The 102nd Berlin Six Day 2013 (or Berliner Sechstagerennen) starts in the German Capital on Thursday night. This event is one of the classics of the winter track calendar but despite that unfortunately Six Day racing continues to be in decline.
This is not just something that can be laid at the door of the global economy, rather just a fact of life that times change. As events have left established Six Day cities such as Dortmund, Munich and Stuttgart in recent years due to lack of sponsors and public interest it is left too Berlin, and Bremen, to fly the flag in the country that was once the European home of Six Day racing.
The quality and composition of this year’s field is, like it has been at all this winter’s Sixes, a mixed bag, as there are very few riders that now race at every Six.
In bygone years there was a ‘blue train’ of established riders who went from city to city racing long into the night hours. That culture appears, like the events, to be a thing of the past as riders from the host countries tend to dominate the start lists in those countries’ respective Sixes.
This year the Berlin starting field is, on paper, even weaker than it was 12 months ago.
The list has numerous Berlin debutants as well as 4 or 5 young Six Day novices / rookies. The organisers have not been able to bring riders such as Michael Mørkøv, Iljo Keisse Leigh Howard, Cameron Meyer, Glenn O’Shea or Gijs Van Hoecke to Berlin, probably due their commitment to trade team contracts.
But with the quality of Six Day riders becoming as scarce as events it was again a surprise to see that a few of the strong specialists such as Marc Hester, Christian Grasmann and Silvan Dillier didn’t make the start list either.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as the riders who are present will be motivated to put in performances and compete to the best of their varying abilities, after all the show must go on. So the 32 riders will again start their race to nowhere on the 250 metre track, entertaining another noisy Berlin public inside the Landsberger Allee Velodrome.
Let’s look at the field;
Roger Kluge starts only his second Six Day race of the winter as the organisers favourite and is paired with veteran Dutchman Peter Schep.
The talent of Kluge is undoubted and after a great start to his career in 2008 he was seen as a potential star of track and road. Last year his goals of an Olympic medal and improvement on the road didn’t materialise. Entering 2013 at nearly 27 he is he is no longer a young, up and coming future star. He’ll still be seen as the man to beat though so he’ll come to Berlin with a point to prove and will want a second victory in his capital city, following a win with Robert Bartko in 2011.
This is a strong team, especially in a field with no other obvious favourites, as Kluge has the speed and Schep the endurance to make a classic Six Day partnership.
World Madison Champion Kenny de Ketele, has had a good winter season in the rainbow jersey winning two events and placing 2nd in a very hard fought Ghent Six. He is paired with experienced Australian Luke Roberts who returned to Six Day racing with a 2nd place in Bremen (alongside Leif Lampater) last week.
This year De Ketele seems to have improved his finishing speed to go with his increased strength and Six Day experience so alongside a strong pursuit rider like Roberts this team should be the main challengers to Kluge / Schep.
Other Podium Contenders
A couple of years ago Franco ‘marvellous’ Marvulli appeared to be in premature decline but after a good last winter he has continued to show he has indeed re-found his form and most importantly his enthusiasm. Last week he won the Bremen Six with Marcel Kalz and comes into one of his favourite events in good form as well as with good morale, the mental side has always been part of the battle for Franco.
His partner is Berlin born, Austrian national team rider, Andreas Müller who also showed well in Bremen with a career best 4th placed finish.
With so few big name riders in the field Müller gets a rare chance to ride with a top performer – many his previous 70-odd Sixes have been spent looking after inexperienced riders. Mulli, as he is affectionately known, was born just a short walk from the velodrome so with Marvulli at his side his motivation will be sky-high. His chances of making his first ever podium have probably never been better.
The Berlin based Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz are reunited following their good showings at the last four Berlin Sixes. The 25 year old Kalz starts in his hometown on the back of his first ever win in Bremen, with Franco Marvulli.
His partner Bengsch won his one and only Six Day a