33-year-old Dane, Kenneth Kruse Hansen, confesses it was only the third time he took to the bike this year on Wednesday when the Danish Motor Union hosted it’s European and World Championships qualifying race in Esbjerg.
“It’s not a surprise that the guys who’ve been racing for a month in Poland won,” he says with a smile, “It might have been different in a month’s time, but that’s this crazy time we’re live in…,” he says reflecting on the global pandemic.
As it has been for all of us, 2020 was a unique year for the Dane. Unable to race or practice for the first half of the year he then was thrown into an intense few months of competition from July, August and September.
“It was nice to be able to get away because everything was a bit depressing. But I love being on my bike and I love my job!”
Apart from speedway in Sweden and Poland he also got to take part in the long track season. There he won the national champion in Denmark, without dropping a single point, and then took part in the curtailed World Championship.
That competition was reduced to just two events and Kruse Hansen did not make a significant impact in Round 1. However, in the second Round at Rzeszow, he had a blinder winning the Round without dropping a point and beatingMathieu Tresarrieu (FRA) in the race off for second place. That silver makes him the first Dane to medal in the competition since 1991.
“Obviously, a goal for 2021 is to win the World Championship but you can’t think too far ahead right now, I’ve learnt to just take it one match at a time”.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at 2020’s speedway season for the Dane.
In Sweden he raced with Hallstavik Rospiggarna playing his part in the team and scoring 1.051 p/h as the team finished in second place after the regular season. For 2021 he will race with Nyköping Griparna in Allsvenskan.
But he has also raced for many years in Poland since claiming a bronze in the U21 Team World Championship, along with Nicolai Klindt, in 2006.
In 2020 he moved to Rzeszow, a track and set up that he really has thrived in, “I scored really well at home and finished in the top 20, so I was very pleased with that”.
In fact, the Dane finished in 17th place with 1.955 just two places behind teammate,compatriot and winner on Wednesday, Patrick Hansen.
Kenneth Kruse is 10 years older than Patrick but they are not related even though they are from the same part of Denmark.
“I’ve known Patrick for years,” the older Kruse Hansen says, “I helped him and his Dad out before he started on 500cc and I introduced him to Nyköping Griparna in Sweden,” he confides.
And are you surprised he won the international qualifier on Wednesday?
“No, it doesn’t surprise me, he takes the sport very seriously. He moved to Poland a few years ago and this is a natural step in the right direction if you look at his development,” he says with genuine respect.
The 33-year-old has a warmth in his voice and enthusiasm for the sport and life. But where that did it come from?
“You know what? When I won the U21 medal and got to race with Lublin [in 2007] and I was making loads of money but there was a lot of pressure. In the end it was choking me, I forgot why I was racing, I was so unhappy I very nearly quit the sport,” he says honestly.
But it was not just that, “then my mum died of cancer… I went away and finished my degree and I started to look at life differently. I had to learn the hard way, but if you are positive about life you tend to get better results. Take this last year, you know, my family are well, we’ve got food on the table, what’s to complain about?”
“Now I just take it one race at a time, I watch my videos, look at what others are doing, learn from that and, most of all, I’m loving it!”
After a slow start on Wednesday, he got to race for Slangerup in Denmark’s Division 1 on Saturday, which had 11,000 views on Facebook, because there has been no Polish speedway this weekend due to the bad weather.
Then this Wednesday 21 April, the Danish Metal League will start with Kruse Hansen as Holsted Tigers C rider against Esbjerg Vikings. The match will start at 18:30 hrs (GMT +1) and will be live streamed on the Tiger’s Facebook Page.
Holsted fans will be looking forward to seeing Nicki Pedersen and Rasmus Jensen lead the team to victory and the few who are at the ground will be able to smell the cool spring air mixed with methanol fumes. But if you could see under Kruse Hansen’s helmet, you see his broad grin, the fuel that drives him forward as another season begins.
See more about Kenneth Kruse Hansen and Po-Bandzie’s new partnership (in Polish).