The First 11 Years of VeloVeritas!
Mondays in the Flatlands of Belgium aren’t the best; most shops are shut but the flight back to Auld Scotia isn’t ‘til late so use has to be made of the time available. Looking out of the window on Monday morning, the man across the road has his priorities right – ‘keep that Jupiler cold!’
Roadside at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and KBK 2018. The first classic weekend of the year has been and gone and safely back in a rather snowy Scotland I've got time to reflect on the Classic season opener. The glorious Belgian sunshine all weekend could not lift the thermometer and the riders endured bitterly cold conditions for both Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne Brussels Kuurne. Riders faced just under 200 kilometres each day and whilst the temperature had us looking for our thermals some hardy riders were glove free, presumably generating enough body heat from the effort.
Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo & The Netherlands) goes from way out, Arnaud Demare (FDJ & France) scrambles for his wheel but is lengths back at the line with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain & Italy) doing well for a man whose speciality is late season races in balmy Italy, taking third. We agree it was a great sprint from the Dutchman but it wasn't a vintage Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
"Ooooohhhhhhh!" The moan echoes around the bar; these boys are aficionados, they all know that solid Astana Dane, Michael Valgren Andersen isn't coming back - he timed his jump to perfection, there was that fatal second or two of hesitation among the frozen men behind him and he was gone, en route to win Het Nieuwsblad 2018. Big Pole Lukasz Wisniowski (Sky) takes second with the only Belgian who properly 'honoured the race,' big Sep Vanmarcke (EF) taking third place.
In a classic Six Day finale points shoot-out with the result not confirmed until the finish line, classy Home Boy Michael Mørkøv paired with the current Capo of the Six Day boards, Belgium's Kenny De Ketele to land his seventh Copenhagen Six Day at midnight on Tuesday on the wide boards of the 250 metre Ballerup track.
Daniel Holloway does the countdown in his Californian-Swedish, ten down to six; the crowd takes over from five down to one, the cannon report just about bursts everyone’s ear drums, then there’s the smoke. For a split second nothing happens, everyone is too stunned by the noise and reek of gunpowder. But there’s the bongos – and Paul Delicato’s velvet voice; 'Cara Mia mine, must we say goodbye...' It can only be the Copenhagen Six Day 2018 !
VeloVeritas has spoken to Katie Archibald and Jack Carlin - but our review of Scottish medallists at The Track Worlds in Apeldoorn wouldn’t be complete without speaking to Mr. Mark Stewart, bronze medal winner in the points race behind that remarkable Aussie, Cameron Meyer who took his fifth points title with big Dutchman, Van Schip taking silver.
It was the end of 2016 when we last spoke to Gabriel Cullaigh, he’d just signed up with top Dutch development squad, SEG Racing. We’d expected great things after a 2016 season which saw him on the podium of the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and fifth in the u23 European Road Race Championship but his season petered out mid-summer due to health problems. But he’s back, with Team Wiggins and just days after he spoke to Velo Veritas he won Stage One and took the yellow jersey in the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal.
In 2016 in Belgium Ethan Hayter won the tough junior races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Serge Baguet, De Klijte-Heuvaelland, was in the winning team in junior European team pursuit champs and was British Madison champion with Joe Holt. Last year he won the u23 Berlin Six Day (I was there but maybe I missed the result due to sleep deprivation ?) with Matt Walls, took a medal in every British track championship he rode – individual pursuit (3rd), team pursuit (2nd), points (2nd), scratch (1st), omnium (2nd) and Madison (1st) and was part of the winning u23 Europeans team pursuit squad. This season he began training with the senior team in January and was world champion within weeks, at 19 years-of-age.
It was December when we last spoke to Paisley’s fastest man, Jack Carlin about his hopes for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia – that was before a successful British Track Championship where he came away as Sprint Champion then an excellent Worlds campaign which saw him land two silver medals.
On a day when a raw wind scythed across the Borders hills, that slim man who must feel the cold more than most, David Griffiths (Pro Vision Scotland) defended his Scottish Hill Climb Championship on the savage, technical climb out of Stow Village in the rolling Scottish Borders. Griffiths tells us he’s heavier than last year but still looks pretty damn skinny to us.
Scotland had an exceptional World Championship in Apeldoorn with Mark Stewart and Jack Carlin both on the podium; Stewart in the points race and Carlin in the individual and team sprint – both boding very well for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in ‘24 days 09 hours and 55 seconds’ at time of writing. And there was that that remarkable young lady, Katie Archibald taking team pursuit silver with the GB squad and Madison gold with Emily Nelson.
We caught up with 18 year-old Killearn man, Lewis Stewart at the Bremen Six Day - one of the rare occasions when the sprint academy riders actually get out to race. The Bremen Six Day fans – as with those in Berlin and Rotterdam – like their sprinting with match races, keirins, flying laps and team sprints all included for the big guys. Despite me almost dropping Lewis as I held him up at the start of one race, he still took time to speak to VeloVeritas about being a young sprinter in the GB ‘system.’
A few weeks ago I posted on social media a picture of Davide Rebellin in his new Sovac-Natura4ever team strip for 2018; his 27th season as a professional. I commented that he was a ‘remarkable man.’ Immediately I was informed that I was, ‘glorifying a doper.’ When I responded by asking how he was any different to the pundits, TV commentators, self-styled fashion gurus and authors who have all fallen foul of the testers but are now accepted by the cycling community - no one could tell me. Former ‘cross star Barry Davies suggested that I organise an interview with the Italian; ‘good idea,’ I thought to myself.
He was 1991 British Amateur Champion, won the Franco-Belge against top opposition and took the major French Classic, Paris-Chauny - but was out of the sport by the age of 25 with his best years yet to come. His name; John Hughes. We thought he’d have a good tale to tell...
“Goin’ back to my roots,” says the Odyssey song – and so it is with Mr. Daniel Holloway, former ‘Crit King’ of the USA. But he’s now back on the boards in a big way with a World Cup omnium win in Chile and a memorable win in the 300 lap, 75 kilometre handicap Madison in the Copenhagen Six Day. It was 15 years ago, in 2003 when the man originally from Morgan Hill, California won the novices 500 metres at the US track national championships.
Jacob Vaughan is arguably the most successful of the Rayner Clan, this year with his move to the Lotto-Soudal U23 team. A solid first year U23 in 2017 was capped with an excellent win in the Guido Reybrouck Classic. We caught up with him prior to his first big get together with the team.
Third in London with Moreno De Pauw; winner in Gent again with De Pauw; encore in Rotterdam with De Pauw; the win in Bremen with Home Boy, Theo Reinhardt; second in Berlin with De Pauw and looking well on the way to the top of the podium here in Copenhagen with Michael Morkov – it can only be Topsport and Belgium’s Mr. Kenny De Ketele.
'Beauty and the Beast' is the first entry in our Berlin Six Day 2018 scrapbook - handsome devil Denmark's Marc Hester warms up on his rollers as the German sprinters' mechanic waits for the next gear change job. Marc rode with Jesper Mørkøv ‘til kidney stones forced the younger Mørkøv bruv out. Meanwhile our boy Nico plays shy but Achim gives us a smile. Nico is the son of sprint legend, Lutz Hesslich - Berlin was his second last race - he calls 'time' after Copenhagen.
Time for VeloVeritas to catch up with Scottish, David Rayner funded rider, Stuart Balfour. It's been a year since last we spoke to Stuart so a wee bit to catch up on.