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.
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.
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.
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.
This winter saw him line up for the Sixday Nights of Zürich where VeloVeritas took the opportunity to get his thoughts on the winter boards as well as his road career.
As a web site which tries to keep its readers in touch with what’s happening on the winter boards; it’s remise 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).
Nigel Dean and Hugh Porter both rode the winter boards – whilst Maurice Burton forced his way into the inner circle, starting 46 Six Days and riding with honour, but never pulled off a win.
It’s 05:30 CET Monday in the North Sea, somewhere. Our epic through the night time snow of Central Europe 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 Zürich 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 snow bound. Whichever it was, we ended up hideously lost and dropped a chunk of time.
But once the sun comes up, it all doesn’t seem quite as grim: despite the spray and demented German drivers. We passed the emergency services at one incident where a hot hatch was lodged in the branches of a tree – crazy. And on the subject of dangerous surfaces, Kenny De Ketele and Peter Schep confirmed that they were the strongest pair on the rattling boards of Zürich to relegate Roger Kluge and Danilo Hondo to third.
Snapshots from the Gent Six Day 2012, as we roam around the city and spend time with the winners in the bar.
On Sunday it was a steam train – the sound took me back to when I was a boy, and it was nicer than Dave’s snoring. A centre for the Art Nouveaux movement, rich industrialists commissioned the ‘hot’ architects of the day to make sure the world knew that they had taste – and money.
If you look up as you walk around the city, your eyes will be rewarded.
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.
Stephen Penny last report from the Gent Six Day;
The final day of the Gent Six 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.
Stephen Penny files another report from Het Kuipke;
There are tired legs in the bunch but on a wet and windy Saturday night in Gent all roads again led to the track for another sell out beer and bike racing fest.
Here in Gent Friday night has always been the big night of the Six.
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.