PEZ-Mix: On To Denmark And The Copenhagen Six

Woe to poor Ed Hood. The man finished his duties in Berlin and was immediately shuffled northward via car and ferry to the even colder environs of Denmark for the Copenhagen Six. His rambling team of miscreants picked up another few to aid, bringing the grand total to 8 riders to care for, tend to, wash, round-up, feed, and generally make sure are always pointed in the right direction.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen: D Minus One
We left Berlin immediately after the race – just after one in the morning – and drove north for around four hours to the ferry port of Rostock where we checked in to an Etap hotel, it was so cold in the back of the camper that the water and Fanta froze solid. We got maybe three hours sleep, then it was time for the ferry; 1-45 across the Baltic to Gedser in Denmark. The drive to the Copenhagen suburb of Ballerup, where the track is took round three hours. Denmark is a nation of islands and as we crossed the bridges, which link them the sea water below was frozen solid. They have had a lot of snow in Denmark this winter and the fields are white.

At the stadium it was the big unload and set-up again, the stadium facilities are a world better than they were last year with sparkling new cabins complete with showers.

I Tell Ya, You’re A Contendah
Favourites for the race have to be Robert Slippens and Danny Stam of Holland who haven’t got Copenhagen on their roll of honour yet, but they have won three of the last four sixes – Rotterdam, Bremen, and Berlin.

Last year it was homeboys Jimmy Madsen and Jakob Piil who took top honors.

The winning team last year were Danes Jakob Pil [missing, still on the road back from injury] and Jimmi Madsen who rides this year with Italian CSC strong man and former Cipo lead-out man Giovanni Lombardi; this is a strong combo. Madsen hasn’t had a great winter but the last few sixes have seen him begin to ride into form and home victors are always best for business, provided it’s credible.

Giovanni Lombardi is taking a brief hiatus from the road to tap in for some Six Day fun.

Aussie Matt Gilmore [winner at Grenoble and Ghent with Keisse] rides with good Dutchman Peter Schep, but I don’t see them as winners. ‘Man with a past’ Bo Hamburger of Denmark rides with ever-green little Italian Marco Villa, winners? – maybe but Hamburger found it hard at Stuttgart. Our man Franco Marvulli of Switzerland rides with compatriot Kurt Betschart [37 wins as half of the most successful six day team in history with brother-in-law Bruno Risi who is side-lined with a shoulder injury] victors? – let’s hope so.

As part of one of the most successful pairings ever, Kurt Betschart, even without Bruno Risi, is a man to be reckoned with.

As well as Franco we have; Alex Rasmussen of Denmark who had a good Berlin six, he rides with German Andreas Beikirch; Michael Morkov, Alex’s compatriot and partner at Berlin rides this time with Danish rival Marc Hester; Martin Liska and Jozef Zabka of Slovakia are unspectacular but reliable; Michael Larsen and Jens Madsen of Denmark will be hoping will be hoping for an improvement on last year when they struggled a bit in their first Six; Jimmy Hansen of Denmark is always good for the morale and rides with country man Lars Thomsen – those are our eight merry men.

Kris has a second masseur arriving tomorrow so that gives us four back-up staff to look after the eight guys. It’s 10.15 pm Wednesday and time to turn off the light and look forward to a real night’s sleep, I’ll bring you all the gossip from Day One tomorrow.

Copenhagen: Day 1
‘I’m an old man!’ So says Italian Giovanni Lombardi to Kris at breakfast in answer to the question; ‘how’s the form?’ Old man that he is, he rode and finished the Giro, Tour and Vuelta last year. Danny Clark is there too, telling war stories to the young Aussie amateurs who are riding the amateur Six.

The hotel where we stay and have breakfast is 16 kilometres from the track, which is a bit of a hassle, but it’s nice not to be sleeping in a bin store. It’s a bit chaotic with it being first night our five guys from Berlin are all here – Franco Marvulli, Jozef Zabka, Martin Liska, Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen. In addition we have young Danes Michael Larsen & Jens Eric Madsen plus ‘Jimmy, Jimmy’ Hansen, he calls me Hood! or Robin, we looked after these three last year and it’s nice to meet up again, especially Jimmy who is good for morale.

Eight Or More Of Everything
Eight guys is wearing on for too many, 24 tricots [jerseys], 24 under vests, 8 pairs of shorts, 8 pairs of track mitts, 8 pairs of socks, 8 pairs of shoes plus glasses and spare shoes – a load of kit and every item has to be in exactly the right place.

Ivan Basso did the honors of getting the party started in Copenhagen.

We’re in exalted company down at the track, Lombardi is in the cabin next to us and he has a visitor – Ivan Basso who is official starter of tonight’s racing. Basso played about a bit on the track with Lombardi who thinks it’s funny to see his star team mate on the boards; Basso is a handsome, quiet guy and he looks in great shape.

Francine our Swiss masseuse has arrived to back Kris up [eight guys to massage is too much for one person] seeing as how she is slim with a nice smile she has no problems fitting in.

As the riders begin to go up on the boards I get a row from Kris for giving Alexander Aeschbach a push-off, I worked with Alex at Grenoble and he always speaks to me, but Kris tells me that his soigneur will think I’m trying to poach him.

Copenhagen organiser Henrik Elmgreen tries to run the race on traditional lines so we start with a one hour madison. It’s a good chase, better than anything I saw at Berlin, albeit Berlin has so much more atmosphere. The music is cool here too and I remember all my old disco faves from last year, not least ‘Copenhagen’ a dire Euro-pop tribute to the city and Wigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ – great!’

The start of a big chase is a jumbled, beautiful affair.

The Good, The Bad, And The Painfully Ugly
Jimmy’s partner Lars Thomsen is struggling, maybe if he lost a few kilos he would be going better, but Jimmi Madsen is looking smooth. Lombardi isn’t though – all over his bike, no doubt he’ll be super-strong from another winter with Big Bjarne at CSC but he hasn’t found his track legs yet. I’m not a fan of Robert Slippens and Danny Stam as men, but as bike riders you have to respect them, they are looking sharp tonight, as is our Franco riding with fellow Swiss Kurt Betschart. Jimmy’s buddy Lars is drinking after virtually every spell, always a bad sign. Worst coloured bike in the race belongs to Bo Hamburger, a custard yellow horror of a thing; he’s riding for Miche now, a team with 17 or so sponsors, a far cry from the heady days of TVM and Casino.

Franco and Betschart win the chase – primarily so as we have flowers for Francine I think – so it’s a good start for us. After the chase I ask Josef if he needs anything; ‘new muscles!’ Another gem comes from Jimmy after the 500 metre flying start; ‘man, I hate this speed shit!’ Franco and Betschart do a 27; ‘I would have gone a second faster on a proper gear man,’ Franco tells me. Our Alex, riding with little German Andreas Beikirch, shades that though with a 27.1, the boy can eat, but he’s quick too.

There isn’t a big crowd tonight and the organiser’s face says it all. There’s a live band interlude, ‘The Worthy Beats’ lets not go into it, lets just say that these boys will take a machete to ANY song. Even Jozef with his preference for Slovak folk songs thinks they are bad.

The last chase was tame, Franco said later he was cold during it and if I tell you that Stam sneaked his Giant off the track between the cabins with five minutes to go, that sums the race up, albeit our boy Alex was winning again and Franco held on to the overall.

The victory lap is best enjoyed helmet-less. The hair has to look good for the pictures…Or you can just swap the helmet for a hat, whatever.

Where Oh Where Did The Helmet Go? Part 1
The clothing round-up after the race was hectic, Alex’ crash hat had disappeared, I found it eventually – on the finish line where he has left it to do is lap of honour – all in a day’s work.

Time to go shopping, talk to you tomorrow.

Copenhagen: Day 2

Michael Berling’s rear tyre explodes half way through the final 60 minute chase, his control is good and he stays upright, a runner drags him to a halt. Panic!

His mechanic produces a front wheel, it’s a rear that’s needed, they haul the bike back behind the cabins and after an age, get a back wheel in and Berling is mobile – for one lap. The wheel is for behind the derny with a 14 sprocket, Berling comes back in again, eventually the correct rear wheel is fitted and Berling rejoins the chase – that’s the thing about being a mechanic – your mistakes are very public.

More drama, Bo Hamburger sits up during the chase, waving his arm around and comes in off the track, partner Marco Villa has seen it all before and starts to go straight in and out with a team on the same lap; standard procedure when your partner is neutralised.

The handsling, though beautiful, is a mean, hard activity.

Bo Don’t Know Boards
Much later, as we eat a salad at the hotel in the wee small hours we ask one of the mechanics what happened to Bo. He tells us that the Dane has a problem with a muscle n his arm, it’s only his second six in ten years and he’s not used to the hand slings. A rider sitting nearby adds; ‘his legs not so good also,’ another mechanic contributes; ‘maybe the head not so good either,’ the rider chips in again; ‘a lot of problems for Six Days eh?’ we all nod in agreement.

Turn Back The Clock
Rewind to breakfast time, we’re up early for the afternoon session and ex-Cipo right-hand-man Giovanni Lombardi is in the dining room before us, you can tell he’s not a real six day rider – they are all still in bed.

After breakfast we return to the room to get ready to go to the track, the air is full of a dull rumbling – it’s the Russians Alexei Chmidt and Konstantin Ponomarev on their rollers.

Eight riders means a lot of clothing and Ivan and I have a couple of panics before we get everything organised. Jimmy Hansen’s partner, Lars Thomsen – who is not the slimmest rider on the boards – has a new name – ‘Large’ Thomsen, Jimmy likes this. There’s a cappuccino bar in the stadium and we can escape at last from bitter continental coffee.

If you can think of a name of the race, it’s probably at a Six Day.

Sprints, Devils, Dernys, Chases, Oh My!
There are a lot of races at Copenhagen and the evening is a bit of a blur – sprints, devils, dernys and chases; during the racing a lot of famous Danish names from the past wander by – Soren Lilholt, Tayeb Braikia, Brian Holm, Michel Sandstod and Gert Frank [winner of 20 six days including three here at Copenhagen]. They all look in good shape except Gert who has put on a few pounds. In between races Lombardi pops by to steal our wine gums under the pretext of talking to Franco, who is fluent in German, French, Italian and English.

Incidentally, Lombardi is riding his old Aqua Sapone team Specialized track bikes, the decals have all been taped-up – a CSC man riding a Specialized wouldn’t amuse the guys at Cervelo; the combination of masking tape and zebra stripes looks terrible, particularly on his derny bike where the look is complimented by a wood grain effect rear disc – horrible. Talking of bikes which don’t look the part, Dane Mads Christensen’s aluminium Cannondale is just a road frame with track rear ends, it sports key-hole seat stays; brake drillings front and rear; and double bottle cage bosses – it would make a purist ill.

This was Lombardi’s Specialized before it got the masking tape treatment.

The 500 metres flying start time trial is good for us, Alex Rasmussen and his German partner, Andreas Beikirch win, Franco Marvulli and compatriot Kurt Betschart take second and Jozef Zabka and Martin Liska are third, Jozef looks better here than I’ve ever seen him.

Be Cool
One of the school boy riders from the ‘mini-Six’ sits himself down beside Jimmy Hansen, who answers all his questions patiently and listens to the nipper’s tales of the mini-six; nice guys a lot of these pros.

Live band time – The Worthy Beats – they’re not proud, they’ll kill anyone’s songs, tonight The Rolling Stones, Elvis and Credence all get the chop. Despite the track centre restaurant being crowded the stands are half empty, well down on last year, Kris reckons last year was busy because the Six hadn’t been run for several years [due to the stadium roof collapsing under the weight of a heavy snow fall] and there was a ‘curiosity factor’ pulling the crowds in.

Where Oh Where Did The Helmet Go? Part 2
The final chase ends well for us with Alex and Beikirch winning; there’s a sting in the tail though, Alex’s crash hat has disappeared. We search every nook of the big down stair cabin then I go up and check all three track-side cabins – no sign. I remember he won the chase, maybe he handed his helmet to a mechanic for the presentation, so I check all their benches – no dice.

More in hope than anything else I walk round to the finish line – there it is, lying on the slow running lane where he dumped it before his lap of honour. Another day at the office ends – talk to you tomorrow.