For the first time in many a year VeloVeritas didn’t make it down to Grenoble for the Four Days on the battle scarred boards of the winter track where Post, Merckx, Sercu, Clark, Moser and Thevent have all lifted the laurels. How I miss Bar Clemenceau, Pizza Natalie and the wee bakers where the baker always give me extra croissants ‘for luck.’ ‘New Wave’ French strong men and World Madison Champions Morgan Kneisky and Vivien Brisse took the honours from tough Spaniards Muntaner & Torres with Iljo Keisse limbering up for Gent in third spot with countryman De Buyst.
Watching a dream die is never nice, but if it's done quickly and clinically, then it's humane, at least. Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele were ruthless executioners in the last chase in the small hours of Sunday morning. Bryan Coquard and Morgan Kneisky rode with panache and bravery, in what I believe was a 100% 'straight' finale. Inside the last 50 laps of 180 the Belgians attacked - we were waiting for it.
My pal Vik called me this morning; ‘the racing at the Grenoble Four Day can’t be very good if you’re spending so much time taking pictures of boys on the trapeze!’ If I could get him down here it would be different. It’s not just a bike race; if he was here, eating the nice food, drinking champers with friends, with the race whizzing around him and the amazing shows, he'd see things in a new light.
The trouble here at the Grenoble Four Day 2012 is that when folks see you with a camera and hear you write for a website, you've had it. I spent a chunk of the afternoon taking pictures of Gunther, one of Iljo Keisse's soigneurs. He's back on the bike as a 'master' and has the track bike down here with him, he trains on the boards in the afternoon and actually looks good on the bike.
We’re at the Grenoble ‘Six’ – only it’s no longer a ‘Six;’ in line with Zürich, they’ve cut it back to be the Grenoble Four Day. I haven’t taken any pictures of the Paris Folies girls yet - I got into an awful bother last year with those topless shots – and decided to wait and see what the outfits were like before I reached for the Nikon.
Last day - it's not a big programme, sprint series, team time trial and the closing 180 lap chase. By six day standards that's not a long chase, around 38 K - at Copenhagen they have 300 lappers on a 250 track - but here, it's heavy duty for the small teams. Franco reckons that Kris and I should have dinner in the track centre, tonight - well, it sounded good to me.
Grenoble Six Day 2011... Bed was at 02:00 am so I didn't have too much problem getting up at 07:45 to do some 'real world' stuff. The only trouble with that is I know I won't feel nearly as frisky come 02:30 am. I was meant to have an interview with Luke Roberts today, he was meant to get word about what's happening team-wise for 2012.
It's a glorious day in Grenoble, warm, calm, sunny - not a day to be stuck in a stuffy stadium. But that's the runner's place in the way of things - scrambled eggs on fresh baguettes for breakfast eased the pain. The 35 minute chase was a better show tonight and the French guys didn't get pummelled quite so savagely.
Grenoble Six Days 2011... One day, I'd like to come here and sit at one of the big tables with friends and family, watch the cabaret, and the racing, chat, eat and drink too much. It's good value at 63 euros per head: that gets you in, allows you to attack the beautiful buffet and provides you a bottle of wine, mineral water and a coffee as you watch the racing and the cabaret - one day...
It takes a few days to find the rhythm of a six-day - usually for me it's the sixth day. My feet stop hurting and I get a proper sleep. Last night I slept ok 'til around 06:00 am but after that it was disjointed, the sound of the traffic and the drone of the refrigeration units on the restaurant supply tucks saw to that - not to mention the bizarre dreams.
'The track door will open at 09:30,' we were told, but this is the Grenoble Six Days 2011 - in France, and you have to give or take 45 minutes - and sure enough, we got in around 10:15. Bring the last of the gear down from the camper, set up the track cabins, go to the shops for supplies, help the guys with their bikes, go to the shops for razors so Franco can shave his legs, help with the dinner, do the washing up and then slip out quietly when the riders all descend upon our cabin for their pre-race meeting.
It's a grey morning in Grenoble; we can't unload until 11:00 am and then we have to drive up to Lyon and collect Jesper and Marc off the plane. In the stadium office they have great old black and white photos of the stadium under construction; it really is a gem of a building, if you like modern architecture.
Up at 04:30, the plan was to get the bus from Porty at 09:00 - however, and to cut a long story short, the van is abandoned in a western suburb of Edinburgh and a cab was flagged down to get me to the airport on time. The flight was undramatic - thank God - and there was Kris in the airport bus park, with the camper. It's seems to be an unwritten law that you have to arrive in a different country from where the race is; so the rendez-vous was in Geneva, Switzerland.
The crowd is good, the riders' contracts have been paid, there's one more procession, one last picture of the Folies girls, I've polished the bikes of Jens and Franco Marvulli, most of the stuff is out of the big cabin, the strongmen are going through their routine and there's a buzz in the air.
There’s no telling what you’ll see when you walk up those stairs; you’d expect to see Elia Viviani or Teun Mulder on the rollers on their road bikes or Shane Perkins on his track bike on the rollers — but a juggler?
"Dirk, you're working on the bikes early today," says me at the Grenoble Six Day 2010. "Yes, I must finish early so I can watch the darts on BBC TV in my camper van!" I didn't expect that answer," says me.
"Yes, I must finish early so I can watch the darts on BBC TV in my camper van!" I didn't expect that answer.
He was telling me that the new Look 496 track frame costs in excess of â‚¬6,000 and there's a waiting list; they only build to order. They are beautiful though and as Dirk says; 'it's the best bike for the sprint and it's a genuine European product.'
It's cool and grey in Grenoble today - and very quiet...
"Only in Grenoble" is stamped in red on this file - a track standstill competition. If Vik was here at the Grenoble Six Day 2010 he'd rush the track shouting bad things about la Belle France, the French, and their ways.
The average speed last night for the first madison of Night Two at the Grenoble Six Day 2010, run over 35 minutes, was 52.310 kph - file under 'not as slow as Vik says it is.' The thing you have to remember is that when you're in Grenoble, you're much closer to the Mediterranean than you are to the Channel; 'le Munich Six jours est finis? ah!' The cold, grey North is a long way away.
There were politics in play before a ball was even kicked; ‘how have you guys got that big cabin, you only have two riders?’ Kris’s response was succinct; ‘Because I’ve been coming here for 30 years and the organisers are friends of mine!’ A Six Day wouldn’t be a Six Day without politics and plaudits.
"It's not a real Six," says our pal Viktor - coincidentally, riders like Marc Hester (Denmark) and Danny Stam (Holland) used to say the same. But that was before the Munich Six disappeared - now they're more than happy to head south to Grenoble at the end of October. As have we, for the Grenoble Six Day 2010...
‘Sorry, I fell asleep, I need my afternoon nap after one of Flavio’s training sessions – a 90 minute chain gang then six laps of a circuit with a steep ‘kicker’ in it.’ That was Hamish Strachan explaining to us why he’d missed our call – good to hear that the young man is back in the groove after a difficult start to his year.
It was 2019 when we last spoke to Iain Macleod - he was with Aberdeen Wheelers then but is now with Kelpie Racing - he’d just won the SC 50 mile championships and the man is making the headlines again; a couple of weeks ago he took the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial title and before that recorded the fastest 100 mile time trial ever ridden on Scottish roads.
It was ironic that Chris Anker Sørensen’s life should end doing what he had become known for after his career as a professional cyclist was over – preparing meticulously for his role as a TV race commentator, out riding the parcours of Sunday’s World Individual Time Trial Championship in Flanders.
We liked our jaunt to the Tour of the Campsies last year and feel at home among the rolling countryside and green hills there so we headed west, first of all paying our respects to the Robert Millar mural at the foot of the Crow Road; when you watch Roglič take the Lagos di Covadonga stage in the Vuelta it’s difficult to imagine the wee fella from Glasgow winning that stage – but win it he did.
We had a look around Hawick as the 2021 Tour of Britain race carnival hit town, we caught up with friends then headed out on the course, hiding from the wind on Wanside Rig to see the peloton as it headed towards Gifford...
With victories already this season in various time trial distances ranging from 25 to 100 miles (with a two mile hill climb win too), Iain Macleod (Kelpie Racing) added the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial 2021 title to his growing palmarès.
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