On Sunday it was a steam train – the sound took me back to when I was a boy, and it was nicer than Dave’s snoring.
A centre for the Art Nouveaux movement, rich industrialists commissioned the ‘hot’ architects of the day to make sure the world knew that they had taste – and money.
If you look up as you walk around the city, your eyes will be rewarded.
St. Pieters station is the first sight many hopeful champion cyclists have of Gent; it’s either the start of a love affair – or a nightmare.
Or perhaps it’s a bit of both?
You only think you’ve seen a lot of bicycles until you come to Gent – there are tens of thousands of them.
With Gent being a student town and flat as a pancake, the bike is the cheap way to get around.
And unlike in the UK, the public and police take bike lanes seriously.
The Kuipke Velodrome, a place of legend; 166.6 metres with tight radius bankings and long straights for the track length – it takes a bit of taming, but when you watch Iljo whistle around there on his Specialized it looks as if it’s some sort of anti-gravity chamber.
I first saw it in the early 70’s; but Vik can beat that – he reckons that it was the winter of 69/70 when he first walked up those concrete steps.
Not that you could see much to begin with – your eyes had to get used to the cigarette and cigar smoke.
It you’re into cycling, you have to visit, at least once.
They take their take away food seriously in Gent; although no frites at the Kuipke.
But there are hot dogs, but not just ordinary hot dogs – MAXI hot dogs.
Ever since I’ve attended Gent, the stall has been there which sells post card and A4 sized pictures of the renners.
Many teams actually charge for their post cards these days; and riders are loathe to sign more than one card with their image – knowing that most go straight on eBay.
If you’re a serious collector, you take your own photos, get them printed off and then have the rider sign them – some may say ‘sad,’ we say, ‘respect!’
Joop Zijlaard is a legend in cycling, latterly as a Derny driver but he used to drive the big motors, too.
This was his last Gent six and there were the obligatory laps of honour.
Who decided to make the points score digits lime green – it’s hard enough to see the damn thing?
Would Gijs and Kenny have won if the former hadn’t tasted pine with three laps to go?
We’ll never know – but if Van Hoecke isn’t tempted away to the road, he’s a winner at the Kuipke in the future.
Like all sports, cycling is full of hype – but when Iljo Keisse tells you that he loves this track, this city, these fans, it’s not what the Americans call BS.
I’ve seen him swamped by drunken fans at 02:00 am – he signs every autograph, shakes every hand, poses for every photo opportunity and the smile never leaves his face.
He is the crowned King of the Kuipke, no question.
There’s no tunnel to escape down or minders to keep the media and fans at bay at a six day – you may just have crashed hard and be desperate for a shower and a massage, but if you’re a pro then you know that those questions have to answered.
Kenny De Ketele used to be the ‘nearly’ man of the six days but since he won the Worlds with van Hoecke, he’s a different man – confident and strong.
And possessed of a true champion’s dignity in defeat; it’s hard to smile when one of the races you live for is snatched away from you.
Vik tells me that Sporza, the Belgian sports news media, are quote as saying that communications between O’Shea and Keisse weren’t the best, during the race.
But Iljo certainly took time on the podium to thank his Australian team mate.
Dan and his daughter Grith, hail from Copenhagen and are regulars at the six days of Gent, Bremen and Copenhagen.
Their passion is cycling photography – Dan brought some great black and white shots from the 80’s for us to see.
The cutie is a young Grith – the renner?
It’s the legendary ‘Doc’ – Gary Wiggins; late father of Tour de France winner, Bradley.
Let’s hope the man is resting in peace.
This handsome dude is Don Allan, Danny Clark’s Vuelta stage winning, Six Day partner until his career was cut short by a diabolical saddle sore.
He has a B&B in Australia these days and loves his garden – visiting the Chelsea Flower Show most years.
De Karper is Iljo’s dad’s bar – studenty and not as good value pils as the Vivaldi.
But they have a deejay, the tunes aren’t bad, the buzz is good and where the Hell else would you go when Iljo has just won the race?
Iljo watches himself win the Gent Six day on the big screen at his dad’s bar.
But my eye was drawn to the big picture beside the screen – Iljo winning a stage in the Tour of Turkey.
The best stage finish I saw during 2012.
When asked to say a few words into the mic at De Karper, Mr. O’Shea’s contribution would make any Aussie proud; ‘let’s drink beer!’
And finally, a word for the guys like Dirk Van Hove and Ian Whitehead who make the sport special.
Real race fans who would do anything to help you; and who live and die for bike racing.
See you at Het Nieuwsblad, gentlemen.