Watched by 75,000 spectators over the course of the event in the velodrome Landsberger Allee, Andreas Müller and Kenny de Ketele won the 103rd edition of the Berlin Six Day. On the last day and the last race they overtook the long-time leaders Leif Lampater and Jasper de Buyst with a race winning attack – exciting stuff. Third place went to Robert Bartko, which was his last time in Berlin at the Six (as he was retiring from competition after the following Copenhagen Six Day) with his young partner Theo Reinhardt.
VeloVeritas were at the race, working for the young American pairing Guy East and Daniel Holloway – here’s Ed’s look back at some of his favourite moments…
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If you look up you can’t help but be impressed; the largest unsupported steel roof in Europe hovers above you – it reminds me of the mother ship in Close Encounters.
‘The Terminator,’ aka ‘The Potsdam Bear’ – Robert Bartko can justifiably be called a ‘legend.’
He’s a double Olympic champion, four times a world champion and the winner of 20 of his 79 Six Day races.
He’s not a small man, his legs are like the proverbial tree trunks – his thighs the circumference of a skinny climber’s waist and he cuts an impressive figure when in full flight.
He’s maybe not just quite as quick as he was – but he’s still one of the top men.
Berlin is his last home Six Day and Copenhagen his last ever race.
The circus will be the poorer without him and we’ll never remember him as having been ridden off the wheel…
Berlin is as much about the sprinters and stayers as it is the Six Day men.
There’s match sprinting, flying laps and keirins.
With the German team sprint boys flying to a new world record in Mexico the motivation is high – they’ll take a bit of beating at the Worlds in Cali.
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The match sprinting is rapid but no one does anything daft – it’s all just to please the crowd and no UCI points at stake.
But there has to be a stand still, every night, in the same place…
They like their presentations in Berlin; every night all of the European and World champions who are riding are lined up and presented to the public.
Sometimes it’s confusing, like if they have a member of the winning squad in the ladies’ TTT up there – the UCI doesn’t award rainbow jerseys for the event, but never mind…
The first time I worked at the Copenhagen Six Day race back in 2005 Leif Lampater was the ‘coming man,’ paired with Erik Zabel he’d enjoyed a string of Six Day wins.
Since then he’s always been on the scene but his growth curve had levelled off – until season ’13/14 where he’s been ‘man of the winter.’
Zak Kovalcik is originally from Pittsburgh but now lives in Portland – a former cycle courier and ‘fixie guy’ he won the US omnium title in 2012 and managed to wangle a ride in the ‘steher’ Six, last year.
They liked him, so he’s back, on a new bike and up there behind the big BMWs at wrap speed – rather him than me.
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Leif is the Capo in Berlin; originally it was Bruno Risi who ‘called’ the races but when he retired there was a void which neither Robert Bartko nor Franco Marvulli wished to fill, so Danny Stam took up the reins.
But Danny wasn’t Bruno and since his retiral the Capo tends to be top local man, Michael Mørkøv in Copenhagen, Iljo Keisse in Ghent and Leif, here in Berlin.
If you’ve been here a few times and work here every night it’s easy to take it for granted.
But if you stand back just for a minute to take it all in it really is spectacular with the lights, music, shows, crowds and racing.
Down from Denmark for a few days to see how his riders are performing is Copenhagen Six Day promoter, Michael Sandstød.
He was a good rider in his day; among his palmarès are the Danish Elite TT and road race titles and Dunkirk Four Day as well as multiple Danish titles on the track.
With fellow ex-pro Jimmi Madsen he took the race over from long term promoter, Henrik Elmgreen last year.
Gone are the days of Kenny De Ketele being the bridesmaid to Iljo Keisse; winning the Worlds madison title with Gils Van Hoecke two years ago transformed him as a rider and as a person.
If his compatriot and Topsport Vlaanderen team mate Jasper De Buyst retains the form he’s had over this winter it’s hard to see anyone beating the two Belgians in the Cali Worlds.
Zak again, I just liked the picture, I’m not sure if the big bike driver is saying; ‘you have to use your head’ or ‘you’re off your head, son!’
Some of the shows at Berlin are brutal, gravel voiced Frank Zander has to be heard to be believed, he’s so bad.
But these guys were cool, great visual appeal and soulful – they brightened my night anyway.
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Our US riders picked up a win or two along the way – this one in the Derny.
Not everyone can be Bob Bartko or Leif Lampater and win the big chases so they have to find another way to market themselves – Guy East has gone down the ‘cowboy’ route and the German crowd seemed to like it.
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Sometimes the noise and heat gets too much and you just need a quiet seat for a minute or two – this steher driver chose the back straight for his ‘blow.’
In terms of wins/starts the numero uno on the circuit with 32 victories off around 115 starts and still in his early thirties he had at least five years as a top man in the Sixes, if he wanted – but like the pros say; ‘it’s always the head which goes before the legs’.
Berlin was his last race, no tears, he’s happy to be moving on.
I’ll miss you, Franco.
Stanek is the soigneur for Czech riders, he’s cool and so are all the Czech riders; friendly, open, smiling, happy to chat – not like some we could mention.
Everyone calls him ‘Stanley’ – his mantra is; ‘no stress!’
I’ll drink to that one.
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If you work as a runner at the Sixes the Dernys are a nuisance; you get coerced into pushing off if a ‘certain mechanic’ is sick (that means drunk) and the noise is horrible – not only that, the oil from the two stroke gets on the bikes and ruins your socks.
But their popularity with the crowds never diminishes and the pros do make it look good up there.
‘Hollywood’ is back in the Sixes.
He was on the circuit with Colby Pearce a few seasons back, this time round he’s with Guy East.
A former US Criterium Champion and winner of races from Spain to Mexico he’s a solid roadman.
On the track he’s fast and versatile and understands that if you have more tools in the box than just your legs then that’s all to the good with the promoters – like his Batman suit in Copenhagen…
If there was a rider of the week, it would have to be this gentleman – Robert Forstemann.
He of the ‘brick-built outhouse’ physique – he won the flying lap every night, dominated the match sprinting – and the crowd love him.
Copenhagen next stop …