Twice World Madison Champion, twice World Scratch Champion, Olympic silver medallist in the madison and the winner of 33 Six Days off 115 starts – Franco Marvulli is the most successful rider on the current Six Day circuit.
Over the last few seasons there have been times when it looked as if the genial Suisse’s star is in the decline – at Gent in 2011 it looked like his best was behind him.
But a week later, in his home race in Zürich, boosted by a partisan crowd and having Iljo Keisse as a partner, he was back on the top step of the podium.
This season has been similar; sick in Grenoble, he didn’t challenge the classement in Gent, but with speedy partner Tristan Marguet, the lap and 500 metre track records did go their way.
At Zürich he was third, with Marguet – and by the time Bremen came round, he was back on top of the podium with big, strong German flyer, Marcel Kalz.
He took time to talk to us on Sunday’s ‘Familientag’ – Family Day – at the Berlin Six Day – his 11th start in the race.
You don’t seem to be as ‘into’ your stats as used to be, Franco?
“I’m really into stats but the problem was that the other riders used to laugh when I was always talking about numbers of podiums and stuff.
“It was something that I did for myself, I’ve always been into numbers.
“So now, if someone asks me how man Six Days I’ve ridden, I just say; ‘a lot!’
“But I think 33 wins off 115 starts sounds about right.”
Bremen is the tightest track on the circuit – you and Marcel Kalz are big guys…
“I looks as if it should be, but it’s not a problem – remember that Bartko/Schep won last year – and they’re not small riders either.
“For sure it’s better for a rider like Marguet who has a compact build and is fast – but you need strength too.
“It’s a track where you get tired quickly – the stress of the G-forces in the bankings on those tight bends takes it out of you.
“Another factor is that you have the stage tower in front of one of the bankings and that obscures your view of what’s going on – you must keep your wits about you.”
You’re riding here with Andreas Müller.
“I’ve known Andreas for a long time and the problem he’s had is that he’s always been paired with young guys who he has to look after.
“So his focus has never been 100% on the Six Days – he rides road and World Cups, too.
“But when he knew he was riding here with me, he’s trained specifically for this Six.
“We did a lot of good training together over Xmas when we were in Australia and he was fourth in Bremen – he’s very motivated to make the podium here.
“You take a rider like Kalz, he’s big and strong – Andreas isn’t as strong a rider as Marcel, but he’s smarter, he knows when to go and he knows when to save his strength.
“We also think the same way about racing and that’s a big advantage.”
The Berlin fans really like you – they’re not usually that enthusiastic about foreigners?
“This is my 11th time in the Berlin Six Day and I’ve always spent time with and flirted with the fans.
“The public like that and remember you.
“I like the race – the track suits me, the organisation is good and it’s a unique Six Day.
“You have Germany, you have Bavaria and then you have Berlin, it’s different from the other two.”
Is your motivation still strong?
“It’s not like when I was 20 years-old; it’s more about little things.
“Andreas will say to me; “let’s go for it in this one!” and I’ll pick up on that.
“My level of motivation won’t change now, no matter how many more Six Days I win.
“I’ve had my best years at the Worlds and won’t build on those palmares – what it’s about now is focussing on the races I really want to win.”
You’re still single sponsored by Price; doesn’t that make entering road events awkward?
“Not really, not for the races which I ride in Switzerland and Southern Germany.
“And sometimes I talk to the Swiss Federation and we organise a national team for a race.”
How was the summer?
“As well as the road I competed in different events; mountain bike marathons and events which involved running, swimming, canoeing – I even did a Half Ironman triathlon.
“I didn’t do some of the trips I’ve done in the past, to Harlem or to the Caribbean, for example, there was just so much going on at home.
“But I will be going to Australia for the Bendigo madison – it’s a good race and Australia is a great place to train and have a little fun.”
What’s your take on the move to four days instead of six?
“I think it’s sensible; it costs less to hire the hall and you probably get the same number of people in total.
“The only thing is that it doesn’t show in your stats – Kenny De Ketele won in Grenoble and Zurich but doesn’t get credit for those wins.”
What’s still ‘to do’ for you in cycling?
“Before I was always focussed on an event which was a year or even two years away.
“I carry a different mindset into races, now.
“I ask myself; “do I have a chance?”
“And if I believe I do then that’s my motivation, my goal.
“When you stop, you stop, it’s not important how many Six Days or world titles you won; it’s more important to be remembered in the hearts of the public – and to have fun with the public.
“Sometimes it’s fast, so hard in the races that you just want to stop, go down to your cabin – but you don’t, and that’s what makes it such a special sport.”
Who’s on the way for the Six Days in Switzerland ?
“Tristan Marguet is the only one who will make a Six Day rider – he should be riding here, but he’s ill.
“The Swiss Federation is concentrating on the team pursuit and I’m not sure that’s the right direction.
“Rio is a long way away and the GB and Australian squads are very hard to beat.
“And the clash of the World Cups with the Six Days makes it very difficult to do both.”
What do you think of GB’s domination on the track?
“GB and Australia are up at the moment and the traditional cycling nations are down – Germany, Italy, Switzerland have let things slip.
“But if you look at track cycling on a world wide level, it’s very healthy with tracks getting built from Armenia to Hong Kong.
“And if you compete at World Cups, every time you go there are more nations taking part.”
How man more seasons for you?
“I had intended to end my career after the Copenhagen Six Day, next week – but I’m going to continue.
“I think that my home Six Day in Zurich needs me; there are races I still want to ride and I still have energy.”
What comes after cycling when you do call a halt?
“I’m involved with a Swiss TV show which tests sporting goods – that will air in April.
“And I’m now ‘the cycling expert’ for Newsflash, a Swiss TV show; and I’m involved in the return of the Championship of Zürich – which we’re reviving as a Sportiv event.
“I do all of these things because I enjoy them – and there’s no shortage of options.”
“To the tell the truth, I didn’t even look at any of it.
“For sure, it’s not good for cycling – but I’ve learned not to worry about what anyone else is doing and just get on with my own career.
“I live my own life.”
Word is that your getting married?
“Soon, but not yet!”
So no need for the girls to break their hearts?
“No, of course not!”