Friday, Schonefeld Airport was cold with snow on the ground – but it was good to arrive in Germany in the sunshine.
Sometimes in January there’s a depressing grey half light, the clouds sit low and the dampness eats into you.
But today was beautiful, even though the cold nips at the inside of your nose.
And it was good to get off the plane.
I was in the middle of a ‘stag party’ bound for the bars and clubs of Berlin; they were all merry when they boarded and well on the way to be being wasted by the time they we disembarked.
They were loud and sweary; but there was no reprimand from the cabin crew – probably due to their healthy consumption of over-priced baby tins of Stella for the Easyjet coffers.
The train was on time – naturally – and soon it was time to walk down, then up into the track.
You forget how impressive the ‘Velodrom’ is; the largest unsupported steel rood in Europe hovers above you like the inside of some flying saucer.
But from the outside there’s little to see, just what could be the top of a gasometer.
The Folklore is that the site was where the Stasi (East German Secret Police) HQ was – when they blew it up, after the Berlin Wall came down, they decided to build a sports hall.
As well as the Velodrome, there’s a ‘swim hall’ next door and the whole place is a concert venue – a ‘Gossip’ poster caught my eye on the way in.
John Young and Stuart Anthony are here for the weekend – it’s good to have someone to banter with, they’re not big on small talk in the Fatherland.
Not like in Grenoble where the French riders always want a chat and you get invites to their birthday parties.
I missed Day One – for boring reasons, let’s not bother explaining it – but was in time on Friday for that highlight of any Six Day, the trip to the super market.
And then it was chow time.
I stick to pasta with parmesan with olive oil and then some fruit; the Germans like their rich sauces and fatty meat, nein danke!
The intros take forever – European and World Champions, then the sprinters, then the Six Day riders.
The field wasn’t bad at all with favourites being: Kenny De Ketele/Luke Roberts, Roger Kluge/Peter Schep, Marcel Kalz/Robert Bengsch plus ‘Marvellous’ Marvulli partnered with solid, consistent Austrian, Andreas Müller.
Robert Bartko is a home favourite but he had a ‘fall out’ with the organisation last year so there was no way they’d let him win this year – up and coming Theo Reinhardt was his ‘neebur’ for the duration.
By the end, the laddie was wasted, but that’s another story . . .
The first chase was a pretty brisk affair but the races on the Berlin track are never as spectacular as on a Gent or Bremen – not on a 250 metre bowl as compared to the 160 ‘wall of death’ hard core Six Day tracks.
My excitement for the night came when I wandered over to take some snaps of the excellent ELO (Part Two) who were performing in the track centre.
Pictures duly snapped, I was about to wander back to the riders area when a dude in a shaved head and suit with an ear piece self tapped to his lug (always a bad start) arrived.
‘Wrist band?’ he demanded, I smiled and waved my creds.
‘No! No! You must have wrist band, leave now!’
Biting my lip I tried to smile; ‘ok, no problems’ and went to retrace my steps back to the rider area.
‘No! No! You go this way!’ said my chum directing me out the other end of the track and meaning a 500 metre magical mystery tour to get back to where I wanted to be.
I knew a guy once who was a bouncer, he reckoned that you really only needed one complete sentence – and simple variations on another to do the job; ‘Good evening folks, in you come.’
And; ‘F-off son, you’re too drunk/scruffy/young.’
But I digress, the second chase was a low key affair and the music wasn’t knock out.
Liverpudlian deejay Pete Traynor used to do the sounds – he did them at Zürich, this winter – but fell out with the organiser over money (what else?).
Zach was on late behind the big bikes; the crowd just love it, even though it seems to take forever to get the pace bikes shuffled into the correct order and do the intros.
There’s generally quite a high level of ‘choreography’ in stayer racing and it looked as if Zach was sampling it – getting his legs ripped off at the front to please the crowd until the pacer could see that the American was wasted, then the ‘real’ race started.
All too soon it was time to go down to the concrete floored, breeze block walled ‘cabin’ – which is ‘home sweet home’ in Berlin.
One down, four to go.