Any talk of decline appears to have been, thankfully, premature as 25,000 people had visited the 102nd Berlin Six over the first two days.
Tonight was ‘Golden Night’ and another massive crowd of around 13,000 trudged through the ice and snow in temperatures of around -13 to cheer and, in Berlin’s inimitable style, whistle the riders around the 250 metre track.
In what has become the way, here after a leg stretching set of sprints the riders went straight into a 30 minute Madison.
The leading teams traded laps until the end when Roger Kluge took the win with his Dutch partner Peter Schep.
Gaining laps on the 250 metre track is not always easy so efforts have to be measured. Riders will do around 600 metres (over two laps) between changes unlike on the shorter tracks that are more suited to Six Day racing when laps are won and lost relatively frequently.
In the lead at this stage were Andreas Müller and Franco Marvulli. Being from Berlin Müller has as always extra motivation to perform. He actually went to school just a few hundred metres from the building with his family apartment is just 500 metres away, so he really is a local boy.
After finishing 4th in Bremen Andreas’ morale is high and has good condition honed during several weeks training in Australia and Mallorca recently.
This is the first time on home soil that he has had such a strong partner and is in with a great chance of making it onto his first ever Six Day podium.
It’s something he deserves after consistent performances at major championships and earning his stripes showing younger guys the Six Day ropes.
There was only one Elimination race (or Devil) for teams and as one would expect with so few races in the programme the top teams didn’t hold back with World Madison Champ Kenny de Ketele and Luke Roberts taking the win and the overall lead.
The big rendezvous of the night was the 45 minute Madison and the closing laps got the 13,000+ crowd excited when three teams struggled to gain a lap and yo-yoed back and forth before finally taking the lap after a high speed chase.
Looking the strongest at this point in time were Kenny De Ketele and Luke Roberts and they had no such problems nipping away to gain a lap close to the end of the chase holding strong to win the sprint too.
On the other hand Marvulli / Müller appeared to fade but it was just one chase and there are three days left, anything can still happen.
At 14 laps behind and in last place in the standings are American Guy East and Berlin road rider Bjorn Schröder.
At 25 East told me he is no longer a full time cyclist but lives, studies and works close to San Diego, although of course he continues to ride his bike.
He had the call to race here and in Copenhagen and despite his honest assessment seems to be more at home than his partner road based professional, Schröder.
He told me he didn’t have the enthusiasm to race the road but still loves the Sixes and despite being in last place has good morale. He is enjoying ‘a tough experience’ but noted how fast the chases are.
As the crowd noticeably thinned out the last big event on the programme was the 1,000 Metre Time Trial (TT).
The winners of this were Kalz / Bengsch in a time of 55.491, the result keeping them in contention for a podium place.
Berlin Six Day 2013 - Results
@ 1 lap
2. Marvulli (Swi) – Müller (Ger) 127
3. Bartko – Reinhardt (Ger) 117
4. Kluge (Ger) – Schep (Ned) 102
@ 2 laps
5. Bengsch (Ger) – Kalz (Ger) 76
@ 3 laps
6. Kneisky (Fra) – Brisse (Fra) 56
@ 5 laps
7. Stroetinga (Ned) – Stopler (Ned) 32
8. Grassmann (Ger) – Thömel (Ger) 31
@ 6 laps
9. Barth (Ger) – Mohs (Ger) 69
10. Lampater (Ger) – Lib (Ger) 65
@ 8 laps
11. Mertens (Bel) – Pirius (Ger) 44
@ 11 laps
12. Bommel (Ger) – Thiele (Ger) 53
@ 12 laps
13. Masotti (Ita) – Ciccone (Ita) 31
14. Krasnow (Rus) – Ershov (Rus) 18
15. Mørkøv (Den) – Wotschke (Ger) 12
@ 14 laps
16. East (USA) – Schröder (Ger) 17
Sprinters, Stehers and the Ladies
The main Six Day programme is much shorter here than at other cities due to the sprint and steher (motor-paced) races. Also we now have a recently introduced Ladies-Cup that reduces the programme further.
The leading Sprinter after three nights is Maximilian Levy.
The 24 year-old from Cottbus leads from fellow German team sprinter, and owner of the largest thighs in cycling, Robert Forstemann.
Leading the Stehers after three nights is Florian Fernow who won the crowd pleasing high speed race tonight.
The Ladies Cup is a two-horse race between Stephanie Pohl and Charlotte Becker, Pohl holding a one point lead in an Omnium style competition.
Around the Landsberger Allee Velodrome
Unlike Ghent this is a large venue so spotting ex-riders and local celebrities is not as easy but one guy attracting a lot of attention was ‘Didi the Devil’.
A local he has been a familiar sight at the Tour and other major races for as long as I can remember. He missed the Tour last year due to ill health but was in good form here posing for a seemingly endless stream of photos with Six Day revellers.
Also in attendance was Erik Zabel who finished his career in his city of birth, in his one and only appearance, back in 2009. He was perhaps the last throw back to a bygone era when stars of the road came indoors during the winter to give the public a chance to see them up close and personal. His son Rik was in the junior races he a few years ago and Erik and his family are regular and popular visitors at this, the longest running Six Day race in the world.
The Berlin Six, as all German Sixes are or were, is not just a sporting event; there is the pomp and show as well as numerous bars and offering of culinary delights around the building. Non-meat eaters beware though, being a vegetarian in this place may be akin to being one in Argentina.
The Six Day race itself has now become just a part of all this which is in my opinion a bit of a shame as 10 years ago the riders always said Berlin had a sport loving public, so sport was put first.
The organisation felt they know their public and moved away from this adding more ‘show’.
The long breaks, and low team points totals, in the Six Day programme reflect this. They have brought in the Ladies Cup but with all due respect that has just further reduced the allotted time and the riders have a lot of down time which I’m not sure they like.