The crowd counts us down; the pistol cracks; I give Franco a hefty shove; ‘Cara Mia’ blasts from the PA and the Copenhagen 6 Dages Lob (Copenhagen Six Day 2009) is well and truly underway.
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…
Then there’s the thrill of working with some of the fastest men on the planet — Michael Mørkøv, Alex Rasmussen and Jens-Erik Madsen rode four kilometres in 3-56 at the Beijing Olympics — and a feeling that’s harder to put into words, that of being in a little world all of it’s own where nothing matters except the race.
Alex Rasmussen’s shoes went missing, we had to change cabins after spending ages setting things up just right, there’s moans from the mechanics about riders dumping them without warning, moans from the riders about the programme — yes, it’s just like a Six should be!
The race director at Copenhagen, Henrik Elmgreen, likes to consider that his race is one of the last bastions of the ‘old school,’ Sixes, sticking with long chases when most venues have long realised that in a world of instant gratification, most folks don’t want endless Madisons.
But at Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen it’s straight into a 60 minute ‘Abningsjagt‘ for the ‘squirrels,’ as they called the riders in the old days.
Alex drops down for a drink early in the chase; Six Day wisdom says that’s a bad sign, it’s certainly bad for me, I have to chase the discarded bottle half way round the track.
Half distance, and the late Rick James is telling us about his ‘Super Freak’ girlfriend; ‘the kind you don’t take home to mother!’ — I always wanted one like that!
Meanwhile Michael Smith Larsen looses the tail of the string as Alex drinks more and I keep trotting round the track.
No one looks ‘special’ tonight, Peter Schep looks as cool as usual, but not ‘super’ — it’s a lot easier to spot riders who look tired and/or rough, this evening.
The new slimline Alex Aeschbach isn’t enjoying it, Jacob Moe’s elbows are sticking out even further than usual tonight and even Bruno is panting a bit.
Michael gives Kris a wink from the string, though — that’s a good sign.
Garmin Americans Colby Pearce and Daniel Holloway look at home, but the Argentineans, Sebastian Donadio and Angel Dario Collo find themselves on the wrong end of Peter Schep’s mighty hollers a few times.
The sprint starts late, just two out, and it’s Franco and Bruno who lift the flowers; Bruno Risi, a legend, how many bouquets is that – he’s won 57 sixes off 173 starts?
I’m ‘on;’ get a towel, hat and a drink to the finish line for Franco for the presentation, then trot back to the cabins and get Alex and Michael changed — helmets, jerseys, vests and mitts off, wipe their sweating torsos down with cologne, help them on with a fresh vest and jersey, get them drinks, put the sweaty clothes in the tumble drier.
When I tell folk I’m going to a Six, they always tell me about the bars, clubs and places of ill-repute that they think I’ll be sampling; I just agree with them now and don’t even mention the pee pails.
It gets ‘blurry’ after that — wash bottles – fold jerseys – make Complan shakes – get tea – is that the ‘devil’ that’s on? – take Jens-Erik to the cabin because he’s sick — dernys, and Michael needs his shades – tidy the cabins — flying lap and I take a minute to watch ‘my’ boys, Alex and Michael.
Michael does the wind up laps, his built like a greyhound and his position on the bike is just right; long stem down tight on the top head race, seat set high, his back is flat and parallel to the bo