The crowd counts us down; the pistol cracks; I give Franco a hefty shove; ‘Cara Mia’ blasts from the PA and the 2009 Copenhagen 6 Dages Lob is well and truly under way.

Two minutes ago I was wondering why I put myself through that nightmare journey from Portobello to Ballerup — the suburb of Copenhagen where the Super Arena and it’s pine velodrome live — two buses, a plane, another bus, a long train journey then waiting in the freezing cold of a Copenhagen night for my lift to the track.

But now I remember; the smell of the massage oil and cologne, the gleaming gems that are the bikes, the Europop, the hiss of the mechanics’ compressors, the thunder of expensive rubber on pine, the rattle of those one-eighth chains over the sprockets, a whiff of perfume as a glamorous spectator sashays past…: : 

Then there’s the thrill of working with some of the fastest men on the planet — Michael Morkov, Alex Rasmussen and Jens-Erik Madsen rode four kilometres in 3-56 at the Beijing Olympics — and a feeling that’s harder to put into words, that of being in a little world all of it’s own where nothing matters except the race.

Alex Rasmussen found his shoes!
Alex Rasmussen found his shoes!

Alex Rasmussen’s shoes went missing, we had to change cabins after spending ages setting things up just right, there’s moans from the mechanics about riders dumping them without warning, moans from the riders about the programme — yes, it’s just like a six should be!

The race director at Copenhagen, Henrik Elmgreen, likes to consider that his race is one of the last bastions of the ‘old school,’ sixes, sticking with long chases when most venues have long realised that in a world of instant gratification, most folks don’t want endless Madisons.

But at Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen it’s straight into a 60 minute ‘Abningsjagt‘ for the ‘squirrels,’ as they called the riders in the old days.

Michael goes over the top.
Michael goes over the top.

Alex drops down for a drink early in the chase; six day wisdom says that’s a bad sign, it’s certainly bad for me, I have to chase the discarded bottle half way round the track.

Half distance, and the late Rick James is telling us about his ‘Super Freak’ girlfriend; ‘the kind you don’t take home to mother!’ — I always wanted one like that!

Meanwhile Michael Smith Larsen looses the tail of the string as Alex drinks more and I keep trotting round the track.

No one looks ‘special’ tonight, Peter Schep looks as cool as usual, but not ‘super’ — it’s a lot easier to spot riders who look tired and/or rough, this evening.

Franco cruises.
Franco cruises.

The new slim line Alex Aeschbach isn’t enjoying it, Jacob Moe’s elbows are sticking out even further than usual tonight and even Bruno is panting a bit.

Michael Morkov gives Kris a wink from the string, though — that’s a good sign.

Pearce & Holloway get ready to change.
Pearce & Holloway get ready to change.
Ar-gen-tin-aaa!  Here's Seb Donadio - he's raced at Meadowbank too!
Ar-gen-tin-aaa! Here's Seb Donadio - he's raced at Meadowbank too!

Garmin Americans Colby Pearce and Daniel Holloway look at home, but the Argentineans, Sebastian Donadio and Angel Dario Collo find themselves on the wrong end of Peter Schep’s mighty hollers a few times.

Stam & Schep - two old hands.
Stam & Schep - two old hands.

The sprint starts late, just two out, and it’s Franco and Bruno who lift the flowers; Bruno Risi, a legend, how many bouquets is that – he’s won 57 sixes off 173 starts?

I’m ‘on;’ get a towel, hat and a drink to the finish line for Franco for the presentation, then trot back to the cabins and get Alex and Michael changed — helmets, jerseys, vests and mitts off, wipe their sweating torsos down with cologne, help them on with a fresh vest and jersey, get them drinks, put the sweaty clothes in the tumble drier.

When I tell folk I’m going to a six, they always tell me about the bars, clubs and places of ill-repute that they think I’ll be sampling; I just agree with them now and don’t even mention the pee pails.

There's a nicer class of photographers here.
There's a nicer class of photographers here.

It gets ‘blurry’ after that — wash bottles – fold jerseys – make Complan shakes – get tea – is that the ‘devil’ that’s on? – take Jens-Erik to the cabin because he’s sick — dernys, and Michael needs his shades – tidy the cabins — flying lap and I take a minute to watch ‘my’ boys, Alex and Michael.

Michael does the wind up laps, his built like a greyhound and his position on the bike is just right; long stem down tight on the top head race, seat set high, his back is flat and parallel to the boards — just like Hughie Porter.

Alex has lost weigh since last I saw him, he seems taller too — he’s tucked tight on Michael’s wheel as Michael accelerates through the bell; they dive off the last banking and there’s the hand sling.

Alex sits neat on the line, not moving around as much as some sprinters do, his long battle scarred legs are doing the job and, bang!

He stops the clock – fastest of the night, 69.18 kph, wow !

Franco keeps loose.
Franco keeps loose.

It’s the ‘balustrade sprints’ now, two 10 lappers with the white number rider from the team in one heat, the black rider number in the other.

It’s a light hearted affair; last time I was here, it was Frank Hoy who would lead the string around the top of the track as the PA blasted Dario G’s ‘Sunchyme’ and the riders did the hands high, then ‘Superman’ thing.

Holloway was born in the USA.
Holloway was born in the USA.

The first heat is a bit ‘flat,’ but for the second, it’s Garmin’s Daniel Holloway leading the string as ‘The Boss’ bets out ‘Born in the USA,’ at too many decibels; Holloway is patently mad, he gives us air guitar solos and simulated singing into the imaginary mic as he leads the string high on the track at 45 kph; the guys behind give it the hands high stuff but no one else is playing the air guitar!

I must get some pics of that man, tonight.

While Ed is hectic, Franco grabs a little "out" time.
While Ed is hectic, Franco grabs a little "out" time.

It’s soon ‘Cara Mia’ time, this time it’s a 30 minute job and Kris leaves me to hold the fort and heads off to start the washing.

When I was a rookie, I used to wait until the chase was over before I budged from the trackside, but now I have the, you-know-what pails emptied and all the bottles washed before the race is half over.

Schep is still the coolest, Bartko the most bear-like and Jacob Moe’s is still the wheel I’d least like to be on.

Holloway is better at impersonating Bruce than he is at impersonating Bruno as a ‘quick lap gain’ turns into an epic.

Meanwhile Millie is telling us about ‘My Boy Lollipop,’ then its Alcazar, ‘Crying at the Discothèque,’ I love that 80’s Europop.

Bang!

Franco and Bruno take the flowers again.

Bruno, the Master.
Bruno, the Master.

I give the guys their last rub down; then it’s time to clear up, training tops, helmets, shoes, shades, socks, mitts — the guys just abandon them in the charge for the hotel.

As Franco studies his iPhone, a young Danish journo comes up with his recorder; ‘Um, do you feel good that, you, eh, lead the six days after, ah, this first night?

Franco gives the journo's their soundbites.
Franco gives the journo's their soundbites.

“Leading at this stage is just like leading in a football match after 15 minutes, there are some strong teams up there; the Germans, Bartko and Lampater; the Dutchmen Schep and Stam; and of course the Danes, Rasmussen and Morkov — they were very disappointed not to make the podium in Berlin and will be out for a big result on their home track. Remember that these things are called SIX days!”

I couldn’t have put it better myself; there’ll be some more after day two — and I’ll do my best to get that ‘Born in the USA’ pic.

Ciao!: 

Results

Madison (60 minutes)

1 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  20 pts
2 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  12
3 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  10
4 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  8

One lap behind
5 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  6 pts

Three laps behind
6 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  4 pts
7 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  2

Four laps behind
8 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den)
9 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den)
10 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita)
11 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den)
12 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA)
13 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi) / Jens-Erik Madsen (Den)

Five laps behind
14 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den)

Six laps behind
15 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg)

Sprint series

One
1 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den): :  5 pts
2 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  3
3 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi) / Jens-Erik Madsen (Den): :  2
4 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  1

Two
1 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  5 pts
2 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  3
3 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  2
4 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  1

Three
1 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg): :  5 pts
2 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  3
3 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den): :  2
4 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita): :  1

Four
1 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  5 pts
2 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den): :  3
3 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  2
4 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  1

Five
1 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  5 pts
2 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  3
3 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  2
4 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  1

Derny – group B

1 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  10 pts
2 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den): :  8
3 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi) / Jens-Erik Madsen (Den): :  6
4 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  4
5 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  2

500m time trial

1 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  0.30.199
2 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den): :  0.30.250

Lap record

1 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  0.13.009
2 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  0.13.156
3 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  0.13.470
4 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  0.13.546
5 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg): :  0.13.584
6 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  0.13.740
7 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den): :  0.13.753
8 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita): :  0.13.927
9 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  0.14.017
10 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  0.14.079
11 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  0.14.357
12 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den): :  0.14.437
13 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  0.14.659
14 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den): :  0.14.670

Derny – group A

1 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den): :  10 pts
2 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  8
3 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  6
4 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  4
5 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  2

Sprint series

One
1 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den): :  5 pts
2 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg): :  3
3 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  2
4 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  1

Two
1 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  5 pts
2 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  3
3 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  2
4 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  1

Giant sprint

1 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  10 pts
2 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den): :  6
3 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  5
4 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  4
5 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  3
6 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita): :  2

Madison (30 minutes)

1 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  20 pts
2 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  12

One lap behind
3 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  10 pts
4 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  8
5 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  6
6 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  4
7 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den): :  2
8 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den)

Two laps behind
9 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den)
10 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg)
11 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den)
12 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA)
13 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita)
14 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den)

Standings after night one

1 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi): :  41 pts
2 Robert Bartko / Leif Lampater (Ger): :  36
3 Alex Rasmussen / Michael Mørkøv (Den): :  34
4 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned): :  22

One lap behind
5 Kenny De Ketele / Tim Mertens (Bel): :  23 pts

Two laps behind
6 Luke Roberts (Aus) / Jacob Moe (Den): :  42 pts
7 Christian Grasmann (Ger) / Daniel Kreutzfeldt (Den): :  31

Four laps behind
8 Leon van Bon (Ned) / Marc Hester (Den): :  11 pts

Five laps behind
9 Michael Smith Larsen / Michael Berling (Den): :  20 pts
10 Matthé Pronk (Ned) / Mads Bugge (Den): :  12
11 Colby Pearce / Daniel Holloway (USA): :  11
12 Angelo Ciccone / Samuele Marzoli (Ita): :  1

Six laps behind
13 Andreas Müller (Aut) / Jesper Mørkøv (Den): :  17 pts

Seven laps behind
14 Sebastian Donadio / Dario Collo (Arg): :  11 pts