There’s no wi-fi in the stadium at Berlin at the Berlin Six Day 2013, 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.
Sundays at German Six Day races have always traditionally been ‘Family Day’ (Familientag) with the programme of sport and entertainment held during the afternoon rather than in the evening / night.
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.
First up on Sunday at the Berlin Six Day 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.
Any talk of decline appears to have been, thankfully, premature as 25,000 people had visited the 102nd Berlin Six Day 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 at the Berlin Six Day 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.
Friday, Schonefeld Airport was cold with snow on the ground – but it was good to arrive in Germany in the sunshine. We're here to work at the erlin Six Day 2013. Sometimes in January there’s a depressing grey half light here, 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.
The 102nd Berlin Six Day 2013 (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.
Yorkshire rider Adam Blythe first grabbed the big headlines when he won two stages and the GC in the 2010 Circuit Franco-Belge; a UCI 2.1 stage race with a history stretching back to 1924. Blythe became one of the youngest-ever winners in the event, beating Sep Vanmarcke (Topsport Vlaanderen) by six seconds and Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) by seven.
As a web site which tries to keep its readers in touch with what’s happening on the winter boards; it’s remiss of us not to have spoken before now to Britain’s greatest ever Six Day rider – Tony Doyle, MBE. Other ‘Brits’ rode the ‘races to nowhere’ – Tony Gowland even managed to win two Six Days (off 31 starts); London (with Patrick Sercu) and Montreal with (Gianni Motta).
It's 05:30 CET Monday in the North Sea, somewhere. Our epic through the night time snow of Central Europe after the Zürich Six Day was rewarded by a nice autumn morning in The Netherlands, even if the coffee was extortionate at the services. We were in plenty of time for the 17:00 ferry to Newcastle. I couldn't keep my eyes open after 20:00, so that's why I'm up and about at 05:00 am - and that North Sea air is fresh. But let's talk winter track racing - I can't say 'Six Days' in this case.
Germany, somewhere near the Taunus mountains at 09:22 Sunday. We left the Zürich Six Day at 03:00 and there are still 400 kilometres to go to the ferry at Amsterdam. It began to snow like Hell about an hour into Germany; there were roadworks, we were diverted off the motorway and there were either no diversion signs or they were snowbound. Whichever it was, we ended up hideously lost and dropped a chunk of time.
Snapshots from the Gent Six Day 2012, as we roam around the city and spend time with the winners in the bar.
The final day of the Gent Six Day 2012 promised a big tussle between the Belgian World Madison Champions De Ketele / Van Hoecke and local hero Iljo Keisse with Glenn O’Shea. They didn’t disappoint.
Dave and I saw our first Six Day in 1973, the Skol sponsored London Six Day - Sercu, Pijnen, Duyndam, Van Lancker . . . This is Callum's first trip to the Kuipke but Stuart's umpteenth. The Adoma has been our base for years - it's a great jump off for Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and the Koksijde 'cross.
There are tired legs in the bunch but on a wet and windy Saturday night at the Gent Six Day 2012 all roads again led to Het Kuipke for another sell out beer and bike racing fest.
Here in Gent Friday night has always been the big night of the Gent Six Day 2012. It's not just about the beer, it’s about the cycling and fans of all ages bring the wife or girlfriend to what is for all concerned a big night out. A number of the revellers are ex-riders many of whom no doubt spend the night reminiscing on their time pedalling around the hollowed boards of Het Kuipke.
Contributor Steve Penny summarises the action for us from Het Kuipke (the little oval) last night, as we reach the halfway point in the Gent Six Day. The crowds filed into Het Kuipke in the thousands to meet friends, drink a beer or two and watch the 72nd Gent Six as it approached the all important weekend. Before the racing started it was announced that Wim Stroetinga was out of the race – for now - with a stomach problem. This would explain why he and partner Peter Schep had not been scoring many points over the first two nights.
Watching a dream die is never nice, but if it's done quickly and clinically, then it's humane, at least. Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele were ruthless executioners in the last chase in the small hours of Sunday morning. Bryan Coquard and Morgan Kneisky rode with panache and bravery, in what I believe was a 100% 'straight' finale. Inside the last 50 laps of 180 the Belgians attacked - we were waiting for it.
Vik phoned me this morning; ‘the racing can’t be very good if you’re spending so much taking pictures of boys on the trapeze!’ If I could get him down here it would be different, it’s not just a bike race; if he was here, eating the nice food, drinking champers with friends, with the race whizzing around him and the amazing shows, it’d be different. He particularly hates the magic acts and the girl who does the balloon figures; I asked him if he wanted me to bring back a balloon puppy dog or a monkey – that got him off the line.
The trouble here is that when folks see you with a camera and hear you write for a website, you've had it. I spent a chunk of the afternoon taking pictures of Gunther, one of Iljo Keisse's soigneurs. He's back on the bike as a 'master' and has the track bike down here with him, he trains on the boards in the afternoon and actually looks good on the bike. And five minutes ago I was collared by Laurent Biondi to take pictures of his laddie who's in the 'Cadets' race.
I haven’t taken any pictures of the Paris Folies girls yet - I got into an awful bother last year with those topless shots – and decided to wait and see what the outfits were like before I reached for the Nikon. The first routine was a ‘no, no’ – there was silicone jutting everywhere! They’re fully clothed for their second number – you could see the disappointment in the riders’ faces as they looked at the big screen. Yes, we’re at the Grenoble ‘Six’ – only it’s no longer a ‘six;’ in line with Zurich, they’ve cut back to four days.
It's been quite a season for Saxo-Tinkoff's former World Madison Champion, Michael Mørkøv. The man from just north of Copenhagen was the prime animator in the Spring classics; wore the polka dot King of the Mountains leader's jersey in the Tour de France for the first week; was in the Danish team pursuit squad which dipped under the magic four minutes in London and he was back off 'up the road' in the late season Northern European classics.
Tony Gibb had been a classy track rider since the mid-90’s, winning medals at the British Championships since 1998 in the Scratch Race and the Points Race, but he hit the headlines in 2002 when he won the bronze medal in the Manchester Commonwealth Games Scratch Race and then went on to win silver in the same discipline at the World Championships in Ballerup that year. The Middlesex man holds the record of four victories in the prestigious early season Eddie Soens Memorial road race in the UK and he has won nine British Championships in his career - so far, he’s not finished yet.
If we take Tom Boonen’s epics out of the equation there’s no doubt about the best finale of the year. The end game of stage seven of the Presidential Tour of Turkey saw a break of seven riders clear with six kilometres to go. Despite their lead plummeting as an angry peloton closed them down, there were riders skiving and scheming. One man was having none of it and with just over five kilometres to go he bolted – Iljo Keisse.
Californian Daniel Holloway, aka ‘Hollywood’ was a surprise addition to the ranks of Raleigh, this season. Known as a man who likes to have fun, his jokes and vast array of "Oakleys for every occasion" disguise the fact that the 24-year old is a quality athlete.
Dreams, we all have them, but most of us don’t realise them. When Kenny De Ketele was a boy, he’d go to the Kuipke velodrome in Gent to watch the Six Days and dream of riding and winning on the hallowed boards. And he’d look at the world champions in their sparkling white rainbow jerseys and dream of the day when he could pull one over his head. But unlike most of us, Kenny has realised his dreams.
With the World Track Championships only a few weeks away, we thought we'd talk to some top riders who you may know not much about, guys with interesting stories to tell, our "left-field' stars. Cleveland, Ohio, 1949: and when Charles Bergna and Cecil Yates hoisted their bouquets over their heads little did they know that it would be more than 50 years before another US pairing would do the same thing. It was Bergna's third win in Cleveland, his final career total was five wins; Yates was more prolific with 16 wins-but it was te end of the Golden Age for US Six Day riders. It was Moscow in 2002 before the Stars and Stripes would fly for both riders at the end of a Six Day race-for 2000 Olympic sprint champion Marty Nothstein and our left-fielder, Ryan Oelkers.
VeloVeritas spoke recently to Commonwealth Games Team Sprint Silver Medallist Charline Joiner after her ride at the Rotterdam Six Day.
Who makes sure the wheels turn smoothly during a six day race? The mechanics are the men who change the gears, stick on the tyres, endlessly polish the paintwork and pick up the pieces after crashes. They arrive first to build the bikes up and leave last after having stripped the bikes down for transit. What makes a man want to roam Europe, often driving a thousand kilometres through the night to get to the next race - or to get home? We spoke to circuit spanner man, Dirk Dekeyser at the Grenoble Six.
Fietsenphotography's John Young has supplied us with lots of great images from the Six Day season this winter, and it's been great to focus on some racing, rather than all the other stories which mire the sport's image. John's photos have illustrated our recent Diary pieces from Denmark, but we have lots left that we haven't used, we're sure you'll enjoy looking through them to get the flavour of the final Six of the season.
The camper, 10:23 Wednesday morning, and it's all over. The cabins are bare; Dirk is in his camper headed for Drongen; Jackie and his dad have been safely deposited at the airport and we're heading into Copenhagen for a little bit of R & R before we get the plane home.
It's another big madison tonight; 75 kilometres/300 laps, but with a 'twist'-it's a handicap. Bartko/Lampater, Stam/Stroetinga and Alex/Michael give away six laps to Jackie/Schröder-with the rest of the field somewhere in between. The final laps count for the overall so there's no messing; if a big team doesn't pull the laps back then they're lost. Really, all that goes before the handicap is just to whet the appetite-there are a lot of nervous cyclists in the cabins.
Sprints to start and Hazel Dean thumps out, quality high energy from the 80's 'Searchin'-quality. Followed by 'Livin in America' from the late, great James Brown-we're in luck, tonight. And then 'Cara Mia' to start the 75 lap chase-I never get tired of that tune. The two chases weren't bad at all-for a Sunday, that is.
Danny Clark; in a world where the word 'legend' is used too often, it's wholly appropriate in the case of the Australian. He holds the record for the number of six day starts at 236 and he's second in the all time winner ranks with 74-unsurprisingly he's 'double Recordman' here at Copenhagen with eight wins off 21 starts. He's here driving the Derny (and singing!) but clocks up an hour plus on the track every day-he looks better now than he did 20 years ago.
'Rivers of Babylon' by the Melodians, now there's a tune to fold jerseys by-until the guy in the cabin next door hops on his rollers, that is. And there was me looking for some peace on a Saturday morning-a split day today with afternoon and evening sessions. We don't like double sessions, neither do the riders, but like the song says; 'That's just the way it is.' Last night wasn't a bad one . . .
The gun fires, the bongos rattle, 'Cara Mia' blasts, the rattle of chains and rumble of rubber on wood builds and the chase which kicks off the 50th Six Days of Copenhagen is up and running. But it's not any old chase, since I first walked up the steps from the tunnel when we arrived here on Wednesday afternoon the lap board has been displaying a short but grim message-400. That's 400 laps at 250 metres for each lap; I'll help with the arithmetic-100 kilometres.
Daniel Holloway and Colby Pearce are regulars on the Six Day scene; US riders win classics and Grand Tours, there are US Pro Tour teams. It was different in 1970; with not one US rider holding a professional licence-enter Jack Simes. We spoke to the man who was the first US rider to turn a pedal on the Six Day tracks for nearly 20 years and who hopes to bring the sport back to its spiritual home in the USA.
The line of taxi lights stretches back into the darkness like a string of pearls, it's beautiful in an a big city kind of a way - it could be a scene from a Woody Allen film; but it's not Manhattan, it's Berlin at 01:40am. We're here for the Berlin Six Day 2012.
The Berlin Six Day finished with a win for the Aussie World Champions Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard (wine gum thief), we hope you enjoyed our daily diaries from the inside.
It’s gone 1:00AM here and I thought we could have a look at the Berlin Six Day Bikes; the Dernys buzz their 'Ipcress' noise, Brad eases down off the fence, he takes the sling off Jackie, tucks in behind the little monster and Mr. Simes is done for the night.
Sundays at German Sixes are and have always been 'family day' (Familientag) when the programme of sport and entertainment is held during the afternoon rather than in the evening or night. On a cold wind-chilled winter afternoon, local families came along to the Landsberger Allee Velodrome to enjoy the racing and pass on the tradition from one generation to the next.
Berlin Six Day 2012 and Jackie summed it up best when I asked if he'd slept well; 'yeah, but just not long enough!' But Dirk had a take on it too; 'why can't we just go straight from Saturday to Monday?' There's always a down beat Johnny Cash kind of vibe to Sunday afternoons sessions; 'the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more for dessert.'
The 101st Berliner Sechstage Rennen (Berlin Six Day) started on Thursday and according to reports the crowds have been down a little on last night.
'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.
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 and the Berlin Six Day 2012 is the place to be.
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 here at the Berlin Six Day.
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 Berlin Six Day 2012 on Thursday.
I'm tidying this Bremen Six Day 2012 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.
We had Frank Sinatra for the sprint series last night during the Bremen Six Day 2012, never a bad thing. Bed was just before midnight and I didn't get up until 09:00 - just braw.