Inside the Berlin Six Day 2017 – the Final Three Nights
The wee small hours of Wednesday morning, heading north out of Berlin, en route Rostock, the ferry across the Baltic and Denmark for the Copenhagen Six Day.
I wish I could say that Berlin had an epic finale - but I can't, it was dire.
Processional, flat, uninspired with no tension, no theatre, no drama.
Kris reckons it's the worst Six Day he's ever seen - he's seen many, many more than me and I wouldn't argue with his judgement.
The root of the problem is that in the Madison Group Six Days the riders are on reduced contract fees with the rest of their earnings in prize money.
'Fair enough' I hear you say. Trouble is that it's not - because the riders are all busy trying to hold their place in the standings it breeds very negative racing.
No one will make a move because they think; 'what's the point, we'll get closed down?'
The essence of Six Day racing is the taking of laps, that's what the crowd pay to see - in the last 30 minutes of racing there was a grand total of two laps taken.
It's not what the ticket-holding Six Day public pay to see.
But congratulations to Wim Stroetinga and Yoeri Havik, they deserved their win - the first Dutch winners since Slippens & Stam in 2006.
I always console myself that I'll feel better as the day goes on; my feet hit the linoleum paint, my nose is full of dust, my feet hurt, my legs ache and my back twinges - and that's before we deal with the dreams.
Epics which pick up where they left off after i've been up to go to the loo - if only I could remember them.
But they're damn scary.
I hobble up to the track get the wi-fi, edit my pictures, drink whatever I can get my hands on then head back down to sort out the clothes before a shower and breakfast.
What was all that fuss about? I feel great!
And now there are three Scots in the hall; Kris, me and - Katie Archibald.
Our Olympic Champion is here for the three day ladies' race, first up was a scratch race; Katie initiated the four girl break which lapped the field but young Danish world road champion Amalie Dideriksen was just too quick for her.
The chase was short, just 20 minutes with Suisse Marguet and Imhof winning - and not a slipping seat post in sight.
The organisers have put sprint points in every 10 laps to try and enliven the chases - many of which have been 'average.'
It did strike me was that what they'd created was a madison points race but what do I know?
Derny race - I push off Marc Hester on number one, a joy, no one in the way or to keep up with.
It's a long afternoon with big spells where our boys aren't on the track - but what's that smell?
Smells like roasted Lycra laced with sweat?
There's stuff been in there for an age - it's so hot I burn myself on the zips.
Keep up, Ed!
Ladies again and 'our Katie' rides it beautifully to get the flowers at the end of the De'il [Elimination race to some. ed].
But she needs to get tips from Nate, he celebrates more than that for finishing last!
And now a presentation for the support staff - very thoughtful but I bow out to take the pictures.
Derny Race number two and I think I've ducked it - good job.
Mushroom and ham omelette for breakfast, it's like a four star hotel.
There's schoolboy, junior and girls racing in the afternoon, I work away on the laptop 'til all the mums' and dads' iPhones swamp the wi-fi.
They play some good tunes in the afternoon; Bob Sinclar; 'Love Generation' - love it, the first time I heard that was in Iljo Keisse's dad's bar, De Karper on the Sunday night after Iljo won his first Ghent Six with Matt Gilmore.
The programme is pretty desperate tonight, basically one chase to start, one to finish - inbetween there's a Derny for the first eight teams on the classement so we're safe there, only other event is the "longest lap."
Do I have to explain this? [YES! Editor]
Well, one rider from each team lines up on the back straight and they ride slowly round to the start line then pop a standstill.
But they can't cross the line, one by one they can't hold the stand still or get bored and ride off.
Eventually the gun fires and those still there have to wind it up from their stand still and charge for the line, one lap later.
Anyway, those races apart there's just sprinting and girls' races.
On the subject of which, 'our Katie' wins again in the scratch but gets the chop in the De'il - and just when I'd got me camera settings right.
Levy was impressive in the time trial again, 12.830 to win.
The GB boys were very impressive too in the first chase, they might just make the podium - and we have a new team; Lampater/Beyer with the withdrawal of their respective partners Kalz and Grasmann.
But hey! What's happening, the place is going crazy - Nate's won a race!
One thing, that dude knows how to milk it complete with 'I Love Berlin' T-shirt.
Derny - and I've ducked pushing off again.
The track cabin is a Marie Celeste job, just me, the drier and the pee pails.
'Sympathy for the Devil' battles with the Derny drone - good version of the tune, pity about them damn wee motorbikes.
Last chase, best wander up and takes some snaps...
The Aussie lands right at my feet; as our pal, ace photog Wessel van Keuk says: "if you don't take the picture, someone else will."
Looks like a broken collar bone to me - and later it was confirmed; he had an operation the next morning, we wish him a speedy recovery.
The Austrians win the chase after taking a lap - a rare occurrence in this race.
Time for our final toastie and beer of the race - it's the mad breenge to Rostock after tomorrow night's chase...
Nate's got a new bike, he bought Max Levy's Look; Dirk Dekeyser had to give him a wee hand to set the bars up - they're beautiful bikes but not for the amateur mechanic.
I'm a bag of nerves now, reputation on the line, Katie just asked me to push her off in the Derny - Jings!
She's already won the De'il - and it's a good night for GB with the U19 lads Jake Stewart and Freddy Wright winning their series overall.
No plaudits for GB in the Team De'il though - where Alex's partner, Casper Pedersen - Alex reckons it was down to a bit of erratic riding by the GB boys - it happens when men get tired.
Forstemann beats Levy in the flying lap; maybe someone should explain to Big Max about Gary Glitter - "Wanna be in my gang?" blasts as he winds that Look up.
Visitors - Giro stage and Rotterdam Six Day winner, Roger Kluge, looking sharp with his lovely wife Judith who used to work as a soigneur at the Six Days with us.
Roger is just back from Australia where he did sterling lead out for Caleb Ewan who was on a win orgy down there.
Tanned, tall and fit he looks every inch the star.
Longest lap - 'nuff said.
And best give Didi a name check - you have to appreciate the man's attention to detail, check out his 'velodrome' trident...
The big motors growl round - the crowd love it but touble is the riders all look about as old as me.
Ladies' Derny and I have to jog over to take up my role as Katie's pusher-off.
She doesn't look comfortable behind the wee horror and sure enough, loses the wheel - something which surely cost her the overall win in the ladies Omnium, which was their format tonight.
Ladies World Champion, Amelie Dideriksen took the overall in that.
Derny - Nico and Achim win - wow! Flowers in our cabin!
Ladies' points and I'll have to think of new angles for 'Katie pics' - she just keeps on winning.
Last chase - I said it all at the start, a boring procession.
Like Dirk said; 'Terrible!'
"How far to Rostock and the ferry to Denmark, Boss?"