It’s always cold in Bremen, the Baltic is just up the road so you get cold or cold and wet; today it’s the latter but the cabin has a window so we can at least see the sky – not like the usual breeze block with no windows.
The overnight drive up was as horrible as usual, we parked up at a truck stop, slept then had breakfast in a motorway services – much nicer than the ones we have in the UK, I must say.
The track here in Bremen is the tightest on the circuit, a temporary 160 metre job to fit the hall.
The bankings are said to be 49 degrees, it’s the same length as Gent but squashed so the turns are tighter and the straights longer.
The boards are at right angle to the direction of riding just like in those old pictures we see of tracks in Australia and the USA ‘back in the day.’
They make a hell of a noise and add to the impression of speed when you stand trackside.
There have been a few changes to the field; Belgians Iljo Keisse still rides with Jasper de Buyst and are the red-hot favourites now that their compatriot, Kenny de Ketele is out after his Rotterdam crash.
Kenny was to ride with German World Madison Champion Theo Reinhardt [which he won with Roger Kluge, who’s ‘Down Under’ taking care of Caleb. ed.] who now pairs with late addition, Dane, Marc Hester who’s just off a strong ride in Rotterdam.
Our rider, home boy Achim Burkart is disappointed that the man he’s supposed to ride with, Dutchman Yoeri Havik made a last minute decision to ride the World Cup in Cambridge, New Zealand.
Achim and Yoeri rode strongly last year to finish second behind winners Reinhardt/de Ketele and Achim was looking forward to renewing the partnership.
But the organisation have paired him with former European Madison Champion, Austria’s Andreas Graf, who’s not a bad rider at all.
And that’s maybe your top three right there unless the pairing of Germany’s Christian Grasmann and Dane Jesper Mørkøv can squeeze Achim of the podium.
And adding a little World Tour glamour to proceedings is Italy and UAE rider, Simone Consonni who rides with rapid Swiss, Tristan Marguet.
But I’m guilty of the same sin as occurred at the pre-race presentation, last night – too much small talk, sorry.
* * *
A Devil to start and one of the two young Danes in the race outsprints ‘King’ Iljo for the win; like Achim says to them; ‘it’s going to be a hard chase for you guys tonight!’
Seven laps, that’s a lot of laps to lose in the first Madison but it gives some indication of how fierce a first chase this was with the teams at the bottom of the ranking going seven down – not so much losing laps as being unable to take them.
Mørkøv crashed early but with just his pride damaged and Iljo changed bikes – a slipping saddle?
We’d see Iljo in the pits later grappling with his seat adjustment.
Hester/Reinhardt ran out winners and then it was ‘entertainment time’ with Howard Carpendale the man doing the singing, no snide remarks from me – I want to keep these credentials until the end – but it would be good if I could figure out why one of his backing singers appeared to be using his underpants as headgear?
Sprinter heats, with two GB boys in there, Ali Fielding and Paisley man, Jonathan Mitchell – no wins though.
Derny one, I push off Aussie Joshua Harrison, he feels so light after a week of pushing off man mountain Thomas Babek at Rotterdam; ex-European Derny Champion Mørkøv took the flowers.
More sprints and Fielding neatly takes the 4th to 6th place ride.
Derny two and I push off our boy Hans – he’s a bit heavier than Josh but not as heavy as Thomas was – sorry, didn’t jot down the winner.
Sprinters, one to three ride with ‘bad man’ Spaghetti Western music getting the atmosphere just right.
The man with the massive legs, Robert Förstemann takes it.
The 500 metre time trial goes to Marguet/Consommi, the Italian is really chuffed with his flowers…
Scotland’s moment of glory and flowers follows as Jonathan Mitchell lays way off in the Keirin, goes long and hangs on – must have been that push I gave him…
Final Devil – our boys are all out early so pack up time for Ed – I think De Pauw won but don’t quote me.
Achim near the top of the board and a Scottish win; mustn’t grumble – and no sign of Howard Carpendale on the Friday programme…
* * *
A busy programme with the usual chases, Dernies, Devils, Points Races, Time Trials…
But the hi-lite of the night was the ‘past winners’ Derny race.
In the line-up we had Marco Villa (Italy), winner in 1996 with one of the coolest dudes ever to put a leg over a bike, compatriot Silvio Martinello.
Villa is 49 years-old now; he won 24 Six Days in his career and was twice world Madison champion with aforementioned Martinello.
Karsten Wolf (Germany) won in 1997 with the late Andreas Kappes.
Wolf is 54 now but still slim, unlike some of his fellow Bremen winners; he won four Six Days and was twice a world champion, once as a junior Pursuiter and once as a senior Team Pursuiter.
Jimmy Madsen (Denmark) is 50 years-old now, he won in 1998 with compatriot Jens Veggerby; Madsen is now one of the organisers of the Copenhagen Six Day.
Madsen won 10 Six Days and was a multiple national and European Champion on road and track.
Leif Lampater (Germany) won in 2009 with countryman Eric Zabel.
As an incidental, many ascribe the dramatic down turn in the German Six Day scene in the 21st century in large part to Zabel’s retirement – he commanded huge contract fees but attracted sell-out crowds at every race. [And also perhaps, his tearful EPO confession? ed.]
Lampater won again in 2014 with Dutchman Wim Stroetinga.
The German was riding this race as recently as last year but at 36 years-of-age called it a day with nine Six Day wins behind him and drawer full of national championship and World Cup medals.
Alex Rasmussen (Denmark) won in 2015 with Marcel Kalz, of whom, more in a moment.
We never saw the best of Alex; world Scratch Race (twice), Madison and Team Pursuit champion; 37 times a national champion, his wins on the road in the Ruta del Sol, GP Herning, Dunkirk Four Day and Philadephia only gave us a taste of what he could have achieved – and he’s still only 34 years-old.
Big Marcel Kalz won in 2015 with Rasmussen but also in 2013 with Franco Marvulli and 2017 with Iljo Keisse.
Kalz was extremely fast in the Time Trials, a big, strong bear of a man but throughout his career he was troubled with saddle sores – always a problem for big riders on tiny tracks like this.
He won a total of six, Six Day races, nine national and one European title in his career – and he is only 31 years-old.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with three of those winners in my days as a “garcon de course” – the French always have the best expressions, that’s ‘runner’ or ‘general dogsbody’ in English – Marco Villa down in Grenoble where he mentored Alex Rasmussen in his first Six Day.
Having the race behind the Dernys was a good idea – no one got shown up, even if the wee motors weren’t roaring as loudly as usual.
As expected, Lampater ran out winner – all good fun.
At the end of the night, in the Six Day, Keisse/De Buyst still lead.
* * *
No one likes Saturday afternoon racing, it disrupts the rhythm of things, has no bearing on the race and makes it a long, long day.
First up, the group picture, professionals and sprinters.
The afternoon session is ‘for the kids’ and there were A LOT of them in the house.
A kiddies Saturday afternoon rarely produces a death race Madison – and besides, we know the winners already.
Drama – a leak!
Never a good thing on a board track but they soon sorted it out.
If everyone knows who’s gonna win the Six, the same can be said of the ladies’ racing if big Dutch girl Kirsten Wild is on the start sheet.
Race report, ladies’ Scratch Race:
“45 laps, peloton is ‘compatto’ for 39 laps, no attacks, no splits, nothing – could be a training group.”
An attack with six to go, stays away for exactly half-a-lap; this field doesn’t attack but it does chase down.
Three laps to go when Kirsten starts her finishing effort from the front, no one can get near her.
And a happy ending as Hans wins the Derny.
Evening hostilities recommenced with a Devil which Reinhardt took.
Achim was nervous before the big chase, he and Graf can make the final podium but need to accumulate more points.
Frank Sinatra was telling us about New York when Iljo punctured – no stress, a quick bike change on to his ‘b’ stealth fighter and back into the dog fight.
Our boy Max punctured soon after but opted for a wheel change.
Iljo/Jasper win, no surprise – but it was no ‘potato chase’ with teams again dropping up to seven laps.
The sprinters get up for the Flying Lap – but fast man Förstemann rolls a tyre in the back straight.
They open the track up to stretcher him out – he manages a wave for the crowd…
Verdict: broken ribs, clavicle and scapula – ouch!
The ladies Omnium Points Race 120 laps is waaay too long, it just gives Kirsten more opportunity to pummel everyone.
The Glitter Band means it’s Derny time, the little beasts buzz by – isn’t it too early in the new season for droning pests?
Good tune though, ‘The Quo’ with ‘Whatever you Want.’
Achim takes it on the line, I have to do that ‘runner stuff,’ trot round with his hat and towel.
Jonathan Mitchell wins the minor placings sprint and we’re straight into Derny # 2 in which Theo Reinhardt laps the whole field to the all-round disapproval of his fellow pace followers; ‘bull s##‘ – ‘unprofessional‘ – ‘we assumed parking positions‘ were just three of the remarks I heard.
Levy takes the Sprint final event.
The only-half-serious La Ola Sprint where the riders lark around as they track the fence with a light show in full effect goes to the quick young Dane Oliver Wulff Frederiksen.
Moreno De Pauw had disappeared so Wim Stroetinga gets an early bath – they ain’t gonna win the time trial then.
Rapid Suisse, Tristan Marguet and his World Tour partner, Simoni Consonni take it.
Show time – a rather attractive lady on vocals sees to it that no one gets too hung up on the quality of the music.
Would you go ‘full gas’ in a chase at gone 1:00am on a Sunday night?
Me neither, but there’s a race organiser to keep happy and paying public to entertain.
This race ends in major mistake by Ed, the speaker says Grasmann/Mørkøv won and so does the board but actually, WE won…
Achim, quite understandably, isn’t happy because I don’t take round a towel and his sponsor’s hat.
Sorry, Achim – it won’t happen on Sunday.