At the Rotterdam Six Day Gent winners Moreno De Pauw and Kenny De Ketele carried on where they left off – but instead of winning by two laps, they made it four... dominant for sure but no spectacle. We drove north for a couple of hours then parked up in a truck stop for what passes as sleep on the Six Day carousel... Bremen is the next stop, an industrial city of more than two millions souls in Northern Germany.
Forgive me if all I do these days is moan about Six Day finales. But ... As Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis booms out of the PA the scoreboard tells me Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw are FOUR laps clear in the last chase at the Rotterdam Six Day 2018. It's a real cliff hanger ...
On the track Ollie Wood has been a consistent top performer with national team pursuit and scratch titles to his name as a junior in 2014. In 2015 he again was in the winning team at national level and added the European U23 team pursuit title. Last year he was on the European podium in both the U23 and Elite team pursuit competitions – bronze on both occasions. And this season saw gold in the Manchester World Cup team pursuit. We caught up with the now 22 year-old – his birthday was the week after the Gent Six Day finished – to discuss his 2017 season and his plans for 2018 and beyond.
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.
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.
Historically cold, wet wintery nights meant just one thing in cycling, Six Day racing. In recent years that has really only meant the ‘Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent’ (Six Days of Flanders-Ghent). This great race has continued to be successful during years when many of the other ‘classic’ Six Day races of Europe left their buildings, literally, for the last time to drift into cycling history.
Sunday starts with the climax of the under 23 Six the AVS Cup. Not long ago I would have struggled to believe that home grown Scottish talent would be riding Gent but with Mark Stewart in the elite event and Andy Brown and Grant Martin in the U23 this is a Scottish success story.
Hardware at the Six Days: it’s not nearly as exciting as it used to be when you mooch around the pits, with Dolans and Cervélo’s in abundance and Fuji creeping up; but it’s always nice to look at and talk about racing bikes – one of life’s simple pleasures. When Michael Mørkøv hooked up with Dolan, it was the start of the Merseyside builder becoming one of the main names on the winter boards.
This year saw edition 105 of the Six Days of Berlin, VeloVeritas had the good fortune to be there helping soigneur Kris look after Messrs. Germain Burton (GB), Daniel Holloway (USA), Mathias Krigbaum (Denmark) and Mark Stewart (Scotland). Here’s a selection of images from under the largest unsupported steel roof in Europe on the site of what used to be the Berlin STASI Headquarters.
With all this Six Day chat we thought it might be nice to re-run this interview we did with Danny Clark some six years ago - jingz! where does time go? We hope you enjoy it...
Ace photographer John Pierce, not content with sending us those cracking shots of 70’s/early 80’s Six Day men, has sent us another batch of track images which bring us right up to the present day. Again, we thought you’d like to see them...
He's been making the headlines again, that Mark Stewart laddie. We last spoke to him after his wins in the British scratch and team pursuit championships - not forgetting his silver in the points race. This time it was success in the second round of the UCI World Cup in New Zealand where he won the scratch race.
It’s not every day that you receive pictures from one of the world’s best cycling photographers – they’re way too good to keep to ourselves so with Mr. John Pierce’s permission allow us to share his memories of some of his favourite Six Day riders of the 70’s and 80’s. John attended the last London Six in 1980 and these first images are from that race.
Ed and pals spent a few days at the Gent Six Day, catching up with the racing and old friends, and taking in the world cup cycle-cross race at Hasselt as well - but before we consider the racing at the track we have to think about the entertainment; whilst Belgium is a modern country and advance technologically we still marvel at the track-side entertainment; it’s like stepping back to a miners’ welfare in the 70’s – but the crowd loves it - and so do we...
Second place finishers and race revelations Chris Latham and Ollie Woods are both products of the British Cycling ‘system’. There were a number of factors which contributed to their result – they’re familiar with the venue and the track is big, fast and non technical unlike Gent and Bremen which take a bit of getting used to.
I remember once, after the last chase in a Six Day I asked Dirk, our Belgian mechanic; ‘was that finale ‘straight’ Dirk?' He fixed me with a patient stare, much as a good parent would do after their child has said something silly, ‘have you ever seen a ‘straight’ Six Day, Ed?’ I took his point, they’re all pretty much choreographed – but like I keep saying, you have to be able to take laps out of a string riding at 52-53 kph to win. But I reckon that on Sunday evening I did see a straight finale.
Two decades, twenty years, it's a long time - especially to ride a bike at world level. But it was 1994 when Australia's Luke Roberts won his first world title in the junior team pursuit. The following year he twinned another victory in the team event with the world junior individual championship for good measure. Two Commonwealth, three world and an Olympic team pursuit title followed. He's ridden Pro Tour with CSC, Milram, Saxo, the Grand Tours, Classics and just about everything there is to ride - including the Six Days.
Kris maybe summed it up best; 'it felt like a Monday night at any another Six Day.' There was none of the tension or expectation which usually precedes the final chase in a Six. Granted, we weren't looking after riders who were in the mix for the win but it was indeed, 'just another chase.' Maybe it was because it was clear from the start that Terpstra was the strongest man on the track and there was only going to be one winner.
It’s my first time at the Amsterdam Six Day – Kris (the soigneur I'm working with) said I needed to attend so I can say I’ve been at every one of the current winter races - and initial impressions aren’t bad; it’s a nice wee track in a good location, the old village of Sloten, a suburb of Amsterdam.
The Six Days of Amsterdam kicks off next week, the first race of the 2014/15 winter season. The programme until Christmas makes sad reading with few ‘names’ in Amsterdam; tales of crooked promoters souring things there and in Rotterdam; possibly the last race in Grenoble - and it's down to just three day; Zürich only four days and only Gent going from strength to strength.
We began Norman's story in Part One last week, where he spoke about his time racing in the Six Days. In Part Two today Norman describes his time as Manager at the Vancouver Velodrome, what's been keeping him busy since then, and some interesting ideas for spicing up the World Tour and winter Sixes.
With just about everything on ‘hold’ awaiting le Tour kicking off in Yorkshire, we thought we’d slip back through the decades to a different era. One where the ‘big motors’ were still the thing; Six Days packed them in and pave didn’t just come in two kilometer packages. You may not have heard of Englishman, Norman Hill – but he has the T-shirt, video and DVD as a ‘stayer,’ Six Day man and kermis rider on the hard roads of Flanders and The Netherlands.
Back in 1972 when Edinburgh's Meadowbank Velodrome was still a thing of beauty and not kindling-in-waiting, the British Madison Championships were held there. The men who won that day were the young Australian rider, Murray Hall – then riding for Croydon Premier - and his compatriot, Tom Moloney. We caught up with Murray recently during our researches about the Six Day races of old - he has a good tale to tell.
Watched by 75,000 spectators over the course of the event in the velodrome Landsberger Allee, Andreas Müller and Kenny de Ketele won the 103rd edition of the Berlin Six Day. On the last day and the last race they overtook the long-time leaders Leif Lampater and Jasper de Buyst with a race winning attack - exciting stuff. Third place went to Robert Bartko, which was his last time in Berlin at the Six with his young partner Theo Reinhardt.
Bremen used to be the 'Party Six’ and whilst it’s still a fun gig with beer halls, restaurants, discos and live music, the crowds ain’t quite like they used to be. Our man in the middle of those steep 167 metres of boards at the Bremen Six Day 2014 was the perennial Kris; here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas on his return from the Fatherland...
This Six Day season marks the end of an era. Depending upon which source you consult, Franco Marvulli of Switzerland has ridden somewhere between 112 and 117 Six Days, this makes him the most prolific rider on the circuit by a considerable margin – Robert Bartko for example has ridden 75, Iljo Keisse has 72 starts. Marvulli has won 32; not to mention four world titles – two in the scratch and two in the madison and Olympic silver in the same discipline. So how come his ‘goodbye’ isn’t a bigger deal?
A pictorial summary of the Gent Six Day and our trip to the Koksijde Cyclocross race in the beach dunes of Flanders. At the track, it took me back to the days when I stood on the apron, bottles at the ready for Kris to hand up – but not too much in them so they don’t splash when the rider grabs them - just taking in the speed, noise, music, heat, people and that Gent buzz - high as a kite on the Gent Six Days.
For the first time in many a year VeloVeritas didn’t make it down to Grenoble for the Four Days on the battle scarred boards of the winter track where Post, Merckx, Sercu, Clark, Moser and Thevent have all lifted the laurels. How I miss Bar Clemenceau, Pizza Natalie and the wee bakers where the baker always give me extra croissants ‘for luck.’ ‘New Wave’ French strong men and World Madison Champions Morgan Kneisky and Vivien Brisse took the honours from tough Spaniards Muntaner & Torres with Iljo Keisse limbering up for Gent in third spot with countryman De Buyst.
It’s Lombardia and the Trossachs today; that means just one thing – it’s almost time for the Six Days. It looks like VeloVeritas won’t be emptying any ‘you know what’ pails this year – but you never know . . . We will be at Gent, however – my liver gave a twinge just there – as fans. De Karper, The Hotel Adoma, Bar Vivaldi, the ‘cross up at Koksijde – I can’t help but smile at the thought. But we thought that you might like to hear what it was like to be a six day runner back in a time when the sixes meant more than they do now. The big road stars were in action and it was full houses all across Europe – particularly in Germany. John Purser is the man’s name and here’s his tale.
When do the boys at VeloVeritas stop thinking about the Six Days? When we’re sleeping; but sometimes we dream about them... A man who we've had the pleasure to work with and who impressed us with his speed and spirit is America's Guy East – and he’s crazier than us about the Sixes. We thought we’d give him a shout and see how he’s coping with a world of sunshine, no Euro pop, real food and proper toilets.
As the Pros battle it out across Flanders, the young men who aspire to do the same in the future are locking horns in another famous name from the history of warfare – Normandy. Le Tour de Normandie is one of the premier events on the calendar for men on the way up – Viatcheslav Ekimov, Thor Hushovd and Samuel Dumoulin are among the riders who have won the race.
'Are you ready, boys?' asks ex-pro and new race organiser, Michael Sandstød. Then he adds with a grin; 'Enjoy your last hour in Copenhagen!' I'm holding Michael Mørkøv on the start line for the final chase of the 2013 Copenhagen. It's just like old times. Michael doesn't work with us anymore and the memories flood back to his first win here - and to that magical night when he and Alex won in Gent. Great days.
There’s new management in Copenhagen, long term organiser Henrik Elmgreen and his wife Helle have stepped down and the reins are now held by ex-pros, Michael Sandstød and Jimmi Madsen. The changes aren’t huge but they are there – the boxing, the brisk seven man devils, food in the stadium instead of the restaurant up the road and a change of hotel. The last mentioned is a real pain; we used to billet in the basic but very clean and cosy ‘Zleep’ hotel which is just 500 metres away. However, certain riders and their personnel made such idiots of themselves last year that much bad feeling was created.
It’s a lunchtime start on Sunday, Junior Senior’s ‘Everybody’ is a cool tune to organise the clothing to – but the bad news is that someone has pinched some of Sebastian Lander’s new BMC kit. I did think there were some dodgy looking youths among the ViPs last night. Most of the guys are ‘flat’ today – with some it’s just battle fatigue, but some will no doubt be recovering from the post-race party which went on ‘til 05:00. But Barth’s not ‘flat,’ he arrives with blaring ‘boogie box’ creating white noise as it battles with the stadium PA; he’s not big on training, likes night clubs, has an all over tan and two ear rings – and has an old Sercu fan like me shaking my head.
Boxing at a bike race. No, it’s not a misprint, it worked pretty well, short and sharp with the pugilists really going at it. I’m no boxing aficionado, but I do admire their commitment, the pros divide their day in two, rising early to do their road work – which includes running backwards for long spells – then eating and sleeping in the middle of the day before another training session in the gym in the afternoon/evening before an early bed.
There’s a boxing ring in the track centre, apparently there are matches taking place on Saturday evening – and they present the riders up there. I snapped Big Bob and Marc Hester getting intro-ed; my Danish Crowns would have to be on Bob if he and Marc did go toe to toe.
The cannon blasts, I push Guy off, wriggle my fat backside so as Bremen winner, Marcel Kalz doesn’t run me over and jog off the track. Those ‘Cara Mia’ bongos blast from the PA and make me smile; the lap board says ‘250’ and already the Schwalbes and Contis are roaring as the riders who started off the back straight fence hurtle into the home straight – welcome to the Copenhagen 6 Dages Lob 2013.
Steve Penny has been bringing you the race reports, John Young the action images, so I thought we'd look at the people who make the "Berlin 6 Tage Rennen" such a unique affair. At the start of each evening they have a 'Vorstellung der Parade der Asse' - a parade of champions. This year there was only one bona fide senior rainbow jersey holder - World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele. Charlotte Becker was wearing a rainbow jersey, too - initially I couldn't figure out what for.
So there I was in Berlin and it's the ladies’ Six Day - well, three days, actually - and I hear one of the lasses waiting to go to the line speaking in a good Lancashire accent. Check the numbers, #7: Hannah Walker, GB. At the risk of incurring the wrath of our hard-core readers Viktor, Ivan and Dave , I thought we'd best have a chat with her.
Everything is irrelevant on the final night at the Berlin Six Day, except the last chase – and it wasn’t a bad one. Going in it was Kalz/Bengsch topping the board – great time trial riders and strong in the chases – but a Six is almost always decided in the avalanche of points sprints in the final laps. Neither rider – for all their power – is a great sprinter. I had been thinking that maybe Roger Kluge wasn’t quite as smooth and fast as he used to be, but in that last chase he was good, very good.
A crowd of around 12,000 filed into the Landsberger Allee Velodrome tonight. The large numbers continued a trend for the Six Days - with an estimated 70,000 coming through the doors - attendance figures are up rather than down, a good sign going forward. On the track, following Mondays racing the standings were tighter than they looked on Sunday afternoon with Kalz / Bengsch, Kluge / Schep and Müller / Marvulli all gaining a lap on the weekend leaders De Ketele / Roberts. So with four teams in the hunt here is how the final night in Berlin went.
Twice World Madison Champion, twice World Scratch Champion, Olympic silver medallist in the madison and the winner of 33 six days off 115 starts - Franco Marvulli is the most successful rider on the Six Day circuit. Over the last few seasons there have been times when it looked as if the genial Suisse's star is in the decline - at Gent in 2011 it looked like his best was behind him. He took time to talk to us on Sunday's 'Familientag' - Family Day - at the Berlin Six Day - his 11th start in the race.
There’s no wi-fi in the stadium at Berlin, you have to go up to the press room; it’s quiet up there, there’s hard wired internet which has your pictures flying in a nanosecond and a fridge full of soft drinks and beer – a runner/journalists Nirvana you might say. Forgive me if I digress, but my mind goes back to the first time I covered the Tour of Flanders – used to cabinets full of lukewarm mineral water at the Grand Tours, imagine my delight when I opened the chiller cabinet in the press room to find it packed with cold tins of beer – that’s one of the reasons it’s the Heartland.
Sundays at German Six Day races have always traditionally been ‘Family Day’ with the programme of sport and entertainment held during the afternoon rather than in the evening / night. With temperatures outside now (just) above freezing, making it a relatively mild Berlin winter afternoon, local families came along to the Landsberger Allee Velodrome to celebrate the past, present and future in this their 102nd Six Day race.
First up on Sunday was the team picture, like one of those shots of the ‘class of 1955’ or whenever that they take at expensive schools. The only photos the guys I went to primary school with had taken were on an individual basis with the each of them holding up a card bearing their name and number. Sunday afternoon sessions are always pretty lackadaisical, it’s as if subconsciously we all know it’s the Lord’s Day and we shouldn’t really be drinking beer and arranging who wins the Derny races.
I remember interviewing Andreas Müller a year or two ago and him telling me that he'd be happy to emulate the career of German former Six Day rider Gert Dörich, who was the 'Taxi Driver' par excellence during his long career which took in 163 Six Day races. 'Taxi Driver' is the term used to describe solid, experienced riders whose job is to partner riders who are new to the world of the 'races to nowhere.' But Andreas’ sights are set higher, these days. We spoke to the 33 year-old on the eve of the Berlin Six Day.
Any talk of decline appears to have been, thankfully, premature as 25,000 people had visited the 102nd Berlin Six over the first two days. Tonight was ‘Golden Night’ and another massive crowd of around 13,000 trudged through the ice and snow in temperatures of around -13 to cheer and, in Berlin’s inimitable style, whistle the riders around the 250 metre track.
Saturday and the first Madison was a ‘potato chase' – best expressed as a ‘non-death’ race as the minnows were allowed to pull a lap back here and there. As well as the men who ride behind the big bikes, the crowd’s darlings are the sprinters. The noise when the crowd roars its’ approval of some fancy bit of speed is deafening – Max Levy was the man turning up the volume with a track record.
Sometimes in January there’s a depressing grey half light, the clouds sit low and the dampness eats into you. But today was beautiful, even though the cold nips at the inside of your nose. And it was good to get off the plane. I was in the middle of a ‘stag party’ bound for the bars and clubs of Berlin; they were all merry when they boarded and well on the way to be being wasted by the time they we disembarked. They were loud and sweary; but there was no reprimand from the cabin crew – probably due to their healthy consumption of over-priced baby tins of Stella for the Easyjet coffers.
The 102nd Berlin Six Day (Berliner Sechstagerennen) starts in the German Capital on Thursday night. This event is one of the classics of the winter track calendar but despite that unfortunately Six Day racing continues to be in decline. This is not just something that can be laid at the door of the global economy, rather just a fact of life that times change. As events have left established Six Day cities such as Dortmund, Munich and Stuttgart in recent years due to lack of sponsors and public interest it is left too Berlin, and Bremen, to fly the flag in the country that was once the European home of Six Day racing.