The 101st Berliner Sechstage Rennen started on Thursday and according to reports the crowds have been down a little on last night. On the track big gaps have already appeared as the top five teams have started the fight that will conclude in the final hour long Madison on Tuesday night.
The National Cycling Centre in Manchester was completely sold out as Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy ramped up his preparation for the UCI Track World Cup at the new London Olympic velodrome. Hoy qualified fastest in the morning session, but lost out on the initial face off against Jason Kenny and was unable to get the better of some of his sprinting rivals. With the test event just two weeks away and the Olympics only six months down the line, the Revolution provided a perfect backdrop for some serious sprinting competition.
'Just Another Tequila Sunrise,' it's ironic that the covers band who kick off as soon as the racing finishes at gone 01:00AM aren't half bad - but it's time for me to disappear down the tunnel to hang up the washing etc. etc. The track centre party goes on 'til 02:30 am but I hope to be in a coma by then.
I'd forgotten the raw horror of a Frank Zander gig; 'If I Had a Hammer' was blasting out at around 11:00 pm and it occurred to me that if you're a bad musician then Germany is the place to be. Frank sounds like a guy with a really bad throat infection singing the 'Worst Europop Album in the World, Ever' on a karaoke night at the Lochore Miners Welfare-but the crowd love the man, so who am I to criticise?
I'm standing on the chair so as I can see over the cabin, Leif Lampater and Roger Kluge are the only pair left to ride in the 1,000 metres time trial. Roger is smooth, fast, the sling to Leif isn't perfect but it's not too bad. Leif drives but he's not at his best - it seems like no one is on this first night in Berlin - the digits whirl on the lap board, he sprints up the home straight, 58 seconds.
The Berlin Six Day reached a golden milestone last January with its 100th edition, and the annual festivities will return to the German Capital for the 101st time on Thursday. Unfortunately Six Day racing continues to be in decline and it's not something that can solely be laid at the door of the global economy rather just a sad fact of life that times change.
Here's a few photos from the Bremen Six Day that we haven't used in other articles.
I'm tidying this piece up on Thursday, we got back at the crack of dawn on Wednesday and I launched straight back into the 'real world.' I didn't have much time to think about anything other than getting round my calls. But tonight I've been taking stock of the Sixes - or in the case of Zurich and Grenoble make that 'fours.'
We had Frank Sinatra for the sprint series last night, never a bad thing. Bed was just before midnight and I didn't get up until 09:00 - just braw. I just about got all of the words and pictures up to date. It was the usual 20:00-ish kick off; rolling presentation, minor race then into the first chase - it wasn't a 'mega.'
Sunday afternoon at the Bremen Six Day, but no Sunday Post or relaxed breakfast on this watch. The Dernys drone, the speaker bellows himself hoarse, there's a wiff of vomit in the air - one of those wasted guys I saw last night must have been creative with where they threw up so the cleaners couldn't get to it - but there's a Kool And The Gang medley flowing from the PA - 'Let's go Dancin' and 'Celebration' - good sounds, so mustn't grumble.
It's 23:11 and the 500 metre time trial has just finished here at the Bremen Six Day. We're awaiting the start of the 300 lap chase, and the singer has kicked off. He's currently butchering 'Sailing' - a cool song, not Rod's version, the original Sutherland Brothers version. But worse, we just had, 'Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep' in Deutsch - it doesn't come much worse.
To misquote Shakespeare; 'that which I greatly feared is upon us.' Brad hasn't been taking bottles in the chases thus far and we'd no reason to think he'd start tonight, but he did. Right at the moment his mitted hand clutched that bottle, my heart sank - I've lived this nightmare before.
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 I'm in for the Zürich Four Days 2011 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 Zürich Four Days 2011 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 2011 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.
Grenoble Six Day 2011... 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.
Grenoble Six Days 2011... 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.
Enjoying the evening sunshine and large crowds around the town for The Peebles Criterium 2011, young Pedal Power\Endura rider Robbie Hassan rode an intelligent and strong race to win the inaugural event, part of the Tweedlove Festival, fending off a strong challenge from Director's Choice's Allan Clark and Endura Racing professional Callum Wilkinson.
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.
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 Peebles Criterium 2011.
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.
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.
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 World Champs 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 2016 in Belgium Ethan Hayter won the tough junior races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Serge Baguet, De Klijte-Heuvaelland, was in the winning team in junior European team pursuit champs and was British Madison champion with Joe Holt. Last year he won the u23 Berlin Six Day with Matt Walls, took a medal in every British track championship he rode and was part of the winning u23 Europeans team pursuit squad. This season he began training with the senior team in January and was world champion within weeks, at 19 years-of-age.
When I was a younger man my 'Mr Motivator' was a certain man from the West; Willie Gibb. I recall battering myself on a training ride alone thinking "Willie Gibb would be going faster" invariably in the races he was and I have no recollection of ever having beaten my one time motivator. I got in touch with Willie to find out more about his story and as it transpired find his palmarès was something else again...
‘The best Commonwealth Games performance ever by the Scottish cycling team’ – that’s for sure. VeloVeritas hopes to speak to all of the athletes concerned and we’re proud to start with individual pursuit silver medallist, John Archibald.
‘I’m a Believer,’ a great song, the Monkees had the hit back in 1968. I used to be a ‘Believer’ and can remember the sense of relief when we discovered that Lance’s Tour ‘positive’ back in 1999 was all a big mistake; those tricky corticosteroids had been in a cream he used to treat a saddle sore and he had a TUE to cover it. What a relief.
That man John Archibald is back in action again – and with a 48 minutes and 13 seconds ‘BANG !’ down on the Westferry course in the CTT ‘25’ Champs on Sunday past. It gave us a good excuse to catch up with the Commonwealth Games individual pursuit silver medallist and see what he’s been up to since The Gold Coast and what’s next on the agenda for him?
Sometimes on the big tours you have to change plans; road closures, janitors, barrier crews, motorway crashes can all influence your 'best laid plans.' At the end of the day you may not have missed deadline - we rarely do - but there'll be that feeling that you could have done better. Then there are days when you have to struggle then struggle some more but eventually it comes together, you get to where you want to be and get those special pictures. This day was such a day; lost, lost again, a massive detour through the mountains - against race route to the top of the Colle Delle Finestre - but we really enjoyed our pizza after this one...