7 and 8.

As well as Sayfutdinov, who conjured up some thrilling, trademark moves from the back, Denis Gizatullin, Renat Gafurov, Grigory Laguta and Roman Povazhny all won races in a solid show of supremacy.

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Reigning SWC champions and host nation Denmark went into the meeting without skipper Hans Andersen, injured in the Swedish League in a clash with Sayfutdinov last week, and their hopes of overhauling the Russians came to a painful end in Heat 15.

The Danes, who led after Heat 1 but then trailed the Russians until briefly getting back on level terms in Heat 13, had dropped two points behind again going into Heat 15. Russia led on 29, with Denmark on 27, and Sweden in the mix on 25.

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Laguta was leading the race when Nicki Pedersen tried to squeeze pass him against the home-straight fence. The Russian was hard on the World Champion in leaving him little room and the two locked together in a nasty crash, with Pedersen coming off far worse.

While Laguta was excluded, Pedersen was taken to hospital with second degree burns to his leg and took no further part in the meeting.

With Denmark reduced to just four riders, and without their top two, it looked like Sweden might benefit, but the Russians refused to step off the gas.

Gafurov's brilliant pass of Niels-Kristian Iversen for second place in Heat 18, a race won by Sweden's Fredrik Lindgren, showed that they were not going to run out of steam and they went into the final round of five races five in front of Sweden, and with beleaguered Denmark seemingly out for the count.

But the two Scandinavians jointly played their last throw of the dice when the imperious Kenneth Bjerre completed a 21-point maximum for Denmark by winning Heat 23 as a joker for six points, and Sweden captain Andreas Jonsson also doubled up his second place for four.

Gafurov was third to leave it Russia 47, Sweden 43 and Denmark 43 with two races left.

But with the pressure on, Sayfutdinov stepped up to the plate to fittingly seal a memorable Russian success by winning Heat 24 ahead of Lukas Dryml, Jonas Davidsson and Bjarne Pedersen.

Sweden and Denmark now go to Thursday's Race-Off at Leszno, with the outclassed Czech Republic eliminated after mustering just 12 points, four of which came in the last four races.

RUSSIA 51: Emil Sayfutdinov 14, Roman Povazhny 10, Renat Gafurov 10, Denis Gizatullin 9, Grigory Laguta 8.

SWEDEN 47: Andreas Jonsson 13, Fredrik Lindgren 11, Jonas Davidsson 10, David Ruud 7, Antonio Lindback 6.

DENMARK 45: Kenneth Bjerre 21, Nicolai Klindt 8, Niels-Kristian Iversen 6, Nicki Pedersen 5, Bjarne Pedersen 5.

CZECH REPUBLIC 12: Lukas Dryml 5, Ales Dryml 4, Matej Kus 2, Josef Franc 1, Adrian Rymel 0.

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