The Gent Six Day 2009 kicks off next week, so as a way to build the excitement we thought we'd revisit last year's finalé, with VeloVeritas' own Ed Hood there and working for the Danish World Madison Champions, Saxo Bank riders Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv, as well as Swiss star Franco Marvulli. Read on!...
There was no partying at Iljo's dad's bar, De Karper - which is just along the road from the Gent track - for us tonight; we had a ferry to catch. I didn't have time to put together a Day Five piece, today. We were up at 09:00 for the 13:00 start; usually I spend the early afternoon writing, but today I couldn't, although I did manage to get the Day Five pictures away as the under 23 lads prepared for action.
Viktor has been keeping in touch, he was going to come over but couldn't get a flight. 'Is that Bruno's wee brother's bike he's on?' He does have a point, with carbon frame manufacture, one of the biggest costs is to produce the moulds.
The Belgian papers are something else. Whilst you do get superb cycling coverage; in yesterday's 'De Gentenaar' we had to endure a colour photograph of a fatal road accident, complete with burnt out car and mangled push bike; a racist photo manipulation of Michelle Obama as a character from Planet of the Apes and images from a slaughter house, including a cow getting it's head chopped off - I'll stick with the Guardian.
It's different here; the butcher asks you how Keisse is doing in the six and the local paper has Iljo in full colour, on the cover. In the same paper - De Gentenaar - which is a local 'rag,' there's a two page guide to track racing and two pages of stats on the 2009 season.
It was 1975 when Dave, Don, Ed the Pole and yours truly first climbed the concrete stairs to get our first sight of the legendary boards of Gent velodrome. I still remember the smells; derny exhaust, pee, frying food and beer! Having spent my formative years riding time trials and road races (badly !) in the wilds of Scotland, with sheep as the main audience, I was fascinated by the spectacle.
Compared to the wide open 210 metre pastures of Grenoble, at 166 metres, the Gent track does look tiny; the bankings aren't really steep enough and you can't ride the top 400 mm of the track, because the crash barriers overlap the boards by that much.
One of VeloVeritas’ functions it seems is unlocking the memories of those stalwarts – like our own mentor and soothsayer, Viktor and indeed, our editor Martin - who beat a path in the 70’s and 80’s to the legendary Mrs. Deene’s boarding house in Gent (and later in Zomergem) to show those Belgies how it should be done. The latest epistle which came our way was from Norman Gower.
When Scottish Cycling Endurance Coach and seven times Scottish Road Race Champion, Evan Oliphant gets in touch to tell us there’s a junior rider named Callum Thornley that we should be speaking to, we snap to attention.
When Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund gets in touch then we know it’s not just to ask how we are. ‘Have you been keeping up with our rider, Toby Perry’s performances in Spain, he’s just had his second win?’ Fortunately for us, we could reply in the affirmative.
If you watched Stage One of the Giro on Eurosport or GCN then you’ll have heard that someone had the great idea to recruit British professional rider, Dan Bigham to join the commentary team as a ‘chrono specialist.’ Here at VeloVeritas we thought it would be good to put to Dan all those sad questions that trouble bike obsessives like us.
John Watson started racing at 18 years-of-age in 1966, his first race was a ‘25’ which he won with a 1:00. By the following year he was National ‘100’ Champion; in 1968 he went to the Mexico Olympics; in 1969 he set a 12 hour record which stood for a decade; 1970 saw him set a ‘50’ record which sliced nearly four minutes of the previous fastest time for the distance and lasted for 13 years, win the BBAR, get fourth place in the prestigious GP de France time trial and get offered a place with ACBB.