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HomeDiariesBremen, and the Fall (and Rise?) of the German Sixes

Bremen, and the Fall (and Rise?) of the German Sixes

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Rotterdam has been won and lost; and now, so too has Bremen – Home Boys Bartko/Bensch topped the podium from Suisse pair Franco Marvulli/Alexander Aeschbach with the Danes, Jens-Erik Madsen/Marc Hester third.

German Sixes
Jens-Erik and Marc.

The home win was greatly assisted by a format which dispensed with Dernys and was time trial heavy.

There was a one lap, 500 metre and 1,000 metre time test every day.

There were points for all three but significantly, there was a bonus lap if a team won all three – something which the Germans managed to achieve on a couple of occasions.

Not only that, a win in all three also meant 50 bonus points – bear in mind that every time a team achieves 100 points they gain a bonus lap and it means that the time trial wins were worth one-and-a-half laps advantage.

Most didn’t like the format – but Bartko/Bensch loved it!

German Sixes
Big Bob Bartko.

Stuttgart used to start on the Thursday after Bremen finished on the Tuesday – but Stuttgart is now history, however more of that in a moment.

I didn’t work at Bremen, but I helped Kris unload the camper – here are my meanderings from that Wednesday…

“Day Seven”

In Six Day parlance, ‘day seven’ is when the riders turn up a day early, expect massage and food, but at no additional expense.

Wednesday was ‘day seven’ for me – I had to help Kris unload the camper at Bremen before I caught my Ryanair flight; but I really enjoyed the experience.

It’s around five hours by road at sane speeds from Rotterdam to Bremen.

The terrain is flat all the way, there’s the odd wee hill to the left and right of the motorway but most of the time the tarmac – but more concrete in Germany – slices straight across Northern Europe.

Bremen is in Northern Germany, to the south of the Danish peninsula and this was my first time of visiting.

If you’re a beer lover you’ll know that Bremen is the home of Becks – maybe that should be the other way round; Becks is home to Bremen. The brewery is huge, the road runs past it for what seems like a couple of kilometres; the green and red signs are everywhere.

A question that thinking folks on the circuit ponder a lot is; ‘what’s responsible for the demise of the German Sixes?’

What struck me as we drove around Bremen city was the total lack of promotional posters for the race.

Posters and billboards work, that’s why people selling a commodity have used then for hundreds of years, from Wild Bill Hickok’s Circus to Giorgio Armani.

The only posters I saw were in the Six Day hall, there was no promotional material that I could see posted beside the main roads in the city.

The hall for the Six Day is of futuristic design, part of an exhibition centre or ‘messe.’ The 166 metre track is temporary though, erected each year specifically for the Six.

German Sixes
The hall for the Six Day is of futuristic design, part of an exhibition centre or ‘messe.’

The carpenters were still at work as we hauled the micro wave oven, coffee machine, massage table, spin dryer, tumble dryer, Franco’s bike and all the other paraphernalia that ‘civilians’ never consider into the ‘ka-been.’

The track centre cabins at Bremen are under the stage where the live acts appear. When the bands are giving it laldie-pap the dust starts to fall down from the ceiling on to the staff and riders, below.

German Sixes
The track centre cabins at Bremen are under the stage where the live acts appear.

On the subject of bands, what made me want to ignore my flight and stay in Bremen for the duration even more – apart from the racing – were the live acts, Boney M – but without extrovert front man Bobby Farrell; unfortunately he went up to the big disco in the sky just a few weeks ago, and Scotland’s own Middle of the Road; with lead singer Sally Carr still looking great.

My Middle of the Road story is from when I was at school, way back in the early 70’s. My buddy, Jimmy Gregory was a rock connoisseur, Cream, Leslie West and the like.

He decided to go to a Middle of the Road gig in Burntisland Palais one weekend to heckle and behave ‘ironically’ at these musical lightweights.

On the Monday, when I asked him how it went, he told me; ‘I hate to admit it but they were f***ing brilliant!’

German Sixes
Middle Of The Road.

Bremen is famous as being the ‘party Six’ – the adjacent halls contain all manner of bars, restaurants and discos when the Six is underway.

But Kris says that even that isn’t like it used to be.

I interviewed Six Day stalwart, Andreas Muller the other day and asked him why he thought the Sixes in Germany had slid so much.

He started off by explaining that some German promoters have been playing the same music for ten years; that’s the length of his career.

And when I mentioned this to Kris, he reckoned it was more like 25 years – as Andreas said;

“The people who like this music are all dead!”

The drug scandals were the next thing, they just kept on coming – Ulrich, Aldag, Zabel, Sinkewitz, Hondo… The public, with their flames of righteous indignation fanned by the media voted with their feet.

Simultaneously, the TV stations boycotted the sixes; if you lived in the UK and had an analogue satellite dish it used to be possible to watch most of the German sixes on TV every night – ask our pal Viktor.

I asked Andreas if Zabel’s retirement was a factor;

“No, not really, the people weren’t for him like they are for Iljo in Gent and his name was also involved in the drug scandals.”

He also made the point that the promoters were very late to embrace modern technology;

“It’s only in the last year or two that some sixes have had a website; it was hard to get information about the race on the internet and this is where everyone goes for information, nowadays.”

Albeit there’s live streaming from races, now – Zurich for example.

But to Andreas’s mind, the biggest malaise which caused the slide was complacency;

“The numbers go down a little and the promoter thinks, it’ll be better next year, but it’s not, it’s worse.

“They decide to do something but by then it’s too late.

“At Munich they were trying new ideas, and they were good – but they came too late.”

All I hope is that Bremen survives, so that next year I can have that dust from the stage falling on me – and I can get Sally Carr’s autograph.

Just a little bit lonely, just a little bit sad…

– from ‘Soley, soley’ by Middle of the Road.

But maybe there’s a happy ending?

We reported the other day that there is to be a revival of the Hanover Six in December of this year with Cologne coming back in November 2012.

In addition they mention Leipzig for 2012 and talks about Frankfurt and Mannheim.

But we’ve heard that there’s reason for joy even sooner, with Dusseldorf set for this April.

It can’t be bad.

And that unicorn of the Six day world (much discussed but seldom seen) – London, has the drums beating just a little louder, with talk of tenders for track prices.

Maybe I will be able to disappear for the whole winter, one day?

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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