Contributor Steve Penny summarises the action for us from Het Kuipke (the little oval) last night, as we reach the halfway point in the Gent Six Day 2012. The crowds filed into Het Kuipke in the thousands to meet friends, drink a beer or two and watch the 72nd Gent Six as it approached the all important weekend.
Before the racing started it was announced that Wim Stroetinga was out of the race – for now – with a stomach problem. This would explain why he and partner Peter Schep had not been scoring many points over the first two nights.
The programme started with the Team Elimination (or ‘Devil’ as old school English speakers call it).
The 20 points on offer went to Iljo Keiise / Glenn O’Shea, the local hero (Keisse) outsprinting Gijs Van Hoecke.
The World Madison Champions, Van Hoecke and Kenny De Ketele, have made a good start and are going toe-to-toe with Keisse / O’Shea in what appears to be a two horse race this year.
After taking second in the first race the Belgian World Madison Champions Van Hoecke / De Ketele got back to winning ways in the points race.
Flying Lap Time Trial (TT)
Wednesday saw Tristan Marguet break the track record posting a stunning 8.57 seconds.
Tonight normality was restored when Iljo Keisse won in 8.74, although not a time to be scoffed at. The Swiss had Franco Marvulli on the last lap and the time, 8.80, shows he is going well but it wasn’t enough to beat Keisse.
Meanwhile it was interesting to see that each night seven of the 13 teams has gone under nine seconds. Not something I recall happening before and if Stroetinga was healthy you could almost certainly make that eight teams.
1st Madison (45 minutes)
The first Madison wasn’t the most exciting you’ll see but was, as ever, fast and furious. Four teams went a lap clear of the field with Keisse / O’Shea taking it from Dillier / Bartko and Van Hoecke / De Ketele. The Kaiser of Het Kuipke, Iljo Keisse, won the sprint with a trade mark bunny hop across the finish line.
He and a strong Glenn O’Shea really look like they are the clear favourites to be the Champions in 2012.
Every night there are a series of four Derny races on the programme.
They are traditionally crowd pleasing affairs and don’t affect the standings too much.
That said, they are still a feat as the riders hold onto their pace maker at around 50-60 kmph. The wins tonight went too Jaspar De Buyste – acquitting himself best of the young Belgians, Kenny De Ketele, Gijs Van Hoecke and last but not least Tim Mertens – making it a Belgian sweep.
The story this week though is the last appearance here of the legendary showman Derny pacer, Joop Zijlaard. Described in the programme as a ‘monument’, the Rotterdam native has been pace making since 1970.
He bids farewell to Ghent where he is best remembered (by me anyway) for his antics pacing the local legend Etienne De Wilde to win after crowd pleasing win in this very building.
His final appearance will be, fittingly, in January’s Rotterdam Six when the family Derny baton passes onto his son Ron who himself is now a pace maker.
Individual Elimination Race 1
The big boys took their feet off the gas here and allowed some of the other riders a piece of the limelight, this one going to Andreas Müller.
He will have enjoyed a morale boosting win as his partner Max Stahr is having a baptism of fire in his first ever pro Six.
500 Metre TT
The reason Tristan Marguet let Franco race the flying lap became apparent when he broke the 500 metre track record with 27.03 (66.59 kmph). Together they broke a record held for 10 years by Marty Nothstein and Jimmi Madsen.
The 25 year old Marguet now holds both the Six Day Time Trial records on this track. Can he better them before the finish on Sunday? Watch this space.
2nd Madison (30 minutes)
This chase was one were the leading teams Keisse / O’Shea and Van Hoecke / De Ketele let five teams take a lap and scrap for the bouquet. The three-time Gent Six winner Robert Bartko won the sprint for his partner Silvan Dillier.
During the victory lap Bartko seemed to be giving Dillier, 15 years his junior, a bit of advice, no doubt wise words from a double Olympic and four time World Champion. Not to mention 19 Six Day race victories.
Individual Elimination Race 2
This was a race the leaders once again left to the riders from the middle to bottom end of the standings.
The winner on this occasion was Steve Schets, who unfortunately has followed up my preview notes by again propping up the standings on his return, a huge 25 laps in arrears.
Rounding off the programme where sprints and looking for a rest the big boys again sat up during the eliminations and left for an early shower, if 01.40am is early?
The winner was Team 11 Schets / Breyne giving them a 2nd bit of cheer in the last few races after an otherwise miserable few nights.
Summary after 3 Days
At the end of the night as expected the two favourites topped the standings and will fight it out all the way to the finish.
The half-term report looks favourably on Hansen / Hester going well in 3rd and Bartko / Dillier will also be pleased but neither team has built up enough points and would need to gain laps to be victorious.
Marvulli / Marguet have broken two track records and are getting into form for Zurich, no surprise there.
Schep / Stroetinga are not a factor due to illness, a disappointment as they would have been seen as the main challengers.