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Just about everyone – except us – was late to the track on Sunday afternoon for the Copenhagen Six Day 2019; no surprise after a late Friday, early Saturday then late Saturday. There was a definite lethargic vibe in the cabins not helped by us losing Achim to a bad throat – he came in to see the doctor and organiser but looked terrible and Kris took him back to the hotel.
The cannon fires, the smoke clears, then the drums, those damn drums! But it’s OK, it’s just the intro to Paul Delicato’s 1976 Euro Disco smash, ‘Cara Mia.’ Yes, we’re at the final Six Day of the season; the Copenhagen Six Day 2019.
It was lucky 13 for Roger Kluge & Theo Reinhardt; that was the number of laps remaining in the final chase in the Berlin Six Day 2019 on Tuesday night when big Lotto Home Boy, Kluge launched the attack which produced the winning lap gain to take the Deutsche Duo clear of Double Danskas Jesper Mørkøv & Marc Hester with their superior scandic points tally.
Kris heads straight for breakfast from the camper but I’m not man enough for that, I need the shower to bring me to life before I can face Rotterdam Six Day 2019, Day Four...
Dutch 15 times former motor paced world champion Bruno Walrave is the man with the plan - and the keys; but he's, 'in a meeting... Bruno is pushing 80 years-of-age but let’s just say that; “age hasn’t mellowed him.” Eventually the door opens and we're in business – handshakes, the key, creds and unload the mobile home.
It’s with much sadness that we report the death of former Six Day and road star, Germany’s Andreas Kappes at just 52 years of age. He was stung by a bee whilst on cycling team management duties and died from ‘allergic shock’ on 31st July. Kappes was one of the all-time great Six Day men, rated 18th in the last edition of the Six Day results ‘bible’ – ‘Statistieken.’
“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.
Third in London with Moreno De Pauw; winner in Gent again with De Pauw; encore in Rotterdam with De Pauw; the win in Bremen with Home Boy, Theo Reinhardt; second in Berlin with De Pauw and looking well on the way to the top of the podium here in Copenhagen with Michael Morkov – it can only be Topsport and Belgium’s Mr. Kenny De Ketele.
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 !
'Beauty and the Beast' is the first entry in our Berlin Six Day 2018 scrapbook - handsome devil Denmark's Marc Hester warms up on his rollers as the German sprinters' mechanic waits for the next gear change job. Marc rode with Jesper Mørkøv ‘til kidney stones forced the younger Mørkøv bruv out. Meanwhile our boy Nico plays shy but Achim gives us a smile. Nico is the son of sprint legend, Lutz Hesslich - Berlin was his second last race - he calls 'time' after Copenhagen.
"All is forgiven," Mr. Kenny De Ketele. After the two and four lap finale debacles of Gent and Rotterdam the Belgian former World Champion finally served us up a proper, entertaining final chase in the Bremen Six Day 2018; five teams were all in with realistic podium chances going into the closing 60 minute chase and the winning move only came late in the day.
At the Rotterdam Six Day Gent winners Moreno De Pauw and Kenny De Ketele carried on where they left off – but instead of winning by two laps, they made it four... dominant for sure but no spectacle. We drove north for a couple of hours then parked up in a truck stop for what passes as sleep on the Six Day carousel... Bremen is the next stop, an industrial city of more than two millions souls in Northern Germany.
Forgive me if all I do these days is moan about Six Day finales. But ... As Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis booms out of the PA the scoreboard tells me Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw are FOUR laps clear in the last chase at the Rotterdam Six Day 2018. It's a real cliff hanger ...
On the track Ollie Wood has been a consistent top performer with national team pursuit and scratch titles to his name as a junior in 2014. In 2015 he again was in the winning team at national level and added the European U23 team pursuit title. Last year he was on the European podium in both the U23 and Elite team pursuit competitions – bronze on both occasions. And this season saw gold in the Manchester World Cup team pursuit. We caught up with the now 22 year-old – his birthday was the week after the Gent Six Day finished – to discuss his 2017 season and his plans for 2018 and beyond.
He's been one of the outstanding track riders of the last decade, world champion four times across three disciplines - scratch (twice), madison with Michael Mørkøv and team pursuit. There's been a raft of national, European and World Cup titles and podiums not to mention an Olympic team pursuit silver. On the Six Day scene he's won in Berlin, Bremen, Copenhagen, Ghent and Grenoble. And that's before we mention his road palmarés - two stages in the Dunkirk Four Day, the GP Herning, Philadelphia... But Alex Rasmussen has called 'time' on all of that and will race this season on a low key domestic programme.
The wee small hours of Wednesday morning, heading north out of Berlin, en route Rostock, the ferry across the Baltic and Denmark for the Copenhagen Six Day. I wish I could say that Berlin had an epic finale - but I can't, it was dire. Processional, flat, uninspired with no tension, no theatre, no drama.
You’ve got to get here first, right? Even by Ryanair punishment flight standards, it was a sore one. The lady in front of me, I’m sure was taking her kids to audition for; ‘Devil Spawn of Berlin, The Revenge’ – they’ll get the parts, no problem.
Historically cold, wet wintery nights meant just one thing in cycling, Six Day racing. In recent years that has really only meant the ‘Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent’ (Six Days of Flanders-Ghent). This great race has continued to be successful during years when many of the other ‘classic’ Six Day races of Europe left their buildings, literally, for the last time to drift into cycling history.
It’ll be nine years, this January since we ran our Gary Wiggins obituary. Wiggins, father of Knight of the Realm, current World Hour Record holder, reigning Olympic Team Pursuit Champion and former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, died in hospital in Newcastle, New South Wales the day after an ‘incident’ in Muswellbrook the previous day.
This year saw edition 105 of the Six Days of Berlin, VeloVeritas had the good fortune to be there helping soigneur Kris look after Messrs. Germain Burton (GB), Daniel Holloway (USA), Mathias Krigbaum (Denmark) and Mark Stewart (Scotland). Here’s a selection of images from under the largest unsupported steel roof in Europe on the site of what used to be the Berlin STASI Headquarters.
Ace photographer John Pierce, not content with sending us those cracking shots of 70’s/early 80’s Six Day men, has sent us another batch of track images which bring us right up to the present day. Again, we thought you’d like to see them...
He's been making the headlines again, that Mark Stewart laddie. We last spoke to him after his wins in the British scratch and team pursuit championships - not forgetting his silver in the points race. This time it was success in the second round of the UCI World Cup in New Zealand where he won the scratch race.
It’s not every day that you receive pictures from one of the world’s best cycling photographers – they’re way too good to keep to ourselves so with Mr. John Pierce’s permission allow us to share his memories of some of his favourite Six Day riders of the 70’s and 80’s. John attended the last London Six in 1980 and these first images are from that race.
Ed and pals spent a few days at the Gent Six Day, catching up with the racing and old friends, and taking in the world cup cycle-cross race at Hasselt as well - but before we consider the racing at the track we have to think about the entertainment; whilst Belgium is a modern country and advance technologically we still marvel at the track-side entertainment; it’s like stepping back to a miners’ welfare in the 70’s – but the crowd loves it - and so do we...
Prior to the recent ‘five plus one’ it’s 35 years since a Six Day string made the London boards hum – albeit different times, riders and venue. We thought it would be interesting to fire a few questions at a man who’s worked both races; 1980 AND 2015 – VeloVeritas’s ‘man on the inside’ and over the years soigneur to some of the biggest names in Six Day bike racing; Kris Tolmie.
Second place finishers and race revelations Chris Latham and Ollie Woods are both products of the British Cycling ‘system’. There were a number of factors which contributed to their result – they’re familiar with the venue and the track is big, fast and non technical unlike Gent and Bremen which take a bit of getting used to.
I remember once, after the last chase in a Six Day I asked Dirk, our Belgian mechanic; ‘was that finale ‘straight’ Dirk?' He fixed me with a patient stare, much as a good parent would do after their child has said something silly, ‘have you ever seen a ‘straight’ Six Day, Ed?’ I took his point, they’re all pretty much choreographed – but like I keep saying, you have to be able to take laps out of a string riding at 52-53 kph to win. But I reckon that on Sunday evening I did see a straight finale.
Two decades, twenty years, it's a long time - especially to ride a bike at world level. But it was 1994 when Australia's Luke Roberts won his first world title in the junior team pursuit. The following year he twinned another victory in the team event with the world junior individual championship for good measure. Two Commonwealth, three world and an Olympic team pursuit title followed. He's ridden Pro Tour with CSC, Milram, Saxo, the Grand Tours, Classics and just about everything there is to ride - including the Six Days.
Kris maybe summed it up best; 'it felt like a Monday night at any another Six Day.' There was none of the tension or expectation which usually precedes the final chase in a Six. Granted, we weren't looking after riders who were in the mix for the win but it was indeed, 'just another chase.' Maybe it was because it was clear from the start that Terpstra was the strongest man on the track and there was only going to be one winner.
The Six Days of Amsterdam kicks off next week, the first race of the 2014/15 winter season. The programme until Christmas makes sad reading with few ‘names’ in Amsterdam; tales of crooked promoters souring things there and in Rotterdam; possibly the last race in Grenoble - and it's down to just three day; Zürich only four days and only Gent going from strength to strength.
The 2014 Giro was a brilliant race, so good in fact that a lot of good racing came to be ignored. Take ex-Raleigh man, and six day rider Daniel Holloway’s (Athlete Octane & USA) setting fire to the Speed Week criteriums series in the USA. ‘Hollywood’ first caught the eye as US Novice 500 Metre Time Trial Champion on the track in 2003; by 2005 he’d won a stage in the Canadian Tour de l’Abitibi – ‘the junior Tour de France.’
We began Norman's story in Part One last week, where he spoke about his time racing in the Six Days. In Part Two today Norman describes his time as Manager at the Vancouver Velodrome, what's been keeping him busy since then, and some interesting ideas for spicing up the World Tour and winter Sixes.
With just about everything on ‘hold’ awaiting le Tour kicking off in Yorkshire, we thought we’d slip back through the decades to a different era. One where the ‘big motors’ were still the thing; Six Days packed them in and pave didn’t just come in two kilometer packages. You may not have heard of Englishman, Norman Hill – but he has the T-shirt, video and DVD as a ‘stayer,’ Six Day man and kermis rider on the hard roads of Flanders and The Netherlands.
Back in 1972 when Edinburgh's Meadowbank Velodrome was still a thing of beauty and not kindling-in-waiting, the British Madison Championships were held there. The men who won that day were the young Australian rider, Murray Hall – then riding for Croydon Premier - and his compatriot, Tom Moloney. We caught up with Murray recently during our researches about the Six Day races of old - he has a good tale to tell.
If you’re a Six Day fan then you’ll have your favourite stylist – maybe it’s the spectacular but so smooth Iljo Keisse or perhaps the robotic ‘Big Bob’ Bartko or the physical style of Wim Stroetinga? But there’s a man missing from the boards, this season who for me was the most stylish rider of his generation – tall, slim Dutchman, Peter Schep. We caught up with Peter as battle raged in the Rotterdam Six Day, a race in which he was victorious twice.
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.
It's a term bandied around a lot; 'legend', too often in fact, in a world where superlatives fly around - but this gentleman really does deserve the title. Robert Bartko has been at the top of his trade for two decades and on Tuesday night in Copenhagen's Ballerup Super Arena he went out in style with his 21st Six Day win off 79 starts. It was just a matter of hours before the Copenhagen finale when his big frame filled the doorway of the VeloVeritas cabin before he sat down to chat to us about his career.
Watched by 75,000 spectators over the course of the event in the velodrome Landsberger Allee, Andreas Müller and Kenny de Ketele won the 103rd edition of the Berlin Six Day. On the last day and the last race they overtook the long-time leaders Leif Lampater and Jasper de Buyst with a race winning attack - exciting stuff. Third place went to Robert Bartko, which was his last time in Berlin at the Six with his young partner Theo Reinhardt.
Bremen used to be the 'Party Six’ and whilst it’s still a fun gig with beer halls, restaurants, discos and live music, the crowds ain’t quite like they used to be. Our man in the middle of those steep 167 metres of boards at the Bremen Six Day 2014 was the perennial Kris; here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas on his return from the Fatherland...
The phone rings – it’s Viktor, VeloVeritas’ resident sage, critic and general cycling Nostradamus. I steel myself; ‘Happy New Year’ I say. ‘Aye, Happy New Year to you, too – here, have you been watching the live stream from Rotterdam, it’s brilliant!’ and that’s how I came to be speaking to Mr. David Harmon...
This Six Day season marks the end of an era. Depending upon which source you consult, Franco Marvulli of Switzerland has ridden somewhere between 112 and 117 Six Days, this makes him the most prolific rider on the circuit by a considerable margin – Robert Bartko for example has ridden 75, Iljo Keisse has 72 starts. Marvulli has won 32; not to mention four world titles – two in the scratch and two in the madison and Olympic silver in the same discipline. So how come his ‘goodbye’ isn’t a bigger deal?
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.
We thought that you might like to hear what it was like to be a Six Day runner back in a time when the Sixes meant more than they do now. The big road stars were in action and it was full houses all across Europe – particularly in Germany. John Purser is the man’s name and here’s his tale.