Peter Van Petegem, Kenny De Ketele, Simon Yates, Chris Lawless, Mark Stewart – what have they all got in common? Apart from the fact they were/are quality bike riders? They’ve all won the amateur, now u23 Gent Six Day race on the hallowed boards of the Kuipke Velodrome in the city’s Citadel Park.
And in case you ever wondered, the name translates roughly as ‘tin bath,’ like the one the coal miners used to use ‘back in the day,’ the shape of the track being of similar shape.
Adding his name to the roll of honour is Scotland’s Alfie George, partnered with Englishman Max Rushby the young Scot ran out winner just a few weeks after his fine seventh place in the Junior Worlds Road race in Harrogate and a season which saw him fifth in the junior Paris-Roubaix.
We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t ‘have a word.’
We caught up with him at home in Abernyte, Tayside enjoying a three day rest before heading back south to Manchester and the hard plank seats, chains and oars on the BC galley en route the European u23 track champs in Anadia, Portugal on July 7th 2020.
Nice job at the Kuipke, Alfie, but before we talk about Gent, what’s the media reaction been like to your Worlds top 10 result?
“There’s not been a great deal of interest from the printed media but on social media I’ve had a great reaction, pieces like the one you guys at VeloVeritas did about me have had a great response and there’s been a lot of interest and folks congratulating me.”
What have you been up to between The Worlds and Gent?
“I had two weeks off after The Worlds, relaxed and ate what I liked but then got back down to training – and eating properly.
“We’ve been doing a lot of gym work, you need the strength for the start on big gears in the team pursuit – we’re looking at having to achieve 3:55 pace for the u23 Euros next year
“They’re a big goal for us.”
What about the atmosphere in the Kuipke?
“It’s just amazing!
“I’ve been there twice before as a spectator, in 2016 and 2017 but to be on the other side of the fence and to walk through the crowds in your race gear in the track centre to get to your bike and get up on the track was really special.”
And you’re on restricted gears?
“Yes, 52 x 16 or 49 x 15 but in road races we can ride 52 x 14 so the first couple of nights we just couldn’t pedal fast enough!
“But after a couple of nights we found our legs and rode into it.”
What’s the format, is it a chase every night?
“No, the first two nights were points races and a time trial; the third and fourth nights were a madison and time trial then longer chases on the last two nights – that was where we came into our own.”
I remember watching the amateur chases back in the 70’s and 80’s and they were crazy dangerous.
“The standard was surprisingly good, you’re always going to get the odd ‘moment’ in a madison but I thought the skill level was pretty high.”
Who were the guys to beat?
“The German team with Tim Teutenberg [son of still-racing and winning professional Lars, ed] were strong, he’s the European elimination champion; the Dutch guys too were strong.
“The top teams all knew when to make the moves and were good bike riders.
“It all came down to the last madison where our endurance came through; we only took the lead on the second last night so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion we had it won.”
Is Max the ‘stayer’ and you’re the sprinter?
“Not really, Max is really quick, I rode the National Elite Madison with him where we finished third to Adam Britton and Fred Wright; we both have pretty similar abilities.
“He was also in the team when we won the Euro junior team pursuit this year with Leo Hayter and Sam Watson.”
Did you have a mechanic with you?
“No, we had our coach with us but had to handle the mechanical side of things ourselves.”
Were the spoils of victory worthwhile?
“Definitely; the prize money was excellent, we’ll be eating well for the next month!
“Then there was the nice jersey and champagne…”
Could you see yourself as a Six Day man – and who do you admire?
“I’d love to ride the Elite Six Day one day, the atmosphere with the huge crowd is amazing.
“Iljo Keisse is a guy you have to admire but I remember being impressed watching Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw when they won in Gent in 2017.
“We were chatting to Iljo and Cav at the hotel, they were very good with us and gave us good advice.”
“I’m off to Girona at the start of December to get the road miles in then we’ll back in the gym and on the track to prepare for the British Track Championships at the end of January where I’ll be riding scratch and points.
“After the Nationals I’ll be back on the road to get a solid base then it’ll be more track training for the Euro Team Pursuit in July, next year.
“We’ve been switching round positions, I’ve been in man one position – but that could change.
“With the road work and the team pursuit training I think it’s going to make me a well-rounded rider.”
We think you’ve achieved that already, young Mr. George. We’ll be certainly be keeping our eye on the British Nationals results come the end of January.