This year saw edition 105 of the Berlin Six Days, VeloVeritas had the good fortune to be there helping soigneur Kris look after Messrs. Germain Burton (GB), Daniel Holloway (USA), Mathias Krigbaum (Denmark) and Mark Stewart (Scotland).
Here’s a selection of images from under the largest unsupported steel roof in Europe on the site of what used to be the Berlin STASI Headquarters.
Kris has always worked with the Danish riders and the tradition continues with Mathias Krigbaum, a former World Junior Madison Champion.
Mathias was partnered with experienced countryman Marc Hester who’s ridden 87 Six Days; this is Krigbaum’s fourth ‘race to nowhere’ and despite Hester’s criticisms, the youngster didn’t embarrass himself.
Krigbaum is a strong road rider too; last year he was with Lotto U23 for whom he took out an ‘Interclub’ race in Belgium – not an easy thing to do, they’re looked on as a stepping stone to a pro contract.
This season he stays in Belgium but the name on the jersey will be VeranClassic-AGO.
Christian Grasmann will be a little disappointed that he didn’t have a stronger partner than Nico Hesslich.
Hesslich’s father, Lutz is a sprint legend, Olympic and World champion but Hesslich junior has a ways to go before he even gets to the Worlds.
Albeit he rode well enough – but was flagging in the last chases.
Grasmann is a self confessed ‘hobby cyclist,’ his own Maloja team isn’t registered as UCI Continental but rides the Revolution Series and Grasmann is quite happy with his team’s programme.
Despite the fact that he doesn’t get a strong road core Grasmann is a Six Day regular, reliable and safe.
His form has been good this year and he won in Bremen with De Ketele.
Germain handles the inevitable, ‘I knew your father‘ gambit with aplomb and apart from being rapid, is great to have in the cabin with his dry wit and good humour – although his liking for Rapper ‘Stormsy’ reminds me that I ain’t ‘down with the kids no more.’
He stumbled in just one madison: but rode a strong first Six Day (London was only five days).
On this showing, VeloVeritas thinks that he and Mark could well become the first all GB team in our memory to win a Six Day.
Mark is a racer, a hard man to hold back but a manager’s dream – it’s always easier to pull on the reins than dig the spurs in.
He’s no respecter of reputations and if his rate of progress continues he’s headed for the very top on the track; world champion no less, says Kris.
Roger Kluge – you have to respect Big Rodge, he hauls that solid frame of his over the highest cols in Europe in the Grand Tours, works hard for his IAM team in the season and is one of a very few World Tour guys you’ll see in a Six Day.
He was strong here with Big Kalz and we think they were meant to win but “a certain keen pair of British youngsters” initiated a chase in the dying minutes to deny the Home Boys top spot on the podium.
De Ketele and De Pauw were delighted; they took the win – the big Berliners less so…
Chauffeur for Germain and Mark; all the way from Leslie in Fife, Scotland to Berlin via Manchester – and back; Spokes Cycles owner Craig Grieve who was dropped into the strangeness that is the world of the Six Days.
He even had his first taste of pushing off in the Derny – anything that enables me to duck that gig is just fine by me – and seems to have come through his first Six without too many scars.
If the Six Days are a strange little world then the ‘Stayer World’ is even more eclectic and closed.
A mad secret society for fearless men addicted to speed.
Generally skinny little guys (to take best advantage of the slipstreams) mounted on bizarre contraptions drafting behind big mature, dour guys in leather suits ‘standing’ on growling old BMW flat twin motorbikes.
The last Worlds motor paced champs was held in 1993, the UCI binned it because it was so corrupt with Machiavellian deals and pay-offs the norm.
There’s still an element of that with the drivers very much deciding how it will be.
Britain had representation in Matt Gittings who’s twice been British Derny Champion but spends most of time in the USA.
The USA was represented too; ex-cycle courier Zak Kovalcik was here for the fourth time and finally got a win – you don’t break into ‘Stayer World’ over night.
The Berlin Six Day isn’t just about chases, devils and Dernys; the German fans love the big motors – and sprinting too.
With The Worlds not being far away the German ‘A List’ sprinters weren’t on hand but local hero (he is just so much in demand for pictures, interviews and autographs) Robert Forstemann took the overall tournament win based on match sprinting, flying laps and keirin.
The USA’s Nate Koch isn’t the world’s fastest sprinter – giving away a second and more to Forstemann in the flying lap – but the crowd likes him and keeping the crowd happy is what it’s all about.
Kenny De Ketele, he’s come a long way from the days he and Tim Maertens were a Belgian ‘make up the numbers’ team in the Sixes.
Tim has retired, he never fully recovered from a serious crash, but Kenny has gone from strength to strength.
World Madison Champion in 2012 with Gijs Van Hoecke, Berlin was his 10th Six Day win off 61 starts.
He’s now as near to a ‘Capo’ of the Sixes as you can get in these days of fewer races and riders dropping in and out of races rather than having a core group of specialists.
The spectators love them, I wouldn’t say I hate them but they’re so damn predictable – and noisy.
In the ‘A’ races it was only ever going to be Kalz, Kluge or Kenny.
And up in Copenhagen it’ll Kenny, Jesper Mørkøv and Marc Hester getting the flowers, no doubt.
Marcel Barth was five times German Junior Champion and World Junior Points Champion in 2004; in the dozen years since then there’s not been a lot to write home about except for two German ‘stayer’ titles in 2012 and ’13.
His forte now is La Ola, the half-dozen ‘lark about’ laps before the big chase of the night.
Maybe if he spent less time on the sunbeds he’d get his legs back?
There’s no escape from Didi – but you should know that he has a special ‘velodrome’ trident for the Six Days.
It’s that attention to detail that makes him special…
One of the traditions of Berlin is the big group picture on a Sunday morning – riders, motorbike riders, officials.
Good fun but no room for soigneurs or runners – we know our place…
Sunday is also ‘family day’ with rides for the kiddies – and it does draw families in.
But the whole race is well supported with crowds that any promoter would die for.
Stefan Nimke used to be a pillar of the Berlin Six Day and one of the best team sprinters and kilometre riders in the world; if a somewhat superior individual – but big sprinters, especially German ones can be like that.
At 37 he’s now on the German Paralympic programme – our own Craig Maclean may well be tangling with him in Rio.
No longer one of the stalwarts of the German National squad, ex-judo star, Robert Forstemann still has those huge thighs – and local support; he’s asked for more autographs, pictures and interviews than any of the Six Day guys.
‘Past it’ for the Worlds or not he can still rattle 12.5 for a flying 250 – which isn’t exactly slow.
Bears – as in ‘Bear’-lin; they’re the city’s symbol and pop up everywhere. This polar model had to do a dance routine every night – and the Six Day guys think they have it tough?
De Ketele and De Pauw look happy, so do Havik and Stopler – the big Home Boys? The faces say it all.
A good six days of entertainment; if God spares me I hope I’ll be here for 2017.
Copenhagen next up…