Maybe it was all those minds thinking; ‘I hate split sessions’ that made the access panel in the track jam?
In fact, it was an electrical fault, caused by someone who didn’t understand the procedure for shutting the big sliding panel in the track’s back straight that meant the Saturday afternoon session was cancelled.
The organisers made it a team by team presentation, around the slow running lane; they brought the kids’ judo demonstration forward – they even had Sebastian Donadio and Franco give the crowd a few songs (ouch!). Anything to kill time; but still the panel stayed stuck…
‘For me, that was the hardest chase of the winter!’
The words of Franco Marvulli as he flopped onto the bench in his track side cabin, after he’d just won the night’s closing 60 minute madison with Bruno Risi.
The first night’s chase may have been a stilted affair; but not last night, as Martyn said with seven minutes to go; ‘it’s on a bit now!’
It’s 01:41 Day One and I’ve decided to rattle off a few lines before I succumb to the coma that surely awaits me.
It wasn’t vintage racing tonight; there wasn’t much of a crowd, the whole bunch looked like it was pedalling in mud and Franco said he’d never seen Bruno struggle the way he did in the first chase.
My feet hurt from all that standing and walking on concrete; and my ears are ringing, courtesy the PA… And that was all I could manage before I keeled over…
Scotland was beautiful this morning, the views from the window of the British Midland jet were stunning.
The Pentlands covered in snow, the ‘terriers head’ of Fife framed by the Forth and Tay; the Isle of May seeming to hover in the air, guarding the mouth of the Forth.
It was cloudy over the North Sea, but we were cruising well above the soft white carpet; the sky the deepest of blues, the sunlight golden. It was a rude awakening as we descended through the fluffiness though…
The A2 Dover to London road, 23:23 on Sunday.
There was no partying at Iljo’s dad’s bar, De Karper – which is just along the road from the Gent track – for us tonight; we had a ferry to catch.
I didn’t have time to put together a Day Five piece, today. We were up at 09:00 for the 13:00 start; usually I spend the early afternoon writing, but today I couldn’t, although I did manage to get the Day Five pictures away as the under 23 lads prepared for action.
Viktor has been keeping in touch, he was going to come over but couldn’t get a flight. ‘Is that Bruno’s wee brother’s bike he’s on?’
He does have a point, with carbon frame manufacture, one of the biggest costs is to produce the moulds.
This leads a lot of manufactures to go down a ‘one size fits all’ route – meaning a lot of seat post on show and/or stacking/high rise stems at the front end. For me, the classic look of Keisse’s bike is best – extension hard down on the head race and just the right amount of seat pin.
The atmosphere was great, again, last night – the track centre is alive.
The Belgian papers are something else.
Whilst you do get superb cycling coverage; in yesterday’s ‘De Gentenaar’ we had to endure a colour photograph of a fatal road accident, complete with burnt out car and mangled push bike; a racist photo manipulation of Michelle Obama as a character from Planet of the Apes and images from a slaughter house, including a cow getting it’s head chopped off – I’ll stick with the Guardian.
My tortured old body is getting into the routine, now. It was 03:30 am when we got to bed; we could have been in bed before that, but a beer was necessary.
It’s different here; the butcher asks you how Keisse is doing in the six and the local paper has Iljo in full colour, on the cover.
In the same paper – De Gentenaar – which is a local ‘rag,’ there’s a two page guide to track racing and two pages of stats on the 2009 season.
Columbia are top winners, with 85 (I thought it was 86 !): Saxo have 44: Diquigiovanni 33; Garmin 29; Rabobank 26; Cervélo 25 – first Belgian team, on 24, is QuickStep.
It was 1975 when Dave, Don, Ed the Pole and yours truly first climbed the concrete stairs to get our first sight of the legendary boards of Gent velodrome.
I still remember the smells; derny exhaust, pee, frying food and beer!
Having spent my formative years riding time trials and road races (badly !) in the wilds of Scotland, with sheep as the main audience, I was fascinated by the spectacle.
“When you see the track, you think, no way, I can’t ride that ! it’s too small !” and that’s from world madison champion, Michael Mørkøv.
Compared to the wide open 210 metre pastures of Grenoble, at 166 metres, the Gent track does look tiny; the bankings aren’t really steep enough and you can’t ride the top 400 mm of the track, because the crash barriers overlap the boards by that much.
But legends aren’t necessarily perfect; and this is a legendary place – it was 1922 when world hour record man, Oscar Egg partnered Marcel Buysse to victory in the first Six Days of Ghent, or Z6 Daagse Vlaanderen – Gent, as it is, now.
Noon, local time, on the Easyjet flight out of Geneva.
The race finished at midnight and we were on the autoroute for around 12:45 am – that’s a record.
The hotel bed in Geneva was blissful, the ‘transporter pod’ in the motor home is all very well, but crisp, clean sheets and a proper mattress – lovely!
Bar Clemenceau was open again today, for our afternoon ‘snifter.’
The bar tender must have had a heavy Sunday session, he was asleep at one of his own tables. I went for a Ricard today; it reminded me of the time John and I were in the Bar Britanique on Alpe d’Huez.
We drank so much pastis that we only just made it outside in time to catch Pantani on his way to the stage win – those were the days!
I had a great dream last night after day four; I won a mountain stage of the Tour, I was on my way to the press conference when I woke up – maybe just as well, knowing my luck it would be one of my ex-wives asking the questions.
Four days down and two to go, the racing wasn’t too intense; there are a lot of ‘tired laddies’ on that track.
When I first came to Grenoble a few years ago, they had a disco in the bar below the track, every night. Frenchmen who looked grey and heavy-legged in the chases banged a few Kronenbourgs down them and were soon “getting down on it’ on the dance floor – only to return to the next night’s chase even greyer and heavier-legged.
Them sprinters are big guys-I passed them in the tunnel tonight, they looked cool, cocky, stylish.
The public here love the sprinters; at intro time, they actually get their big build up from Daniel Mangeas after the six day riders.
Bauge did a standstill for more than half-an-hour, in Gent there would be bricks getting lobbed at him, but in Grenoble-they love it.
It’s 3:00 pm on Saturday and time for my ‘pression’ – draught beer – at Bar Clemenceau, I coincide this with a trip to the shops, so as not to arouse too much suspicion.
The weather is glorious, despite the carpet of leaves on many of the side walks, it’s like a Scottish summer day. Shorts are fine – essential in the heat of the velodrome – in the sunshine and the frantic Grenoble traffic is on valium for the day.