Inside the Berlin Six Day 2017 – the First Three Nights
Day One at the Berlin Six Day 2017
You’ve got to get here first, right?
Even by Ryanair punishment flight standards, it was a sore one. The lady in front of me, I’m sure was taking her kids to audition for; ‘Devil Spawn of Berlin, The Revenge’ – they’ll get the parts, no problem.
I felt like a native buying my S Bahn train ticket from the machine and riding into town with the rush hour commuters – damn cold though.
It’s ‘all change’ at the velodrome, the pits have been moved into the centre of the track, divorcing us from the action and meaning we can’t push riders ‘in’ or offer them a hand to save them from kicking back on sore legs when they come in.
The programme is different too with the big motors not coming out to play until after the last chase in the Six Day – happy days, so nice to walk out of the hall and leave the noise and exhaust fumes behind.
The race is now part of the Madison Sports organisation’s ‘Six Day league’ along with London, Amsterdam and next week’s Copenhagen race.
Belgians Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw won in England and the Netherlands and have to be strong favourites here.
Their main challengers on paper would seem to ‘home boys’ Leif Lampater and big Marcel Kalz who won here two years ago – Kalz won in Bremen the other week with Iljo Keisse but in the process picked up a bad saddle sore on the tight bankings and lumpy boards of the northern city’s track.
There’s British representation with messrs. Chris Latham (who rode so strongly in London 2015) paired with team pursuit specialist (is it just me or is he a David Miller clone?) Andy Tennant.
The opening chase wasn’t too savage, ‘boards warmed’ and all that; I’m not race-fit yet so forgot a few of my tasks – but I’ll be flying come night four...
Derny – yawn...
Then, in true ‘old school Grenoble’ [R.I.P] style we had a juggler; and the boy was awesome - but not as awesome as the acrobats who came on later.
The ‘cheerleaders’ are none too shabby either.
Sprinter time – it’s all ‘arranged’ and not like old school sprinting at all. No blood on the boards, stretchers or pictures of huge splinters being extracted.
But the crowd love it and the flying lap time trial is cool; you can’t ‘arrange’ those – albeit I do remember being at Zürich once and they had Tristan Marguet going faster than Jason Kenny...
There are top boys on the boards too, Joachim Eilers, reigning world kilometre and keirin champion is here, so too is that beast of a man, Robert Forstemann, as well as GB Olympic team sprint champion ‘Man One’ Philip Hindes.
Best not forget America’s finest either, Nate Koch; his leg speed for the warm up on the rollers is impressive but it must be said, he ain’t the fastest.
The crowd love his patter though; he usually goes long, dies in the home straight and gets swamped – but sometimes, just sometimes they let him away with it.
But those time trials... Max Levy threatens to go through the track surface when he dives off the banking to the flowers and 12.9 – meanwhile, Nate can’t crack 14 seconds.
But God loves a man who tries, even though there’s six KPH of a difference.
What’s Dirk the mechanic after?
‘You push in the Derny, Ed?’
‘Oh, yeah, sure, no problem’ says me whilst sighing - that it’ll be it for the week now, pushing off in every Derny race.
You have to have your wits about you. The first time I did it, Michel the French soigneur had been on the beers and had partially nodded off as he held up the rider in front of me.
I went ‘full gas’ as soon as the gun fired, this woke Michel up but I was already in full effect pushing like a beast as my rider kicked back hard to avoid running Michel over – all good fun.
And they played John Fogerty, ‘Rock and Roll Girls’ during the last chase, so not a bad day one.
We sleep on ‘Z beds’ in the changing rooms/bin stores/mechanics’ cabins below the track – breeze block walls, lino paint on the concrete floor and all manner of wires, pipe and ducts above us.
In the morning it’s like that scene in Alien where the creature has taken up residence in John Hurt’s chest cavity, here it’s the dust which invades your nose – but let’s not dwell on the contents of my nostrils...
Who’s the wee chunky guy on the rollers at the top of the stair, he has a GB top – can’t be one of the U23 lads, they’re on the boards.
It’s Philip Hindes, as with Jason Kenny you’d never imagine they were some of the fastest men on earth – the French sprinters always oozed ‘stage presence’ as did those big German dudes in the 80’s.
On the subject of which, we have one Nico Hesslich in the cabin, son of 80’s sprint god, Lutz – he’s big like his dad but doesn’t quite match his dad’s thighs.
Nico rides with the man he partnered to the German madison title, Achim Burkart.
Our third German is Hans Pirius who’s not paired with his usual amigo, Seb who doesn’t ride here – Hans is a good man to have in the cabin, full of fun and nonsense.
Last but by no means least we have Denmark’s Alex Rasmussen, four times world champion on the track; twice in the scratch plus the team pursuit and the madison with Michael Mørkøv.
I worked with Alex in his first Six Day, a decade ago in Grenoble and it looks like I’ll be with him in his last Six, next week in Copenhagen.
He’s lost motivation for the Six Days but will ride a low level road programme in 2017 – lost motivation or not, there are still flashes of that startling speed of his.
The sprint time trial and Nate is six KPH off the pace as Levy burns the track up, again.
The young Aussies McManus and Harrison win the first chase – maybe that one wasn’t full gas though...
Christian Grassmann and partner Max Beyer win the team devil; Christian describes himself as a ‘hobby cyclist’ but that didn’t stop him winning a ‘straight’ Rotterdam Six Day, partnered with Roger – or should that be ‘Robot’ – Kluge who was so strong he was riding the field of his wheel.
Kluge has since decamped to Oz where he’s been doing sterling lead out duties on Caleb Ewan’s Antipodean win frenzy.
Kalz has been neutralised tonight, there’s a cavity the size of a mouse hole where it hurts most – his partner Lampater doesn’t look overly concerned as he sits and chats to all and sundry as the chase whirls without him.
Dutchmen Havik and Stroetinga won the last chase; on the way down to the cabin I encountered the Fixie Brigade, here for their ‘Last Man Standing’ event - whatever that is – in the velodrome.
I have a ‘fixie’ and buy Urban Cycling every six weeks but couldn’t help but feel that most were just ‘wannabe’ track riders who don’t shave their legs, have tattoos, bad haircuts and could use a wash?
But then again, I’m a dinosaur.
I was speaking to Alex about the Danish concept of ‘Hygee’ – cosiness and intimacy - and asking how would get more of this in the cabin.
Alex reckoned we should build a fireplace in the cabin so we could all be cosy round a log fire – I’m not sure he was taking me seriously...
“Livin’ on a Prayer” is not a bad tune to kick off with , “Daddy Kool” then “Sex Bomb” all good madison tunes – with ‘Smoke on the Water” blasting as Beyer/Grasmann go for a lap – but they’re hauled back.
"Highway to Hell" as Imhof comes in for the third time with a slipping seat post - the Cervélo flies through the air, feeding bottles swoosh like RPG's as the Big Swiss rampages through the pits - glad I'm not his mechanic...
The organiser 'had a word' - but later, he was hiding like the rest of us when Claudio 'went off.'
Levy, 12.6 for the flying lap - wow!
The big chap is absolutely line perfect, a joy to watch.
Visitors - Juan Llaneras, former world madison and points champion, all the way from Mallorca, and Pete Traynor, ex of Liverpool and now Berlin.
Pete's the director of a chain of radio stations in Germany and was formerly "Mr. Music" - the deejay at many of the Six Days, Berlin included.
He had 'theme tunes' for all the competitors and would cut to 'their tune' when that particular rider went on the attack.
Bruno Risi's was the 'William Tell Overture' - inspired.
But no Bruno any more or William Tell or Pete - so please don't tell me tell me the Sixes have changed for the better.
Derny and Nico asks for me to push him - I'm honoured.
Soft Cell, "Tainted Love" for the 500 metre TT - tune!
Nena, "99 Luftballons" and AC/DC again with "Thunder Struck" for the sprinters then Queen, "We Will Rock You" - we can't moan about the music tonight.
Second Derny, I'm pushing like a daftie, meanwhile Hans is the wheel behind bawling; 'Come on Ed!' at me.
And Hansie almost steals the last chase; it takes all of Stroetenga's raw speed to get past him on the line.
As we head down the stairs, it's Wham! "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go". A great tune - we hope you're resting in peace, George.
Half way, ciao, ciao.