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Snapshots from the Flat Lands – Gent Six Day and Koksijde ‘Dune Cross’

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Gent Six Day Snapshots

Gent Six Day
Gunther looks for his rider, bottles at the ready.

It took me back to the days when I stood up there, bottles at the ready for Kris to hand up – but not too much in them so they don’t splash when the rider grabs them – just taking in the speed, noise, music, heat, people and that Gent buzz – high as a kite on the Six Days.

Gent Six Day
It’s Party Time!

‘It’s party time!’ one of the things I like about Flandrians is that they have few inhibitions; when it’s time to party – they party!

Gent Six Day
Garry Haggar giving it large.

Garry Haggar would work the clubs if he was in Scotland – wee and tubby but with the voice of a man twice his size; the crowd loves him.

Every year he orbits the track, radio mic in hand, belting out unintelligible Flemish songs but also some great versions of English language songs; ‘Hey Las Vegas…’

Gent Six Day
The frittur does great business at Koksijde.

I know, I should stop taking pics of ‘chip karts’ but it’s a compulsion; this one was among the dunes at Koksijde on Saturday afternoon.

Gent Six Day
Sven Nys is perfectly at home on the rough stuff.

Sven leads but Van der Haar in World Cup leader’s jersey is right behind him.

Is van der Haar the next Sven? – the young Dutchman is talented but Nys is Legend and a hard act to follow.

Gent Six Day
Riding in thick sand is not easy.

It sounds daft but you have to hit the top of the drop offs, fast.

If you don’t, when you hit the sand hump at the top of the drop you don’t drive through it and this happens.

Gent Six Day
British ‘Cross Champion Ian Field in the mix.

Seeding is all in ‘cross, if you’re down the grid you’re much more liable to get caught in crashes like the one above and get held up in traffic.

Here Ian Field tries to pick his way up the string – not easy.

Field’s season started well with two top 20’s in World Cups but he was late 20’s in Koksijde – not fully recovered from a virus.

Gent Six Day
Bart Wellens was the World Champion twice, ten years ago.

The former World Champion Wellens is past his best but still a top ten performer and hugely popular with the fans.

Gent Six Day
Niels Albert, World Champ in 2009 and 2012.

Another former World Champion, Niels Albert, but this one is approaching his peak.

He was a level above everyone in Koksijde and looked to be having fun.

On this run up I was able to take two shots of him – I managed five for other riders, which illustrates the difference in speeds.

Gent Six Day
Brake discs are beginning to make inroads in the sport.

They’re coming! – for ‘cross, at least.

They guarantee the same stopping distance on every corner – highly desirable in the sand of Koksijde or when the snow comes.

Laars van der Haar won the first two World Cups on them – that won’t do their rep any harm.

Gent Six Day
Several riders put the barriers to another use, but it probably wasn’t the quickest way to get over the sand dunes.

Some riders found that you could ride the run ups – with a little help from the barriers…

Gent Six Day
Jonathan Page, second in the Worlds in 2007.

Jonathan Page was a silver medallist in the Worlds not so long ago and was on good start money.

The pay days will be diminished these days but as US champion the organisers still like to have him on the start sheets – and he looks the part.

Gent Six Day
Albert drives.

The last few laps Albert was cruising, making it look easy as men like Nys, Mourey and Walsleben huffed, puffed and pulled faces.

The man just loves the sand.

Gent Six Day
Iljo Kiesse (bottom) storms a derny race.

Gent without Iljo – is simply unthinkable.

He was under a lot of pressure as a young man to replace Etienne de Wilde as King of the Kuipke but he took it all in his stride and is now a Deity in Gent.

He loves this race, the fans adore him and the arrogance of his younger days has gone.

And no one looks better on a track bike than Iljo Keisse.

Gent Six Day
Andreas Müller looks relaxed.

Rock solid in the chases and a World Cup and Worlds star in his own right; smiling Austrian Andreas Müller always has the next contract signed and is a VeloVeritas favourite – we like real pros.

Gent Six Day
Plenty bikes at the station show we have a long way to go in the UK.

Another picture I keep taking but shouldn’t; I can’t help it – still such a great image.

This bike park is right behind the frituur just up from the station in Gent.

Gent Six Day
Plenty of locals attend the Six for the cheap beer and to party with their mates.

There are those who pay the admission but hardly see the Six; that’s because it’s not just a bike race – a social event, a party, a chance to see and be seen, to meet old friends and drink pils.

Gent Six Day
Iljo takes a moment after the finish to come to terms with not being on the top podium step.

As the man himself said; ‘I can’t win every year.’

Gent Six Day
Gijs Van Hoecke and partner Kenny de Ketele.

Kenny is ‘Mr. Never Say Die’ – always the first to attack in the big chases, he doesn’t win them all but he always tries hard.

Gils wasn’t at his best, tired after a long road season and his Amsterdam Six win he left Kenny with a lot of work to do.

What we didn’t know until Sunday night was that his mum passed away on Saturday – VeloVeritas would like to express our condolences and applaud his professionalism.

Gent Six Day
Leif Lampater took the win with partner Jasper De Buyst.

A quiet, reserved man, I’ve never seen Lampater as happy as he was on Sunday night – for us, the strongest man on the track and a deserved winner.

Is De Buyst the new Keisse ? – we’ll have to wait 12 months for the next chapter of that story.

Gent Six Day
The lad.s outside the Bar De Faraos

In Spain they say, ‘La Penultima’ – the second last drink; the last drink comes when you go to meet your maker.

Ours was in Faraos; it’s not for the faint hearted – there’s no smoking ban in there but the pils was cool and besides, the Vivaldi is shut on a Sunday…

See you next year?

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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