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“Goin’ back to my roots,” says the Odyssey song – and so it is with Mr. Daniel Holloway, former ‘Crit King’ of the USA. But he’s now back on the boards in a big way with a World Cup omnium win in Chile and a memorable win in the 300 lap, 75 kilometre handicap Madison in the Copenhagen Six Day. It was 15 years ago, in 2003 when the man originally from Morgan Hill, California won the novices 500 metres at the US track national championships.
In a classic Six Day finale points shoot-out with the result not confirmed until the finish line, classy Home Boy Michael Mørkøv paired with the current Capo of the Six Day boards, Belgium's Kenny De Ketele to land his seventh Copenhagen Six Day at midnight on Tuesday on the wide boards of the 250 metre Ballerup track.
Daniel Holloway does the countdown in his Californian-Swedish, ten down to six; the crowd takes over from five down to one, the cannon report just about bursts everyone’s ear drums, then there’s the smoke. For a split second nothing happens, everyone is too stunned by the noise and reek of gunpowder. But there’s the bongos – and Paul Delicato’s velvet voice; 'Cara Mia mine, must we say goodbye...' It can only be the Copenhagen Six Day 2018 !
You know when you're getting old when 'young guys' you were with on their first race come round to retiring. At the Copenhagen Six Day 2009 we saw Danes Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv take their home Six for the first time. I was lucky enough to be working for them as their 'runner'... Let's look back to 2009 and some great memories.
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.
The Copenhagen Six Day follows straight after Berlin; the trip isn’t fun – load the camper after the midnight finish in Berlin, drive through the night to the ferry at Rostock, sleep in the camper for an hour or two at temperatures well below zero, hop the ferry across the Baltic, then drive up through Denmark to Copenhagen through the snow and wind.
'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.
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.
Ricco - you have to respect his 100% commitment to being a moronic little twat. There was a piece about him on CyclingNews having a 'kidney problem,' when I checked the site in the morning, I thought it was a tad strange - how does a super fit young man have a kidney problem? But the press release I received from Vacansoleil a little later revealed the true horror of the situation... ...Ah yes, the Copenhagen Six Day - on the boards, our boys did the biz, winning their home Six for the third straight year.
It's the last day of school today; the six day circus goes to ground until October when-God willing-we head south to Grenoble with its blue skies, snow capped mountains, Follies girls, great bread and French riders who smile, shake your hand and give you a 'ca va?' every time they see you-they may not be fast but they're nice guys. It's unlikely there will be any surprises tonight, Alex and Michael are well in charge; I hope that Jens and Marc hold on to second-they deserve it.
It's Monday morning, I've folded the clothing, tidied the cabin, swept the floor, cleaned the flasks, blah, blah, blah...The wi-fi has decided to visit the cabin and Tommy Hunt is 'Loving on The Losing Side' from the laptop - it's hard to be 'down' when the 'Northern' is banging out. The weekend was a bit of a blur; Saturday was a split session - nitemare! Sunday started early and finished early; 'deep joy' for boys like me - that's until two of your guys get picked for 'control,' can't pee and you have to wait two hours for them...
Saturday, 13:20 - the afternoon sesh starts in a few minutes but there's a distinct lack of riders; this reflects in their (and their runners') lack of enthusiasm for afternoon sessions - but more of that tomorrow. Again, it wasn't the greatest of madison racing last night, but it's hard for the guys to raise their game if most of the house seats are empty. Michael reckons that ticket sales for Saturday night are good - let's hope so. The fact that it's the last six of the year plays a part, too - it's definitely a very subdued vibe.
It wasn't a great first night, sparse crowds, lack lustre chases and I seemed to spend the whole day gittering about to little effect; but we're set up, the hotel is great, the boys are all relaxed and it's Friday - so maybe we'll get a better crowd. Copenhagen is 'old school' - long chases are what six days are all about say the organisers; I'm not so sure. A 'soft' chase on a 166 metre track is one thing, you just about get away with it, but on the broad acres of a 250 metre track it's dire, it looks so slow and processional...
Alcazar's 'Crying at the discotheque' may have been the soundtrack to Alex Rasmussen's huge attack in the closing minutes of the 2009 Six Days of Copenhagen; but the only tears shed some 17 laps later were those of joy as home boy, 'Razi' and his Denmark and Saxo Bank 'other half,' Michael Mørkøv sent the full house home happy from Ballerup Super Arena. On the penultimate night it had looked like the best the young Danes could hope for would be second behind the swashbuckling William Tell duo of Franco Marvulli and Bruno Risi. But as the first tread band broke the finish line timing beam on the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the classy Swiss had to settle for third, denied their hat trick at Copenhagen by the young men in the legendary number seven, 'Danish flag' jersey, but also behind the Netherlands duo of Peter Schep and Danny Stam.
Susie, my chow chow would love these meat balls; cold, greasy, smelly with around one percent meat content; it's a pity she's not here - but think how awful it would be if she bit Danny Stam. Dinner time at the restaurant; day one the food was cool, but as the week goes on, the menu refuses to budge and the temperature of the food drops; 'not good for riders to eat cold pasta,' says Ronnie our number two soigneur. Ronnie saves the day; he's been 'making massage' to the guy who owns the restaurant and a gorgeous pizza arrives for him, of which I get half-those Belgian guys aren't all bad.
"I was second in the derny, behind Muller, and he's very good-why don't you test me?" says Michael Berling to the UCI guy who has to chaperone Michael Morkov to the doping controle. Franco pipes up; "Grasmann was last in the derny, that's a suspicious result!" The UCI guy has heard it all before; "I just chaperone the rider, who gets tested is nothing to do with me." We leave Michael to his fate and head for the restaurant; it's nearly 02.00 am Sunday when we eat and close to 03.00 am when I get to bed.
VeloVeritas are in Copenhagen (south of Sweden) for day three of the six and it's time for the horror that is - the afternoon session. The highlight of the afternoon was the break dancing competition, manfully judged by Messrs. Rasmussen and Donadio. It's not well known, but break dancing has a long connection with cycling. Some years ago, Viktor, Dave and I were at the Belgian elite road championships when we met the old QuickStep soigneur, waiting to feed his boys. We got to chatting and he explained to us that Frank Vandenbroucke was a renowned man around the boogie box in West Flanders.
"Oh Copenhagen, Copenhagen south of Swee-den, sweeter than the sweetest honey,sweeter than the sweetest wine, in Copenhagen city too, you can make a dream come true!" Deeply profound Europop lyrics that start each day's session in just the right thought provoking vein-well, maybe you have to be here! It's a small world; Thursday night at dinner we were sitting beside the Argentinean rider, Sebastian Donadio, who's a cool guy; he asked me where I was from, I told him; "Ahh! You must know Peter Jacques!""¦
The crowd counts us down; the pistol cracks; I give Franco a hefty shove; 'Cara Mia' blasts from the PA and the 2009 Copenhagen 6 Dages Lob is well and truly under way. Two minutes ago I was wondering why I put myself through that nightmare journey from Portobello to Ballerup-the suburb of Copenhagen where the Super Arena and it's pine velodrome live-two buses, a plane, another bus, a long train journey then waiting in the freezing cold of a Copenhagen night for my lift to the track. But now I remember; the smell of the massage oil and cologne, the gleaming gems that are the bikes, the Europop, the hiss of the mechanics' compressors, the thunder of expensive rubber on pine, the rattle of those one-eighth chains over the sprockets, a whiff of perfume as a glamorous spectator sashays past"¦
The Copenhagen Six Day 2005; Danny Kaye is telling me over the public address that it's "Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen". I'm not so sure: it's gone 1.00 am and we have 18 Lycra jerseys; 18 under-vests; six pairs of chamois-lined cycling shorts; six pairs of socks and six pairs of track mitts to hand wash, spin dry and hang up to dry in our 'cabin' in the bowels of the stadium. Welcome to the glamorous world of Six Day bicycle racing.