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Tag: Grenoble 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.
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. Keisse thunders round the track like he's on a monorail, the ultimate stylist. De Ketele isn't as smooth but the power is there - he has those super fit riders' 'roadmaps' on his inner thighs. They took the lap quickly, cleanly - beautiful to watch.
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.
Last day - it's not a big programme, sprint series, team time trial and the closing 180 lap chase. By six day standards that's not a long chase, around 38 K - at Copenhagen they have 300 lappers on a 250 track - but here, it's heavy duty for the small teams. Franco reckons that Kris and I should have dinner in the track centre, tonight - well, it sounded good to me.
Bed was at 02:00 am so I didn't have too much problem getting up at 07:45 to do some 'real world' stuff. The only trouble with that is I know I won't feel nearly as frisky come 02:30 am. I was meant to have an interview with Luke Roberts today, he was meant to get word about what's happening team-wise for 2012.
It's a glorious day in Grenoble, warm, calm, sunny - not a day to be stuck in a stuffy stadium. But that's the runner's place in the way of things - scrambled eggs on fresh baguettes for breakfast eased the pain. The 35 minute chase was a better show tonight and the French guys didn't get pummelled quite so savagely.
One day, I'd like to come here and sit at one of the big tables with friends and family, watch the cabaret, and the racing, chat, eat and drink too much. It's good value at 63 euros per head: that gets you in, allows you to attack the beautiful buffet and provides you a bottle of wine, mineral water and a coffee as you watch the racing and the cabaret - one day . . .
It takes a few days to find the rhythm of a six-day - usually for me it's the sixth day. My feet stop hurting and I get a proper sleep. Last night I slept ok 'til around 06:00 am but after that it was disjointed, the sound of the traffic and the drone of the refrigeration units on the restaurant supply tucks saw to that - not to mention the bizarre dreams.
'The track door will open at 09:30,' we were told, but this is the Grenoble Six Days 2011 - in France, and you have to give or take 45 minutes - and sure enough, we got in around 10:15. Bring the last of the gear down from the camper, set up the track cabins, go to the shops for supplies, help the guys with their bikes, go to the shops for razors so Franco can shave his legs, help with the dinner, do the washing up and then slip out quietly when the riders all descend upon our cabin for their pre-race meeting.
It's a grey morning in Grenoble; we can't unload until 11:00 am and then we have to drive up to Lyon and collect Jesper and Marc off the plane. In the stadium office they have great old black and white photos of the stadium under construction; it really is a gem of a building, if you like modern architecture.
Up at 04:30, the plan was to get the bus from Porty at 09:00 - however, and to cut a long story short, the van is abandoned in a western suburb of Edinburgh and a cab was flagged down to get me to the airport on time. The flight was undramatic - thank God - and there was Kris in the airport bus park, with the camper. It's seems to be an unwritten law that you have to arrive in a different country from where the race is; so the rendez-vous was in Geneva, Switzerland.
The crowd is good, the riders' contracts have been paid, there's one more procession, one last picture of the Folies girls, I've polished Jens' and Franco's bikes, most of the stuff is out of the big cabin, the strongmen are going through their routine and there's a buzz in the air. The programme is short - just a 25 lap sprint series with points every five laps; the flying three lap time trial and then the big one - '180 tours pro madison' with sprints on 120, 140 and 160 for 5, 3, 2, 1 points and 'points doublé lors du sprint de l'arrivée de 6 jours.'
There's no telling what you'll see when you walk up those stairs; you'd expect to see Teun Mulder on the rollers on his road bike or Shane Perkins on his track bike on the rollers-but a juggler? The views over to the Alps were stunning this morning, the city is ringed on all sides by mountains; sit outside Bar Clemenceau with your beer, the autumn sun on your skin, look over to the Alps and it's easy to think; 'I could live here'...
"Dirk, you're working on the bikes early today," says me. "Yes, I must finish early so I can watch the darts on BBC TV in my camper van!" I didn't expect that answer. He was telling me that the new Look 496 track frame costs in excess of â‚¬6,000 and there's a waiting list; they only build to order. They are beautiful though and as Dirk says; 'it's the best bike for the sprint and it's a genuine European product.' It's cool and grey in Grenoble today - and very quiet...
"Only in Grenoble" is stamped in red on this file - a track standstill competition. If Vik was here he'd rush the track shouting bad things about la Belle France, the French, and their ways. We've got 15 minutes on the clock and Daniel Mangeas hasn't stopped talking for more than a few seconds as the big men twitch their muscles to keep those Looks stationary on the pine. I know a little French but can't summon up the interest to listen; the crowd adore it....
The average speed last night for the first madison of Night Two, run over 35 minutes, was 52.310 kph - file under 'not as slow as Vik says it is.' The thing you have to remember is that when you're in Grenoble, you're much closer to the Mediterranean than you are to the Channel; 'le Munich six jours est finis? ah!' The cold, grey North is a long way away...
There were politics in play before a ball was even kicked; 'how have you guys got that big cabin, you only have two riders?' Kris's response was succinct; 'Because I've been coming here for 30 years and the organisers are friends of mine!' A six wouldn't be a six without politics. I was a bit ropey on the first night; 'what happens now?' flashed through my head a few times...
"It's not a real Six," says our pal Viktor - coincidentally, riders like Marc Hester (Denmark) and Danny Stam (Holland) used to say the same. But that was before the Bremen Six disappeared - now they're more than happy to head south to Grenoble at the end of October. "Real" Six or not, the list of winners is pretty damn impressive - Post, Merckx, Sercu, Moser, Doyle, Clark, Baffi, Villa, Marvulli, Gilmore, Keisse, Rasmussen and Morkov. I can't remember how many times I've been here, but it's never disappointing to drive down the valley road between the limestone cliffs and snow capped peaks beyond, to the 'Capital of the Alps'...