Bremen Six Day 2014 – It all kicked off down in leafy Grenoble back in October with home boys Morgan Kneisky and Vivien Brisse sending the crowd home happy; albeit after only four days racing.
And for 2014 Grenoble becomes even shorter, a ‘half Six’ run over three days – it’s the way of the world…
The circus headed north to Amsterdam for round two where former world madison champions, Gijs Van Hoecke and Kenny De Ketele reminded us why they won those rainbow hoops.
It used to be Munich – but now it’s Ghent which lays claim to be the ‘King of the Sixes.’
There are huge crowds, a nonstop programme, Patrick Sercu at the helm and it’s not just about Iljo Keisse for the home nation, anymore.
Kenny De Ketele is a different rider since he won the Worlds; Gijs van Hoecke is class and Jasper De Buyst is even classier.
It was the 20 year-old De Buyst who took the laurels paired with resurgent German Leif Lampater.
If the young Belgian can avoid the perils of fame – fast cars, girls and night clubs – then he’s headed for the top.
Zürich, like Grenoble, was only four days – and ‘on the up’ home boy Silvan Dillier paired with current winter boards ‘Kaiser,’ Iljo Keisse to keep Dillier’s Swiss sponsors, BMC happy.
And it was said ‘Kaiser Keisse’ who paired with QuickStep team mate, Niki Terpstra to give us a real show boat finale in Rotterdam.
The ‘laminated flooring boys’ took the winning lap with eight laps to go – at which point Iljo gave us his victory salute.
Maybe, but I loved it.
Germany used to be Six Day Heartland; Munich, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig, Munster – all gone, with just Berlin and Bremen left.
Bremen used to be the ‘Party Six’ and whilst it’s still a fun gig with beer halls, restaurants, discos and live music, the crowds ain’t quite like they used to be.
Our man in the middle of those steep 167 metres of boards was the perennial Kris; here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas on his return from the Fatherland.
How many Six Days worked now, sir?
“Somewhere in the 370’s…”
Who were you looking after?
“Two young German lads, Hans Pirius and Sebastian Wotschke.
“Hans has just turned 22 and has been a multiple junior German champion on the track – and he took 6th on GC in the Tour of Berlin, last year.
“He’s your typical big, strong German.
“Sebastian is 21 years-old with podium places in German track championships and he’s placed in races in Belgium.
“They were second here last year in the U23 race but it’s different against the pros…
“They were disappointed to finish at 32 laps, but I reminded them that when the likes of Mark Cavendish and Danny Stam rode their first Six Days they were losing that many laps in two nights, never mind six days.”
What were the crowds like?
“Better than when I was last here, two years ago.
“The thing here is that it’s not just who’s in the actual race hall, there are all the other halls with food, drink, music so it’s hard to tell how busy it really is.
“On the second last night there was a big crowd watching the racing right up until 02:30 in the morning.”
Bremen was where Gary Wiggins won his only Six Day, wasn’t it?
“Yes, that was ’85 when I was looking after the Danish rider, Michael Marcussen – the crowds were unbelievable, the whole huge place was like a really busy pub when you have to fight your way to the bar.
“I remember being there with Maurice Burton in ’79 or ’80 and you literally had to fight your way through the people to the track.”
Was it the usual time trial heavy format?
“Not so much, just one 500 metre TT – which is three laps on a tiny track like that.
“What I didn’t understand was that they ran it really late; it’s a crowd pleaser so they usually have it earlier in the day – and the keirin didn’t start until 01:40 am…”
Was there the usual variety of entertainment?
“Yes, there was Klaus and Klaus the singers who’ve been here for years, DeeJay sets, dancers, the Blues Brothers, solo singers and bands.”
Lampater wins again.
“Yes, he’s back looking like the rider he was when he was winning Six Days with Erik Zabel, a few years ago.
“You can see that he’s a lot more self confident, too.
“Stroetinga is riding well too – they were deserving winners.”
And Big Bob Bartko second…
“Up until the last night it certainly looked as if Bartko/Kalz were going to win; but on the last day Kalz injured his arm and that impaired his changes – he was like a bear with a sore head!
“Bartko was going well but he’s beginning to show his age – all those chases over the years…”
Andreas Müller gets his first podium.
“Yes, as usual he rode very solidly, he was paired with Marc Hester – Andreas was flying to Mexico for the World Cup straight after the race.”
What was the field like, podium spots apart?
“There were five strong teams, not many in the middle and the rest made up the numbers.”
Do you think Bremen will survive?
“I think so; the crowds were good enough at the race and the other halls were busy – so yes, it looks safe.”
Maurice Burton’s son, Germain was in action in the U23 race.
“Yes, he’s a nice lad, he reminds me of his dad, quiet, low key.
“He crashed at almost exactly the same spot his dad did all those years ago – I sent a text to Maurice to tell him.
“The GB boys deserved to be on the podium but it took them a night or two to find their legs and they couldn’t quite get there.
“They were a bit unsettled too by the commissaires checking their bikes and discovering they were a little over-geared – but they must have been able to get round that…”
Marks out of ten for Bremen?
“I’d say 8.5, with Ghent at 10, well, 9.5.”
Next up is Berlin; we’ll be there, sleeping in the bin store, temperatures of minus 10, wall to wall janitors and those damn big motors to deafen you – can’t wait!