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Nielsen, Pedersen Lead Danes to Victory

Times Staff Writer

Denmark, led by the brilliant riding of speedway motorcyclists Hans Nielsen and Jan Pedersen, cruised to its sixth consecutive World Team Cup championship Saturday night before about 9,000 fans at Long Beach Veterans Stadium.

Nielsen and Pedersen were both undefeated on the quarter-mile track, with only Sam Ermolenko of Cypress able to beat any of the four Danish riders in 20 heat races. Denmark also displayed its superior depth with world champion Erik Gundersen finishing a distant third behind Nielsen and Pedersen.

The Danes made the final four heats anticlimactic by clinching the championship with Pedersen’s fourth straight win in the 16th heat. Under a new format, the final event was supposed to determine the title with the top scoring riders from each team competing.

The most difficult decision the Danes had to make was deciding whether Pedersen or Nielsen would ride in the main event. It didn’t matter. The Danes have won every major world speedway title since 1984, and the Danish dynasty only appeared stronger.

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Ermolenko, 27, did establish a track record by racing four laps in 1:09.4, eclipsing the mark of 1:10.1 set by Nielsen in 1985. But it was one of the rare moments the partisan, flag-waving fans had to cheer about in the one-sided event.

Any chance of an American upset ended in the 10th race when Lance King finished fourth and failed to earn a point. Ermolenko had moved the team within four points of Denmark, 20-16, with a victory in the ninth heat.

Denmark had won three consecutive races--the sixth, seventh and eighth heats--to open an eight-point lead over Sweden and the United States.

It was an uphill battle for the Americans from the outset. Shawn Moran crashed on the third lap when he lost control of his bike after being passed by Pedersen in the first race.

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