Full Name: Kristian Praesbro
Birthplace: Esbjerg, Denmark
Birthdate: 11th December 1954
[Taken from the Cradley Speedway Riders Database includes all matches]
(photos courtesy of Speedway Star)
|Cradley fans are constantly proud of
their little Danish hero from Ebsjerg.
However - although that is indeed the birthplace of three times World Champion and Heathens legend Erik Gundersen, this is about another Danish bundle of dynamite - and so it is another member of Team Denmark to whom we give recognition here: Kristian Praestbro.
However if it had not been for the presence of Praestbro at Dudley Wood in 1978 then the signing of young Erik would have been verymuch in doubt - a crucial moment in the evolution of Cradley Heath as a club.
Erik wrote in his autobiography: "The most important reason for choosing (Cradley) was because my friend from Ebsjerg, Kristian Praestbro was with them at the time: Kristian told me that Cradley was a well organised club that paid well with a good relationship between management and riders."
Kristian had been bought to Cradley a year before the arrival of Erik, after two previous seasons with Belle Vue. Dan McCormick was the revolution of turning the Heathens from also-rans into title contenders and Kristian was one of a wave of riders to arrive around the same time. He had been with the Aces since the beginning of 1976, but saw a 5.37 average dip to 3.72 in 1977. He would almost double that in his first season at Dudley Wood.
Aged 23, Kristian initially slotted into the Cradley team at reserve, at the same time as another new signing Bruce Penhall came in at number 2, but the pair then swapped places at the beginning of May with the first new team averages!
Soon afterwards, the Heathens were also boasting the big money signing of young Phil Collins to join the existing local hero's of Bruce Cribb, Arthur Price, Dave Perks and Alan Grahame
It is easy to see why the commendable efforts of Kristian Praestbro could slip under the radar, but the points return - and the fine example set in the pits - should not be underestimated in the achievements at Dudley Wood in '78 and beyond. The quietly-spoken Dane's solidly reliable efforts were characterised by a run of matches in the Summer: five successive matches including both home and away bringing a score of seven points each time.
Moreover Kristian became known for a meticulous attention to detail with his bikes and equipment - a highly proffesional approach that would rub off on a number of his younger team mates.
|Kristian also finished
second in the Danish Final during that Summer - runner up to Hans
Nielsen, but one step higher on the podium than the youngster who would
become his protégé , Erik Gundersen.
The following Spring when Erik signed for Cradley he moved in with Kristian and his partner Tinna whilst finding his feet in his new surroundings. Both Danes had been included in the 1978 Heathens septet, despite the cull of several riders due to the influx of new signings. Again ,Kristian improved his average during his second season, initially lifting it to an official 7.54. However he also collected a n increasing number of bookings to ride elswhere in Europe and at the end of the year, he announced that he would be quitting the British League to concentrate on these lucrative continental commitments
He had become a popular figure in the Black Country and proved a soild foundation on which victory could be built. Kristian's Danish fan club at the time was run by none other than Jan Steachman, while the UK branch was organised by well-known Heathens fan, Mark Northall.
Following his UK departure, he rode for Team 70 Brokstedt in the German Bundisliga, before retiring to focus on other business interests. He was part-owner of Speedexpert, an engine tuning and Speedway parts business, whilst also building on his main business of mink farming back in his homeland.
Sadly Kristian's story ends prematurely, as he died in May 2003 after suffering from a brain tumour, aged just 48. He had been an important influence on many young Danish riders and several rising Cradley stars. If it had not been for Kristian maybe we wouldn't have been blessed with Erik at Dudley Wood. Maybe a score of young riders would not have been impressed with the immaculate approach in the pits that makes the efforts on the track so much easier. Certainly, the keystones of success for Cradley's rebuilding in 1977-78 would have been a little weaker. But most of all, without the talent, the dedication and the personality that was provided by Kristian Praesbro, the club and the speedway world would have missed out on much more.
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