Bremen, the car park outside the race hall, it's 02:29 Friday - we'd targeted bed for 03:00 so mustn't grumble. First impressions: a nice hall, a proper Six Day venue and despite the fact that an anorak like me thinks that the field is unbalanced, it's good racing.
It's an easy life on the sixes; we bailed out of the truck stop at around 10:00 then drove for four hours to Bremen airport to collect 32 year old American rider Bradley Huff - he's one of our riders for Bremen. But Brad had been and gone - and his mobile is shot, making communication impossible. But somehow he made it to the stadium.
Schep/Stroetinga win, Franco and Mouris second, Stam/Havik third - a result which everyone is pretty happy with. The Dutch winners are the classic Six Day combo - big, strong, mature, silky smooth Schep and the younger, smaller, more erratic but rapid Stroetinga. Franco was good - very good, and Mouris is one big, strong, consistent 'beast of a boy'.
Dernys, you love them or you hate them, they're a big part of the Sixes; and always with a capital 'D'-Roger Derny et Fils first manufactured them in Paris, in 1938. There's some real Derny history on the boards here-the tall, slim, grey haired man who chases the riders up to their events is Bruno Walrave.
Like it says on the report cards; 'could do better!' We're referring of course to 'our Alex's' time keeping - he missed the rolling presentation on Sunday. It's not a huge deal because at the time he had no partner, poor Stöpler having crashed out.
The 'Devil' had just started when I wandered down the stairs in search of bottles of water (still - no gas), and by the time I got back what should have been 'just another race' had become another of those episodes which remind you that as well as being glamorous, the sport is also a very dangerous one.
It's not a proper six unless it's a marathon to get there - and really you should arrive in a different country. My journey to the Rotterdam Six Day meant a super-early start, Transit van to West Craigs, cab to Edinburgh airport, plane to Amsterdam, train to Rotterdam, Metro to the Ahoy Stadium - then walk across the road. I arrived in the same country though, so it's not really a proper trip.
He's more Australian than most folks from 'Down Under' - despite the fact that he's from Gent in the heart of Flanders. He's currently writing a history of Australian cycling, he's the Drapac team's European Co-ordinator, he's a photographer at the Gent Six Day, and he's VeloVeritas' biggest asset and chauffeur at Het Nieuwsblad. He's Dirk Van Hove.
Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider James McCallum has pledged his intention to defend his title at the South Carrick David Bell Memorial, a 'monument' of Scottish cycling aspiring to join the Premier Calendar series in 2013. The promoting club, Ayr Roads-Harry Fairbairn BMW have already secured 'National A' status for the 47th running of the 100mile event to be held on Sunday June 10th 2012, guaranteeing the best possible line up of British professional and elite cyclists.
It's 11:29 on Sunday, somewhere on an autobahn in Bavaria. The race finished at 02:30 but it was around 03:45 before we got away from the track. We parked up at 05:00 at a motorway services and rose at 10:15; we're en route Düsseldorf, which will take us the best part of the day. It's all part of the game.
The hotel is nice, a double bed, en-suite shower and beautiful breakfast spread - but it's a logistical pain. Kris has to 'make massage' with Jesper at lunchtime, but I don't want to hang around the hotel all morning - there's work to do at the track. I had to scrounge a lift - always a pain.
From the chaos emerged a track centre bar and restaurant, cabins for us, work space for the mechanics - and something to race on. I can't say too much about the track - or Pete will slap me, but it obviously can't be as smooth as a permanent one. The stadium restaurant is good; we get one meal each day - last year it was two. Maybe they figure that since it's only four days we don't need fed as much?
Monday passed in a trice - a motorway is motorway and a Formule 1 hotel is a Formule 1 hotel. Now it's 14:15pm on Tuesday and hard to imagine the building site I'm sitting in the midst of will be hosting the Four Days of Zürich in a little over 24 hours. But it has to - first and foremost, the sixes are a business proposition.
It's a long way from Gent Six Days to Zurich, around 800 kilometres - so best get on the road early. We picked up Jesper at the Expo Holiday Inn - where Vik and I have stalked the mechanics at many's a Het Volk - and then we were offski.
On the one hand, the 18:00 finish is cool; but on the other, the lunch time kick off means that the last day is pretty hectic for the support staff. The result was never really in doubt and I thought that the last chase was poor. But I said all of that yesterday - and what I'm not taking account of is the huge gaps in the six day programme.
We used to get to park the camper inside the old exhibition hall which ajoins the velodrome - but 'safety' means we have to park outside, adjacent to the old hall. In the morning it means you have a long walk to the shower, previously you could lurch the 10 metres, zombie-like, to the shower cubicle and be reborn.
Whether it's a great edition of the Gent Six Days or not, it's still quite an experience to walk up through the tunnel for the first time. Especially if the Dernys are up on the track droning out their monotonous tune, there's the buzz of a thousand conversations, the lights, the throng, the smell of beer, the renners flashing around the bankings, the people piled high up to the roof in the corners - We love it !
Last day - it's not a big programme, sprint series, team time trial and the closing 180 lap chase. By six day standards that's not a long chase, around 38 K - at Copenhagen they have 300 lappers on a 250 track - but here, it's heavy duty for the small teams. Franco reckons that Kris and I should have dinner in the track centre, tonight - well, it sounded good to me.
Bed was at 02:00 am so I didn't have too much problem getting up at 07:45 to do some 'real world' stuff. The only trouble with that is I know I won't feel nearly as frisky come 02:30 am. I was meant to have an interview with Luke Roberts today, he was meant to get word about what's happening team-wise for 2012.
It's a glorious day in Grenoble, warm, calm, sunny - not a day to be stuck in a stuffy stadium. But that's the runner's place in the way of things - scrambled eggs on fresh baguettes for breakfast eased the pain. The 35 minute chase was a better show tonight and the French guys didn't get pummelled quite so savagely.
One day, I'd like to come here and sit at one of the big tables with friends and family, watch the cabaret, and the racing, chat, eat and drink too much. It's good value at 63 euros per head: that gets you in, allows you to attack the beautiful buffet and provides you a bottle of wine, mineral water and a coffee as you watch the racing and the cabaret - one day . . .
It takes a few days to find the rhythm of a six-day - usually for me it's the sixth day. My feet stop hurting and I get a proper sleep. Last night I slept ok 'til around 06:00 am but after that it was disjointed, the sound of the traffic and the drone of the refrigeration units on the restaurant supply tucks saw to that - not to mention the bizarre dreams.
'The track door will open at 09:30,' we were told, but this is the Grenoble Six Days 2011 - in France, and you have to give or take 45 minutes - and sure enough, we got in around 10:15. Bring the last of the gear down from the camper, set up the track cabins, go to the shops for supplies, help the guys with their bikes, go to the shops for razors so Franco can shave his legs, help with the dinner, do the washing up and then slip out quietly when the riders all descend upon our cabin for their pre-race meeting.
It's a grey morning in Grenoble; we can't unload until 11:00 am and then we have to drive up to Lyon and collect Jesper and Marc off the plane. In the stadium office they have great old black and white photos of the stadium under construction; it really is a gem of a building, if you like modern architecture.
Up at 04:30, the plan was to get the bus from Porty at 09:00 - however, and to cut a long story short, the van is abandoned in a western suburb of Edinburgh and a cab was flagged down to get me to the airport on time. The flight was undramatic - thank God - and there was Kris in the airport bus park, with the camper. It's seems to be an unwritten law that you have to arrive in a different country from where the race is; so the rendez-vous was in Geneva, Switzerland.
On a balmy Sunday afternoon in quaint Stamfordham, Sky and Bradley Wiggins did 'what England expected' and grabbed the first four places in the British elite road race championship over 197 hard Northumbrian kilometres; and the skeletal Bradley Wiggins will start the Tour in the white British champion's jersey after jumping his team mates on the run in; defending champion Geraint Thomas took silver, Peter Kennaugh was third and Ian Stannard fourth. We were on the scene early - in time to catch the end of the ladies' championship...
Enjoying the evening sunshine and large crowds around the town centre circuit, young Pedal Power\Endura rider Robbie Hassan rode an intelligent and strong race to win the inaugural Peebles Criterium, part of the Tweedlove Festival, fending off a strong challenge from Director's Choice's Allan Clark and Endura Racing professional Callum Wilkinson. These three, together with Scott McRae from Team Leslie Bikes had managed to detach themselves from the much-reduced bunch with seven laps of the tight and fast left-turning circuit remaining, and after 45 minutes of hard racing the four held off the remaining chasers by a handful of seconds.
On a benign morning amid the lush greenery of the Kingdom of Fife, Endura pro Evan Oliphant proved too fit for the specialist testers, taking the Scottish 25 mile time trial championship by 1:17 from far travelled Carlos Riise (Shetland) with defending champion Arthur Doyle (Dooleys RT) a further 19 seconds back in the bronze medal position. Fife was looking at its best when we arrived at the start line as the first of the ladies rolled down the "gift" first mile of Station Brae (aka Freuchie Brae)...
On Tuesday 14th of June we have a major new event for a summer evening in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. For the first time, a major new road event will be taking place in the town centre: a Belgian-style kermis event with lots of the community involved and pubs and restaurants along the circuit. The circuit is short and spectacular, with high speeds along the Main Street and sharp descent, and tricky corners with a short uphill to test the lungs each lap.
Rapha Condor Sharp's James McCallum has been at it again; winning, that is-the 46th edition of the Davie Bell Memorial, this time. VeloVeritas unfortunately couldn't make it down to one of our favourite races, but we were on the phone to 'Jamesy' and organiser Chris Johnson, soon after the dust had settled.
The best cyclists in Scotland will descend on South Ayrshire this Sunday, the 5th of June, as Ayr Roads Cycling Club/Harry Fairbairn BMW play host to round four of the Scottish Power Renewables SuP6R Six series at the 2011 David Bell Memorial Road Race. The event has attracted a full field for the first time in over two decades, with the riders lining up to complete the gruelling 120km marathon over the hilly roads around Straiton. Chris Johnston, a member of the race's organising committee, sent us his diary of the week before the race. As we can see, it's not just a case of rocking up on the morning and opening the HQ...
On a cold Sunday morning of stinging squalls, along the dual carriageway south of Laurencekirk, Dooley's Arthur Doyle successfully defended his Scottish ten mile time trial championship crown in 20:41 from Endura's Evan Oliphant with 20:59 and surprise Rob Wilkins in 21:02. Once I discovered Tay FM's 'Classics Sunday morning' the trip up became less of a pain; The Proclaimers, Kraftwerk-can't be bad...
On a day of sunshine, wind and squals over 12 laps of a rolling circuit around Balfron, Evan Oliphant (Endura Racing) defended his Scottish road race championship in fine style; riding away from the day long break with two laps to go and opening a big gap over Gary Hand (Endura/Pedal Power) and Ross Creber (Cycle Premier/Metaltek) who also slipped the bunch to sprint it out for silver and bronze respectively.
Balfron in Stirlingshire will host Vortex RT's promotion of the 2011 Scottish Cycling Road Race Championships on Sunday 22nd May. This year's event will be based on a challenging circuit of approx 11km, which will have a race run on it for the first time. As tradition demands, the ladies go first, and their race will be 67km long, six full laps of the circuit starting at 9:30am.
"Ate that bunny on main climb of day! Went down a treat!!!" It's texts like that which make it all worthwhile - mission accomplished; Dan Fleeman's Easter bunnies delivered. Vik, Dave and Ivan all 'passed' on the Doon Hame gig; that left it down to Jimmy Leslie and I. The Saturday night crit around Victory Park used to be the traditional pilgrimage - now it's Easter Monday. It was chilly at 08:00 when we jumped in the Audi to head south; but nice and mild by the time we were 'Doon Haem.'
We conclude our review of the 2011 World Track Champs from Apeldoorn with a look at the endurance events; only one of which will be in the Olympic programme - the team pursuit. The individual pursuit, madison, scratch and points have all been axed from London.
The bad news-there's no individual pursuit, points or Madison at the Olympics. The good news is that the team pursuit stays and we get the omnium-I had my doubts about this event but there's no doubt that it produced some savage racing at Apeldoorn; let's see what silver medallist, Shane Archbold had to say.
The Track Worlds came and went, and whilst criticising the UCI is the fashion their decision to slot the Worlds into the Cobbled Classics season has to be questioned. The original thought process was that it was to accommodate the six day riders coming off the end of their season-and road men before their season got underway. In reality, by the time the sixes finish, most of the protagonists just want a holiday and as for roadmen riding-March and April are the two busiest months of the year for them.
It's hard to break into the six day circuit; but if there's a local rider with promise or a road star that needs mentoring then there has to be a rider on the circuit to provide hands on guidance. Enter Austria's Andreas Muller. Muller was a member of the German track squad during the last decade with strong results, like silver in the 1999 Moscow World Cup team pursuit; Madison bronze in the Chinese round of the World Cup in 2002 and Madison gold in the Moscow and Sydney rounds of the 2003 World Cup.
If it's the first weekend of the month and the snow drops have burst through - it must Scottish Super Six time. VeloVeritas caught up with the first Super Six winner of the year, 19 year-old Dumbarton man Robert Hassan (Endura/Pedal Power Development Team) the day after he'd triumphed over 65 miles of beautiful East Lothian countryside in the Edinburgh Road Club promotion at Gifford.
Sky Procycling just missed the win yesterday with Flecha finishing second in Het Nieuwsblad, but the team stepped it up a notch today, setting up Chris Sutton perfectly for a superb win in the bunch sprint. Tom Boonen tried his hand with around five and a half k's to go, jumping out of the bunch and with a fantastic turn of pace and joining forces with Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun), the only rider left in front from a small break. However, with 2km to go the pair were reeled back in, and the Sky riders gave Sutton the perfect leadout.
On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in Gent, Rabobank's Sebastian Langeveld took the victory by inches from breakaway partner Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling and the winner last year), with another Sky rider Matt Hayman third. The Dutchman had ridden very aggressively throughout the race, attacking and getting clear with more than 55km still to race, to be joined by Flecha with 16km to go the line.
In any sport there comes a time when the order changes, the old stars fade away and the new ones begin to shine brighter. But Dane Marc Hester is no super nova, shining brightly then gone, it's taken him several years to get to where he is in the six day constellation. Despite being only 25 Hester has ridden nearly 60 six day races, so his three podiums this year-third at Grenoble and Bremen plus second in Copenhagen - are no surprise, more the result of a steady ascent through the heavens from UIV cup winner in 2005 to genuine contender for wins in 2011. As well as improved results this six day season Hester has netted himself a contract with Michael Rasmussen's controversial Christina Watches team for 2011.
If you ever decide to promote a six day race there's a check list you'll have to go through. Start with a short steep indoor track; the best riders you can afford; food and drink concessions; a cool light show; a good 'speaker'; maybe some live acts-but one of your key ingredients will be music. A six day final chase with no music would be unthinkable-be it live jazz in Grenoble, 70's disco in Gent or funky trombones in Rotterdam, you need 'sounds.' Enter Peter Traynor, originally from the Wirral Peninsula across the Mersey River from Liverpool - the city that gave us the Beatles and the 'Mersey Sound' - he's the man behind what's blasting from the speakers at the German six days; he recently took time to talk to VeloVeritas about his passion.
The experienced American rider Colby Pearce was one of the guys looked after by Kris, Martin and Ed at some of this winters' Six Days, including the recent event at the Ballerup Stadium in Copenhagen. Having raced at elite level on the track at the Olympics, at World Cups and in the World Championships, as well as being a National Champion 14 times and holder of the US Hour Record (50.191), together with a spell working as the US Track Coach, Colby had seen most of what track cycling had to offer. One element was missing though: Six Day Racing...
Ricco - you have to respect his 100% commitment to being a moronic little twat. There was a piece about him on CyclingNews having a 'kidney problem,' when I checked the site in the morning, I thought it was a tad strange - how does a super fit young man have a kidney problem? But the press release I received from Vacansoleil a little later revealed the true horror of the situation... ...Ah yes, the Copenhagen Six Day - on the boards, our boys did the biz, winning their home Six for the third straight year.
It's the last day of school today; the six day circus goes to ground until October when-God willing-we head south to Grenoble with its blue skies, snow capped mountains, Follies girls, great bread and French riders who smile, shake your hand and give you a 'ca va?' every time they see you-they may not be fast but they're nice guys. It's unlikely there will be any surprises tonight, Alex and Michael are well in charge; I hope that Jens and Marc hold on to second-they deserve it.
It's Monday morning, I've folded the clothing, tidied the cabin, swept the floor, cleaned the flasks, blah, blah, blah...The wi-fi has decided to visit the cabin and Tommy Hunt is 'Loving on The Losing Side' from the laptop - it's hard to be 'down' when the 'Northern' is banging out. The weekend was a bit of a blur; Saturday was a split session - nitemare! Sunday started early and finished early; 'deep joy' for boys like me - that's until two of your guys get picked for 'control,' can't pee and you have to wait two hours for them...
Saturday, 13:20 - the afternoon sesh starts in a few minutes but there's a distinct lack of riders; this reflects in their (and their runners') lack of enthusiasm for afternoon sessions - but more of that tomorrow. Again, it wasn't the greatest of madison racing last night, but it's hard for the guys to raise their game if most of the house seats are empty. Michael reckons that ticket sales for Saturday night are good - let's hope so. The fact that it's the last six of the year plays a part, too - it's definitely a very subdued vibe.
It wasn't a great first night, sparse crowds, lack lustre chases and I seemed to spend the whole day gittering about to little effect; but we're set up, the hotel is great, the boys are all relaxed and it's Friday - so maybe we'll get a better crowd. Copenhagen is 'old school' - long chases are what six days are all about say the organisers; I'm not so sure. A 'soft' chase on a 166 metre track is one thing, you just about get away with it, but on the broad acres of a 250 metre track it's dire, it looks so slow and processional...
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next year is an interesting proposition for Scotland, with Katie Archibald and Callum Skinner now Olympic champions, Mark Stewart a double under 23 European Champion and Neah Evans on the top step of a World Cup podium - and don't forget 'left fielder' Jonny Wale, reigning British team pursuit champion and 1:01 kilometre man. VeloVeritas spoke to all of them about their 2017 seasons and prospects in Australia come the spring, and we start with Callum Skinner...
John Pierce is one of the world’s great sports photographers, he’s a friend of VeloVeritas and in our site’s best tradition, the man can RANT about the sport he’s been a part of for 50 years. We had a good long chat with John about his racing and photography careers - here in Part One, John tells us about his early successes and how he became interested in photography, his first equipment, his travels and adventures.
If there’s a rider more closely associated with a city than Iljo Keisse is with Gent then I can’t think of it. Born and bred in the capital of East Flanders, raised on the boards of the Blaarmeersen velodrome, the Gentenaars love him and he loves them. Iljo's dad, Ronie Keisse owns the legendary Café de Karper, a favourite student haunt in Gent, just a five minute walk from the Kuipke and the only place to be on a November Sunday evening when the Six Day finishes, so we sat down with Ronie on the Monday morning after the Six to discuss the life and times of his boy, one of the very last real ‘vedettes’ – star Six Day men.
The last time we spoke to Dan Bigham (Brother NRG Wattshop) there was just a chance that he’d have to line up for the hill climb championship to net a record breaking EIGHTH British title of the year - to go with the kilometre, pursuit, team pursuit, team time trial, CTT 25 mile title, CTT 50 mile title and CTT circuit time trial title. But on the tough Cockermouth 10 mile time trial course, the day was saved when the CTT ‘10’ championship went his way too – so that’s title number eight!
As VeloVeritas pundit and critic, Viktor said after the Bergen World Championships; ‘where would we be without him?’ Peter Sagan. Cipo had it, Boonen had it, Peter has it – but Vik and I are both worried about who can pick up the ‘cycling’s showman and charismatic star’ baton when he finally hands his in.
Steve Cummings? He’s the real deal; a world champion on the track in the team pursuit; he paid his dues with Landbouwkrediet and Barloworld; rode for the ‘mega’ teams, Discovery, Sky, BMC; was part of that famous team which carried Cav to a rainbow jersey in Copenhagen but now he’s found his true niche – with South African squad Dimension Data. Last year the team raced as MTN-Qhubeka with Cummings netting a brilliant stage win in le Tour; this year the squad, with new sponsors has taken Cav on board and moved up to the World Tour.