The ‘Devil’ had just started in Day three of the Rotterdam Six Day 2012 when I wandered down the stairs in search of bottles of water (still – no gas), and by the time I got back what should have been ‘just another race’ had become another of those episodes which remind you that as well as being glamorous, the sport is also a very dangerous one.
Nick Stöpler isn’t a big name yet in the world of the Sixes, but the fact that the organisers paired him with Danish star Alex Rasmussen says a lot about what they hope for in the future from this young man.
But in a blink, on Saturday night, his career may be at an end.
The first story was that his ‘Sphinx’ bars had done the damage — displacing his knee cap and slicing the muscle and tendon at the right knee.
But I spoke to Alex after the incident and his take was that Stöpler had hit the fence at the top of turn one; on top of the fence are little struts which support the top rail and it’s one of those that his knee had hit.
Alex isn’t a man who gives praise easily but he reckoned that the young Dutchman was full of racing and his problem was to rein him in, rather than gee him up.
Stöpler already has a Six Day win to his name — at Tilburg, a Dutch madison title and two medals from the 2011 European U23 Track Championships — points silver and madison bronze.
Let’s hope those aren’t his last medals — and if you’re of a mind, Alex tells me there’s a video of the incident on YouTube, I’ll ‘pass’ on that, though.
On the unhappy subject of crashes, there was one in the U23 Six Day with much hollering and holding of sore bums — nothing serious though.
There’s a lot of racing outside of the Elite Six; as well as the U23, there are girls — Charline Joiner is back for Scotland — and sprinters.
There are some big names in that tournament — Mickael Bourgain of France is a multiple European, Worlds and Olympics medalist in the sprint and team sprint; as is team mate Kevin Sireau who is also the ‘fastest man alive’ — with 9.5 for the last 200 in Moscow.
Teun Mulder is the ‘homeboy’ and his palmares are impressive — former World Keirin and Kilometre Champion as well as Team Sprint Worlds medals.
The fourth man is Andy Lakatosh of the USA, a Worlds Junior Sprint Silver Medallist in 2002 — but the watches never lie and whilst the other three are all dipping well under 11 seconds in the one lap time trial, Andy posts 11.1 every night.
The lap record belongs to Scotland’s very own Chris Hoy with 10.305, but Sireau was close tonight with 10.312.
Bourgain’s music for the time trial is AC/DC with ‘Highway to Hell,’ Andy’s is ‘Born in the USA’ — very original.
But I can’t criticise the music here, there are occasional lapses into bad Europop, but any Six Day that plays Nina Simone in the chases deserves respect.
Despite my best efforts to keep out of the way, Dirk tracked me down to push off Alex in the Derny; ‘no problem Dirk, great!’
Alex is a big boy and unlike the inexperienced riders he doesn’t start to stomp on the pedals until you’re at heart attack levels with the push — this saves his legs, but not yours!
It’s rather academic anyway because it seems that only Dutch guys win in the Derny.
The time trials are cool — spotlights, lasers, thumping base and the crowd love them.
Franco and Jens Mouris are good — but Schep and Stroetinga are better, Schep’s lead out style is immaculate, Stroetinga’s sprinting style isn’t — his head, elbows and knees are everywhere – but that boy is quick.
He was World Junior Scratch Race Champion in 2003 and has twice been on the Worlds Scratch podium since.
He’s quick on the road too — with wins in tough events like the Olympia Tour.
The last chase was a hard one, again — although Bobby Traksel wasn’t in quite such a mess.
Jesper gave me one of his speciality cross eyed looks from the top of the banking just to keep me in the picture about the pace.