“Hello Mr. Sercu, how’s life?” I ask at the Rotterdam Six Day 2011.
“Well, I’m still alive!” comes the reply.
He’s a ‘glass half empty’ kind of a guy is Patrick, sometimes.
But he’s sport director here at the 6-daagse Rotterdam and he’s not to be messed with.
And he has a lot on his mind; his ‘boy’ Iljo Keisse may be smiling out at me from the ‘programmakrant;’ but there’s no one smiling at UCI HQ in Switzerland.
They’ve instructed Frank Boele, the organiser here, that Iljo is not to start.
They’ve ruled that what a judge in Belgium says applies only in that country. So why did they let him ride Zurich? – you’d need to ask Pat McQuaid that one.
He’ll get back to you once he’s sorted out shortening the Giro by a week.
Meanwhile, the joiners are filling and sanding the boards, the painters are rollering and the advertising board guys are doing their best Spider Man impersonations atop the bankings.
I didn’t realise until Kris told me that it’s not a permanent track here at the Ahoy.
The surface is good old fashioned plywood on timber trusses which are supported by steel – and wide it ain’t with a very narrow slow running lane.
At 200 metres it’s longer than Gent at 166 but shorter that Grenoble at 210 and Copenhagen at 250.
The first six was held here in 1971 when Peter Post & Patrick Sercu won; it ran until 1988 when Danny Clark & Tony Doyle won.
But all through that period the track was not permanent, albeit it was stored within the stadium between races.
There was no six day from ’88 until 2005 when Danny Stam & Bob Slippens Six Day successes were a big factor in the return of madison racing to Rotterdam.
They won that edition and the next; with Danny winning with Leif Lampater in ’08 and with Iljo last year to give him four wins.
All long ways shy of ‘recordman’ Rene Pijnen, though – he’s on 10 victories whilst Danny Clark has seven and Patrick Sercu five.
Pijnen started the race 17 times and finished every time.
The programme has a points rating in it – Pijnen tops it with 69 points off 17 starts; whilst Danny Stam is best of the current generation in fifth place with 26 points off six starts.
On a more mundane note, the big cabin is organised and so is the track side one – except for the food; we’ll do that in the morning.
There’s no wi-fi at the moment so please accept my apologies for the mobile phone pics.
The Ahoy stadium isn’t that far from the centre of Rotterdam.
The complex is undergoing a massive refurbishment which has been going on for a year – and it doesn’t look to me as if it will be finished for tomorrow night when the first pistol shot is heard.
The inside of the stadium looks great, though – the seats ride steeply up from the trackside, like cliffs.
Apart from the little bittie for the riders’ cabins and mechanics work area, the track centre is one big VIP restaurant and bar – that should be fun.
They have paintings and sketches of former stars hung in the walls; Jan Jansen, Peter Post are up already whilst Bob Slippens and Big Ted wait their turn.
On the subject of riders, we have Franco Marvulli (naturally) who rides with Dutch road star, Niki Terpstra and our Danish duo of Michael Mørkøv and Jens-Erik Madsen who ride together.
It’s a hard race to call, but Stam paired with Leon Van Bon must be home favourites, a podium at Gent is a strong endorsement.
Peter Schep and Theo Bos (Holland) looks strong on paper, albeit Theo’s behind with his track legs.
Terpstra & Marvulli have what it takes to win, too – as do our Danes but there’s never been a Danish win in Rotterdam.
Iljo & Kenny De Ketele (Belgium) is a strong team but it’s looking highly unlikely that Iljo will be allowed to start.
The German/Dutch duo of Leif Lampater & Wim Stroetinga is a strong one, too – Lampater is a consummate madison rider and Stroetinga was seriously quick in the time trials at Gent.
Other interesting riders are Skil’s roadman-sprinter Kenny van Hummel (Holland), six day stalwarts Marc Hester (Denmark), Andreas Muller (Germany), big pursuiter Jens Mouris (Holland) and Six Day big-shot Robert Bartko (Germany) who rides with Pim Ligthart – no podium for Bob, then.
Hostilities kick off tomorrow evening, we’ll be there – hopefully with some decent pictures.
As we say here; “ahoy!”