I’m standing on the chair so as I can see over the cabin, Leif Lampater and Roger Kluge are the only pair left to ride in the 1,000 metres time trial here at the Berlin Six Day.
Roger is smooth, fast, the sling to Leif isn’t perfect but it’s not too bad.
Leif drives but he’s not at his best – it seems like no one is on this first night in Berlin – the digits whirl on the lap board, he sprints up the home straight, 58 seconds.
“Fastest time to Bradley Huff and Jackie Simes !” says the speaker – our boys’ 57 seconds wins and there are flowers for the cabin.
Well, there would be, if I hadn’t given then to the cute woman doctor, but we don’t need to go into that.
Not a bad first night in Berlin, I’ve had my shower, there’s a plastic cup of beer to my left and basic though it is, that ‘army’ bed looks good.
But let’s go back to Wednesday . . .
I set the alarm for 04:45 but I was panicking; although Davie was meant to pick me up at 05:30, he’s usually at least 15 minutes early – but he got himself lost and ended up in Musselburgh, so it was around 05:35 when we hit the road.
Davie’s planning another trip to the Sahara and also to ride his bike 1,000 miles in three days, for charity (fixed wheel, natch) – it must be grim to have boring pals.
The flight was delayed a wee bit but there was paperwork aplenty to do – what did we do before BlackBerrys?
But now I’m in Berlin on a nice, almost spring lunchtime – the messages start.
Kris tells me that the camper is playing up; Brad and Jackie need to know which hotel they’re staying and where I am and what to do with all their bikes – ah yes, it’s going to be a good trip !
Berlin 15:26 – there’s a great German film called, ‘The Lives of Others’ set in East Germany in the ‘bad old days.’
It could well have been shot here, row upon row of featureless tenements, just like in the movie.
Where we are used to be part of East Germany, the track and adjacent swimming pool are hardly visible from above ground, located in an underground site which legend has it was the site of the old secret police HQ.
Before this complex was built the race was held at a different venue in the Western sector of Berlin.
Every year there’s a huge production about where to park the camper – this year is no different.
When you watch that live stream and think how well organised it all looks – take it from me, if you’re a runner, soigneur or mechanic that glossy skin is very thin.
Although it must be said that the presentation at Berlin is excellent and there is a huge sense of occasion about the whole thing.
The track is beautiful – but big for Six Day racing at 250 metres.
This is the 101st edition of the world’s oldest and most often held surviving Six Day race.
And interestingly – given that our US riders Jackie Simes and Brad Huff are riding – the first winners were American.
That was way back in 1909 when Floyd MacFarland & Jimmy Moran won a race which was promoted by an American.
Just to make sure that the US doesn’t win this time they’ve given them number 13.
‘Recordman’ is Klaus Bugdahl with nine wins, Patrick Sercu and Peter Post have seven each, Dietrich Thurau and Sigi Renz have six and Danny Clark and Walter Ruett five.
‘Recordman’ for starts is again Bugdahl with an amazing 26 starts in the race but he rode in the era of more than one race per year.
The German figures third in the all time list of six day starts with 228 to Danny Clark’s 236 and Rene Pijnen’s 233.
All of the world’s five best six day men have won here: Sercu (88 all time wins) and seven wins in Berlin; Danny Clark (74) five; Rene Pijnen (72) two; Peter Post (65) seven and Bruno Risi (60) three.
One of Bruno’s wins was with our own Franco ‘Marvellous’ Marvulli who’s leading the winter six day points classification.
Franco rides with fellow Suisse, Silvan Dillier – he was strong with compatriot Claudio Imhof in Gent and made the podium with Australian omnium specialist Glenn O’Shea in Zürich.
The other favourites have to be Kluge/Lampater – Kluge won here last year with Bartko and Lampater is overdue a win.
Dutchmen Schep/Stam are here with no soigneur – Schep won in Rotterdam and Bremen but it’s Danny’s second to last Six Day and he’ll be saving a few Euros.
But little signs like that tell you much about who the serious riders are.
World Champions Cameron Meyer & Leigh Howard will be favourites to the uninitiated, but it’s well-nigh possible to come in to your first Six Day and win.
Apart from protocol there’s the matter of finding your ‘track legs’ – there are no 11 cogs here and the gears are much lower too than at World Cups or the Worlds.
Gears have risen a little from when 87.6″ or 88.2″ were the ratios, but only to 90″ – in the one hour World Cups it’ll be 102″ and maybe higher.
But the work load at a Six Day is too severe for monster ratios to be considered.
There’s a bit of animosity about the Aussies being here; they’re on a well into five figures contract whilst the rest of the field have had their fees chopped.
Bartko is one of the main men on the circuit and last year’s winner in Berlin – the rumour is they wanted him to take a 30% hit on his contract.
He said ‘nein !’ so we’re minus the ‘Potsdam Bear.’
The start ceremonies were spectacular, lights, music, dancers and laps of honour in a 1964 Opel Rekord cabrio – cool.
A sprint series to start, then a rapid devil.
The Germans like their sprinters – and Berlin is no exception.
All the big guns are here from the team sprint squad which broke GB’s world record from Beijing in Cali.
Some of the smaller guys’ musculature is bizarre – one wonders what they’ll do when they stop sprinting.
Former world junior sprint champion Max Levy won the flying lap with a 12.9 – Jackie Simes pointed out to me that to be competitive at world level in the omnium, you have to be able to do 12.8.
The chases weren’t killers, it looked to me like there was a wee bit of a truce in effect; nonetheless the Russian guys were at sea.
Hoffman, the Czech, came off in the chase – a tub rolled, the commissairs weren’t overly chuffed about that.
After the 160 metres of Bremen, it seems to take forever for the string to come around the 250 metres of Berlin – unless the big motors are up, that is.
The big beasts hurtle around the bowl at mad speeds – I think maybe you have to be a little crazy to do it.
The last chase is ‘flat’ too; for some reason our Americans get chased down three times – some teams haven’t read the script.
The time trial win perks us all up though – and then it’s just the ‘little’ Derny, tidy up and head for the cabin.
And as Tim Mertens says to no one in particular at the end of the night; ‘only 11 days to go !’
… if you count Copenhagen, that is.
Berlin Six Days - Results
2 Iljo Keisse / Kenny De Ketele (Bel) 39
2 Robert Bengsch / Marcel Kalz (Ger) 39
4 Franco Marvulli / Silvan Dillier (Swi) 38
5 Leigh Howard / Cameron Meyer (Aus) 33
6 Marcel Barth / Erik Mohs (Ger) 30
@ 2 Laps
7 Andreas Graf / Andreas Müller (Aut) 12
8 Ralf Matzka / Theo Reinhardt (Ger) 2
9 Henning Bommel / Tim Mertens (Ger/Bel) 22
10 Rafal Ratajczyk / Alexander Aeschbach (Pol/Swi) 10
11 Danny Stam / Peter Schep (Ned) 5
12 Martin Blaha / Jiri Hochmann (Cze) 2
@ 4 Laps
13 Fabio Masotti / Angelo Ciccone (Ita) 9
14 Björn Schröder / Tino Thömel (Ger) 6
15 Brad Huff / Jackie Simes (USA)
@ 6 Laps
16 Waleri Kaikow / Leonid Krasnow (Rus) 1
2 Julie Leth 5
2 Madeleine Sandig 5
4 Lisa Brennauer 9
5 Charlotte Becker 10
6 Andrea Wolfer 14
7 Elke Gebhardt 17
7 Janine Bubner 17
9 Lucy Garner 18
9 Lina Kristin Schink 18
11 Hannah Walker 19
12 Kararzyna Pawlowska 21
2 Maximilian Levy 12
3 Stefan Nimke 11
4 Rene Enders 10
5 Stefan Bötticher 9
6 Sebastian Döhrer 8
2 Mario Birrer 2
3 Florian Fernow 3
4 Peter Jörg 4
5 Timo Scholz 5
6 Christoph Breuer 6
7 Benoit Daeninck 7