It was 1975 when Dave, Don, Ed the Pole and yours truly first climbed the concrete stairs to get our first sight of the legendary boards of Gent velodrome.

I still remember the smells; derny exhaust, pee, frying food and beer!

Merckx and Sercu back in the day.
Merckx and Sercu back in the day.

Having spent my formative years riding:  time trials and road races (badly !) in the wilds of Scotland, with sheep as the main audience, I was fascinated by the spectacle.

Cycling as circus, theatre; it was loud, colourful, fast, spectacular, dramatic, dangerous and a little crazy.

A couple of times, Merckx & Sercu took two laps on the trot; not easing when they made the tail of the peloton, instead, driving hard over the top to go again – we were spellbound.

It didn’t matter that we didn’t really know what was going on or there didn’t actually seem to be a programme – the racing just kind of petered out in the wee small hours – but we loved it.

I remember being really jealous of the guys who helped the riders – pushing them out on to the track, then giving them a hand to haul them to a stop, to save their legs; changing them, handing them drinks.

‘What a cool job!’ I thought to myself. I didn’t know about washing a load of cycling clothes at 01:30 am or sleeping in the bin store or how sore your legs get with the constant standing on concrete. But I guess that even if I had, it wouldn’t have changed my mind – I wanted to do that, one day.

It took longer than I thought, 30 years until I managed to do it for the first time – at Copenhagen. And another five or six to get here – Het Kuipke, Gent.

We have to make this home from home for the next week.
We have to make this home from home for the next week.

It hasn’t changed much; the statue of Tom Simpson (the greatest) has gone – moved to the Flanders Cycling Museum; the horrific toilet at the bottom of the ramp has gone too and I have to admit that there’s no smell of pee in the air; the tubes on the bikes are a lot fatter; the helmets aren’t as cool – nothing looked better than a Banani crash hat, set at a jaunty angle on a six day man’s head and the restaurant where we had horse steak and chips is a bar now.

Our camper and the cabin we've been allocated. It's not exactly glamorous at this side of the track.
Our camper and the cabin we've been allocated. It's not exactly glamorous at this side of the track.

But the dernys still drone out their sweet, sickly aroma; with so much beer pumped, drunk and spilled it would be remarkable if the place didn’t reek of malt and hops; the burgers and hot dogs still sizzle and the riders still ride points, devils, time trials, dernys and – chases.

It’s Wednesday night and the second night of racing is about to kick off.

Alex's Principia, special edition Speedplays to celebrate his Worlds Gold Medal. Nice.
Alex's Principia, special edition Speedplays to celebrate his Worlds Gold Medal. Nice. (click for the full image)

Last night was cool, a good crowd, fast chasing in the first madison and good morale in our cabin. Alex & Michael lead going in to night two with 98 points: Iljo Keisse & Roger Kluge are second with 74 points, Bruno & Franco third with 72 and Kenny De Ketele & Robert Bartko fourth with 33 – all on the zero lap.

Iljo takes a welcome lap.
Iljo takes a welcome lap.
DeKetel is with Bartko this time.
DeKetel is with Bartko this time.
Bruno Risi.
Bruno Risi.
Alex breathes hard.
Alex breathes hard.

And that’s the race, I reckon; classy though he is, I don’t think that Germany’s Leif Lampater can win here with Danny Stam. Danny isn’t the man he was as half of the spectacular ‘Schlipinz and Shtam!’ pairing; as the race speakers used to pronounce their names.

For that matter, I don’t think De Ketele and Bartko can win.

Dirk is kept busy with the wheels - these are for the day after tomorrow.
Dirk is kept busy with the wheels - these are for the day after tomorrow.

Conventional wisdom is that Iljo can’t win either – he raced the kermesses during the summer and looked sharp at Grenoble, but didn’t ride Munich.

That’s a major hole in his preparation – but like someone said to me today; ‘he’s super motivated!’ Kluge is a big strong boy; he goes round the track like he’s on rails and I think that if he and Iljo can win, then they will.

Ed does the washing.
Ed does the washing. (click for the full image)

The first madison last night was totally straight; and it showed – teams lost up to six laps. The last chase was a more civilised affair with less death masks on show.

Franco has his 'bad legs' sorted by Kris.
Franco has his 'bad legs' sorted by Kris.

Despite saying that he has bad legs, Franco is flying – you’re not fastest in the flying lap with dead legs. It’s half way through night two for me; “We Will Rock You !” time for the 500 metres TT.

How did it go? : Tell you tomorrow!

Iljo's fleet of lovely Merckxs.
Iljo's fleet of lovely Merckxs. (click for the full image)
More decals go onto the jerseys.
More decals go onto the jerseys.
It's getting late, but there's still beer to be drunk!
It's getting late, but there's still beer to be drunk!

Results

Points race
1 Leon Van Bon (Ned)/Andreas Müller (Ger) Caruur 10:  pts
2 Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Roger Kluge (Ger) Mega Deschacht — John Saey 6
3 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Tristan Marguet (Swi) Geka Kaas 5
4 Alex Rasmussen (Den)/Michael Morkov (Den) Callant Verzekeringen — Wire-less 4
5 Kenny De Ketele (Bel)/Robert Bartko (Ger) Mercator Verzekeringen 3
6 Steven Deneef (Bel)/Steve Schets (Bel) JDK 2
7 Ingmar Depoortere (Bel)/Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen
8 Bruno Risi (Swi)/Franco Marvulli (Swi) Knokse Bandencentrale — Eurotyre
9 Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned)/Marc Hester (Den) AVS
10 Glenn O’Shea (Aus)/Leigh Howard (Aus) VDK Spaarbank
11 Danny Stam (Ned)/Leif Lampater (Ger) Ploeg AA Drink
12 Jeff Vermeulen (Ned)/Peter Schep (Ned) Topsport Vlaanderen

Team elimination
1 Alex Rasmussen (Den)/Michael Morkov (Den) Callant Verzekeringen — Wire-less 20:  pts
2 Bruno Risi (Swi)/Franco Marvulli (Swi) Knokse Bandencentrale — Eurotyre 12
3 Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Roger Kluge (Ger) Mega Deschacht — John Saey 10
4 Danny Stam (Ned)/Leif Lampater (Ger) Ploeg AA Drink 8
5 Jeff Vermeulen (Ned)/Peter Schep (Ned) Topsport Vlaanderen 6
6 Glenn O’Shea (Aus)/Leigh Howard (Aus) VDK Spaarbank 4
7 Steven Deneef (Bel)/Steve Schets (Bel) JDK
8 Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned)/Marc Hester (Den) AVS
9 Leon Van Bon (Ned)/Andreas Müller (Ger) Caruur
10 Kenny De Ketele (Bel)/Robert Bartko (Ger) Mercator Verzekeringen
11 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Tristan Marguet (Swi) Geka Kaas
12 Ingmar Depoortere (Bel)/Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen

One-lap time trial
1 Bruno Risi (Swi)/Franco Marvulli (Swi) Knokse Bandencentrale — Eurotyre 10:  pts
2 Alex Rasmussen (Den)/Michael Morkov (Den) Callant Verzekeringen — Wire-less 6
3 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Tristan Marguet (Swi) Geka Kaas 5
4 Danny Stam (Ned)/Leif Lampater (Ger) Ploeg AA Drink 4
5 Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Roger Kluge (Ger) Mega Deschacht — John Saey 3
6 Glenn O’Shea (Aus)/Leigh Howard (Aus) VDK Spaarbank 2
7 Steven Deneef (Bel)/Steve Schets (Bel) JDK
8 Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned)/Marc Hester (Den) AVS
9 Ingmar Depoortere (Bel)/Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen
10 Jeff Vermeulen (Ned)/Peter Schep (Ned) Topsport Vlaanderen
11 Leon Van Bon (Ned)/Andreas Müller (Ger) Caruur
12 Kenny De Ketele (Bel)/Robert Bartko (Ger) Mercator Verzekeringen

Madison
1 Alex Rasmussen (Den)/Michael Morkov (Den) Callant Verzekeringen — Wire-less 20:  pts
2 Bruno Risi (Swi)/Franco Marvulli (Swi) Knokse Bandencentrale — Eurotyre 12
3 Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Roger Kluge (Ger) Mega Deschacht — John Saey 10
4 Kenny De Ketele (Bel)/Robert Bartko (Ger) Mercator Verzekeringen 8
One lap down
5 Danny Stam (Ned)/Leif Lampater (Ger) Ploeg AA Drink 6
6 Jeff Vermeulen (Ned)/Peter Schep (Ned) Topsport Vlaanderen 4
Two laps down
7 Leon Van Bon (Ned)/Andreas Müller (Ger) Caruur
8 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Tristan Marguet (Swi) Geka Kaas
9 Glenn O’Shea (Aus)/Leigh Howard (Aus) VDK Spaarbank
Four laps down
10 Ingmar Depoortere (Bel)/Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen
11 Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned)/Marc Hester (Den) AVS
Six laps down
12 Steven Deneef (Bel)/Steve Schets (Bel) JDK

Standings after night one
1 Alex Rasmussen (Den)/Michael Morkov (Den) Callant Verzekeringen — Wire-less 50:  pts
2 Bruno Risi (Swi)/Franco Marvulli (Swi) Knokse Bandencentrale — Eurotyre 34
3 Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Roger Kluge (Ger) Mega Deschacht — John Saey 29
4 Kenny De Ketele (Bel)/Robert Bartko (Ger) Mercator Verzekeringen 11
One lap down
5 Danny Stam (Ned)/Leif Lampater (Ger) Ploeg AA Drink 18
6 Jeff Vermeulen (Ned)/Peter Schep (Ned) Topsport Vlaanderen 10
Two laps down
7 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Tristan Marguet (Swi) Geka Kaas 10
8 Leon Van Bon (Ned)/Andreas Müller (Ger) Caruur 10
9 Glenn O’Shea (Aus)/Leigh Howard (Aus) VDK Spaarbank 6
Four laps down
10 Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned)/Marc Hester (Den) AVS
11 Ingmar Depoortere (Bel)/Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen
Six laps down
12 Steven Deneef (Bel)/Steve Schets (Bel) JDK 2:  pts