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Gent Six Day 2014 – One of the ‘Straightest’ Sixes We’ve Seen

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I remember once, after the last chase in a Six Day I asked Dirk, our Belgian mechanic; ‘was that finale ‘straight’ Dirk?’

He fixed me with a patient stare, much as a good parent would do after their child has said something silly, ‘have you ever seen a ‘straight’ Six Day, Ed?

I took his point, they’re all pretty much choreographed – but like I keep saying, you have to be able to take laps out of a string riding at 52-53 kph to win.

But I reckon that on Sunday evening I did see a straight finale – and our cycling sage and mentor, Vik shares my opinion having watched the finale on the computer; probably getting a better view and appreciation of the racing than I did.

The last 20 minutes or so were savage; up close you could see the pain on the faces with De Ketele and De Buyst looking increasingly determined and Cav and Iljo looking increasingly desperate.

They fought hard but those Topsport boys wanted it bad; De Ketele’s hand slings were a sight to see – so much power.

Gent Six Day
Mark Cavendish waits for his partner Iljo Keisse after the final madison chase. Photo©Ed Hood

Gent Six Day
Cavendish and Keisse gave it their best shot. Photo©Ed Hood

At the death Cav got off his bike and waited for Iljo, they walked down to their cabin together where they embraced like lovers before one goes to the gallows.

Gent Six Day
A disappointed Team No.3 in their cabin. Photo©Ed Hood.

Then they slumped into the cabin – broken, silent and stunned.

Would that all Six Days ended as dramatically as this one did.

But you left us on our way back from the Koksijde Cyclo-Cross on Saturday afternoon…

Gent Six Day
OPQS team boss Patrick Lefevre had to pay the race organisation a lot of money to have his guys ride in the squad’s colours. Photo©Ed Hood

Saturday night’s chase was a tame affair but the show goes on and you have to keep taking those pictures.

Gent Six Day
The Dolan bikes used by Cav and Keisse. Photo©Ed Hood

The bikes have changed much over the years, shine has given way to matt, ‘slim elegance’ has become ‘muscular purposefulness’ and ‘aero’ has entered the vocabulary with Iljo’s Dolan pretty much the benchmark Six Day bike.

Like Michael Mørkøv, Iljo pays for his steeds whilst giving the Liverpool builder the very best exposure.

Gent Six Day
Most of the full house in the Kuipke seem to have left their seats and hit the bars in the track centre. Photo©Ed Hood

If the bikes looked good then so did the girls, singing their way round the track and sounding great if you’d had a few pils.

Several years ago at Gent, Vik and I were spectating and a tad worse the wear from pils when Belgian singer Garry Hagger did his thing with the radio mic.

Tony Christie’s ‘Hey Las Vegas’ was the number – ‘brilliant!’ Vik and I agreed.

A year or two later, when I was working at the Six and stone-cold sober Garry was back on the bill – he was brutal.

Who says pils isn’t the answer?

Gent Six Day
Andreas Müler. Photo©Ed Hood

Andreas Müller is always a good guy to chat to and is now European Madison Champion with Austrian compatriot, Andreas Graf.

He told me that all those racing trips to Trinidad he’s been on over the years prepared him well for the heat of Guadeloupe where this year’s Europeans were run.

But Graf didn’t get a ride at Gent – the contracts were signed just days before the two grabbed their win – shame…

Gent Six Day
The Derny races are still crowd-pleasers, but are rather too obvious for us these days. Photo©Ed Hood

The Dernys droned – and we headed for the Vivaldi.

Gent Six Day
Callum isn’t sleeping. Photo©Ed Hood

Callum tells us that when we think he’s grabbing extra shut eye he’s actually meditating – but we were a tad late in getting back from the Vivaldi…

Gent Six Day
An art installation under the trees. Photo©Ed Hood

On the way up to the track on a beautiful autumn Sunday morning we passed this ‘graveyard’ to the world’s art galleries in the Citadel Park.

I had to trawl the internet until I got to the bottom of it; it’s an artwork by Leo Copers and thanks to Monica at The Travel Hack blog here’s the juice;

“This pure and simple display is found beneath the trees in the Citadel Park and, yes, they are granite tombstones from museums around the world.

“This is because Copers believes museums have turned into a leisure park of mass production and ‘art-tourism’.

“He believes that art should be authentic and mysterious and our over analysis, interpretation and classification is ruining art.”

His logic could equally apply to modern day cycle sport…

Gent Six Day
Hester leads Rasmussen. Photo©Ed Hood

Alex Rasmussen and Marc Hester ended up fourth, with Marc in particular looking in very good shape, despite not yet having reached 30 years-of-age he’s ridden 77 Six Days and one win – with Iljo in Copenhagen.

Alex has ridden 37 but has eight wins under his belt.

Gent Six Day
Cav looks to be in pretty good shape. Photo©Ed Hood

Cav looks good, too – all this fast pedalling won’t have done his cardio or weight any harm and it’ll be interesting to see if he can regain his crown as ‘World’s Fastest Man’ – but those French and German boys are a lot quicker than they used to be…

‘Respect’ to Patrick Sercu for having contracted the Manxman, the race would have sold out anyway but Cav’s presence added shine to proceedings.

Gent Six Day
Yoeri Havik. Photo©Ed Hood

Yoeri Havik won in Amsterdam paired with Niki Terpstra; here he was ‘just another rider’ but did win the ‘B’ Derny, surprisingly. Iljo won the ‘A’ Derny…

Gent Six Day
De winnaars worden geïnterviewd. Photo©Ed Hood

The winners were deserving; no question and it’s good to see Belgium so strong on the track, again.

When Etienne De Wilde retired – after winning this Six Day nine times and being on the podium an astonishing 17 times – the weight of expectation was all upon Iljo and the man grew into the role.

But now it’s not just Iljo, there’s De Ketele and De Buyst and young ‘up and comers’ European scratch champion, Otto Vergaerde; fast man Moreno De Pauw and the highly talented Gijs Van Hoecke who had to sit this one out due to breaking his thigh in Paris-Tours.

It all bodes well for future 6 Daagse Vlaanderen-Gent.

Gent Six Day
The victorious pair finally relax. Photo©Ed Hood

As the fans poured out into the cool evening air, the final pils were ordered and the third and second prizes were awarded, Kenny and Jasper waited patiently and enjoyed the moment – they deserved to.

Gent Six Day
The podium and local dignitaries. Photo©Ed Hood

Perhaps overall not the greatest Gent Six – that would have been in the 70’s with Merckx, Sercu, Maertens, Allan and Clark – but a wonderful finale nonetheless and a reminder that when the Sixes are good, they’re hard to beat.

See you there in 2015?

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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