Steve Penny has been bringing you the race reports from the Berlin Six Day, John Young the action images, so I thought we’d look at the people who make the “Berlin 6 Tage Rennen” such a unique affair.
At the start of each evening they have a ‘Vorstellung der Parade der Asse‘ – a parade of champions.
This year there was only one bona fide senior rainbow jersey holder – World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele.
Charlotte Becker was wearing a rainbow jersey, too – initially I couldn’t figure out what for.
It’s actually for being a member of the winning team in the ladies’ team time trial.
No rainbow jerseys were awarded for the event; but that doesn’t stop the Berlin organisers from giving one to Charlotte – no one seemed to mind.
Berlin is as much about sprinting as it is about chases, the noise levels for the sprinters are off the scale.
They line them all up every night after the champions parade – Max Levy (in blue) is the man on form, breaking the track record, one evening.
Albeit Robert Forstemann’s thighs are bigger than Max’s – they’re unfeasibly large.
Standstills? There’s none of that UCI ‘time limit’ nonsense here; take as long as you like – and the crowd just loves it.
The other event that lifts the roof is the ‘stayer’ racing – motorpaced.
The speeds in the last 10 laps are scary – no wonder Czech rider Ricard Faltus was looking a tad stressed prior to his 80 laps of madness.
Our boy behind the BMW’s is Zach Kovalcik, he’s a little left-field; a vegan with big tattoos and an exotic taste in haircuts.
But he’s USA Omnium Champion and can’t be faulted for his courage at taking on the challenge of riding on skinny tubulars at 80 kph around a 250 metre board track – wild!
I wondered where Berlin got it’s name from – it comes from the German word for ‘bear.’
The furry chaps still wander the stadium – and do OK with the frauleins.
We no longer work for Franco Marvulli, but I still like the big, handsome man from Zürich.
As well as ‘Marvellous,’ he’s now ‘Magical’ keeping anyone who’ll watch entertained with magic tricks – the media love it.
It was good to see Nick Stöpler back on the boards.
He had a horrendous crash at Rotterdam in 2012 and it was feared his career was over.
He told me he only rode four road races, last season and whilst he felt his form as Rotterdam was OK, he’s tired here in Berlin.
But he’s just glad to be back to be back doing what he loves.
Kenny De Ketele is a new man these days – the transformation started last winter when he won the European Madison Championship with Iljo Keisse, followed that up with winning the Gent Six with Big Bob Bartko then iced the cake by winning the World Madison title in Melbourne with Gijs Van Hoecke.
This winter Kenny’s won in Grenoble and Zürich as well as coming a close second in Gent.
He’s confident without being arrogant, approachable and has worn the rainbow jersey with pride.
UCI European Tour winner, John Degenkolb collected his award on Monday night – looking sharp in suede shoes and tweed tie.
I remember seeing Andre Greipel getting an award at this race a year or two ago – in jeans and lumberjack shirt.
But I wouldn’t be the man to tell him off…
Our boy Guy East was riding with us for the second time – he rode Grenoble last October.
And when he saw Erik Zabel pay a visit, he had to speak to him…
Back at the Worlds in Hamilton, Canada in 2003, a young Guy was at the finish, his dad having taken him to see the race.
Seeing Erik Zabel, he approached the German fast man and asked if he could have his race cap.
Zabel told the little monkey to, ‘be off with you!‘
So our boy Guy, for it was he, grabbed the hat and bolted!
Mr. Zabel was highly amused by the tale.
There were other famous names around – ‘Zijlaard,’ for one.
But not the famous, rotund Derny pilot, his granddaughter, the bonnie Nicky; and as you’d expect, she ain’t bad behind the little motorbike.
Another name known to us was ‘John Young’ – his pictures just keep getting better.
Here he chats to our boy, Zach.
The name Guillaume Michiels might not mean much to you; but even if you’re not an old fogey like me you’ll be aware of Eddy Merckx – and his breaking of the world hour record in Mexico in 1972.
Guillaume was the man who rubbed the life back into Eddy’s tortured legs after his 60 minutes on the rack, and was Big Ted’s soigneur for his whole career.
Now in his late 70’s he’s still a formidable character, with hands like hams from 50 years of rubbing legs.
But man does not live by watching Six Days alone – and now and again you need a hot dog, and a mug of beer to wash it down, naturally.
The live sounds in Berlin usually range from bad through worse to dire.
But this year they had Electric Light Orchestra (Part Two) – no Jeff Lynne; but there was original band member Phil Bates on guitar and vocals.
I heard them at rehearsals without knowing who they were and thought; ‘those boys are good, they sound just like ELO!‘
Our mechanic, Dirk Dekeyser has been at every Six Day I’ve been too, he keeps me abreast of all things Belgian.
Like the fact that poor old Eddy Wally has had to hung up his pale blue suit and white hat for good and is now in an old folks’ home.
Dirk get bored if the racing isn’t good; ‘are you bored yet?‘ I’ll ask him.
‘No, but it’s still early!‘
Jorg, the German mechanic wasn’t bored on Monday night.
Eventual race winner, Roger Kluge punctured late in the chase and hurtled in for a none-too-“calm and collected” bike change.
But his spare bike was on the big Derny gear and was breaking his legs.
As soon as Jorg had changed the wheel on his madison bike, Rodge was back in again – this time it all looked a lot more professional.
And one for our Peace Race specialist friend Ivan; East German and professional hard man, Olaf Ludwig came to call.
Perhaps denied his best years by the demands of the East German ‘machine’ – he still had time to win a Tour de France green jersey and the Amstel Gold Race during an illustrious pro career.
But when the tinsel settled, there was only one King of Berlin – Roger the First, and he has the crown to prove it.