In The Trenches At The Berlin Six
Ed Hood has worked at various six day races around Europe as a ‘runner’ for many of the big stars since 2005 and before he took us through the last three days of action at the Berlin Six we just had to ask him one question, ‘What is it you actually do at a six day race?’
Ah, the perennial question…
but before we go in to that, my boys – Daniel and Guy won the late Derny, hey!
The very first thing we have to do on day one is to convert the two workshops cum storage rooms we’re allocated in the bowels of the stadium into ‘cabins’ – our race HQ for the duration. Ours aren’t the best located, we have two for our four riders – the two US guys plus Danes Niki Byrgesen and Mads Christensen – one cabin for the washing, clothes and hanging out and the other for eating but they’re not adjacent.
Both cabins have to be kept tidy; you can’t have guys recovering and eating in a messy environment.
And then the little cabins beside the track have to be made into little ‘homes away from home’ rather than plywood boxes.
Let’s look at today, Day 4 Sunday; it’s an afternoon session, ‘Familientag’ – Family Day, with the presentations kicking off at noon. The nice part about today is that we finish at 17:00.
The alarm went for us at 10:00 this Sunday morning; but with the air con kicking in at 07:00 and the first announcements over the internal PA arriving at 08:00 it’s not a perfect night’s sleep – not after getting to bed at 02:30.
First up is to sort out the washing – socks, shorts, three under vests, three tricots, mitts and any training gear are all washed and spun dry after last night’s session at gone 01:30 am. The washing has to be folded and laid out for each individual rider. They wear one set of kit to go up to the track with and the rest I take up, along with their shoes and helmets.
The salt has to be cleaned from helmet straps at least once a day and shoes kept shiny. In between every event the guys change under vests and tricots – that’s another of my gigs. Before they slip into the fresh vest and tricot, we wipe them down with a towelling mitt and cologne.
The damp garments go in the tumble drier and are then re-folded ready for the next change. After the clothes are folded it’s shower and breakfast time – but be quick, the boys will be here, soon.
Once the guys have arrived – and had breakfast, if they haven’t at the hotel – it’s time to go trackside and check the cabins up there; but only after I’ve washed the dishes.
The riders sit or lay in the track cabins between events and it’s up to me to keep the track cabin tidy and stocked with drinks and food. The guys drink a lot of isotonic drinks with hot tea sweetened with honey their tipple if their throats get dry in the hot, dry air.
There’s a lot of concrete and ‘breeze’ block in the stadium which absorbs the moisture, dries the air and isn’t the best for the throat. The guys don’t eat too much up at the track; energy bars, gels, wine gums, fruit and nuts – and just lately, peanut butter.
Then there’s the clean water in the wash basins which the guys use after chases to wash their faces. And we can’t forget the dreaded pee pails to be emptied and cleaned every night – my favourite gig…
The shopping is another ‘must’ – out through the snow to the local ‘Netto’ supermarket to top up on water, bread, oats, fruit, muesli, honey, chocolate milk (it’s a good recovery drink) and whatever else is on the list. Then there’s the ‘off the menu’ stuff – searching for riders’ lost credentials; taking tickets to riders’ friends at the stadium gate – and all that writing and taking pictures of the race stuff.
On the subject of which . . .
No one – except the folks here to drink, eat and spectate on family day – like the afternoon sessions, there’s a lethargic air in the place and the racing really never ‘sparks.’
High lights for me were the arrival of fellow PEZ man, Leslie Reissner to chat to Guy and like I said, our US guys winning the Derny.
And the other high lights were . . . . er ?
Let’s move on to tomorrow.
The Spaniard Muntaner is out; they’ve discovered he broke his jaw in that crash the other night – there goes my podium tip. And word is that it’s ‘straight’ tonight in the big chase – smiling Czech Vojtech Hacecjy and rapid Dutchman Joeri Havik are third behind local hero Big Bob Bartko and young compatriot, Theo Reinhardt but aren’t going to roll over and say; “after you, Herr Bartko.”
The little teams are bracing themselves . . .
Hot news: ‘Bartko to retire,’ his last six is Copenhagen; he’ll be doubly keen to be on the podium here, then.
Flying lap; big rock anthems for big men – Forstemann, again.
Derny; Lampater, he wants those points.
The team devil is conducted at warp speed and again it’s Leif and Jasper who take the flowers – they’re points hunting all right.
Former world time trial champion Bert Grabsch bids his ‘farewells’ tonight.
The chunky German was a part of Cavendish’s brilliant HTC train, sometimes riding tempo from as far out as 100 kilometres – a beast of a man.
The big chase is early, tonight – and there’s not much chat before it, too many nerves. It’s the best chase of the race so far and the Germans are too strong for the Czech/Dutch duo, despite a little help from Vojtech’s brother, Martin and the other Czech Martin, Blaha. But then Bartko/Reinhardt did have more than a little leg up from Lampater/De Buyse and several thousand screaming Berliners.
There were two horrors to this day; first we had the trip to the Netto supermarket, in the snow. Albeit I did get a historic picture en route; soigneurs Kris, Etienne and Guillaume – we reckon wearing on for 1,400 sixes between them.
Kris was Franco Marvulli’s soigneur for many years and in the past worked with pursuit stars, Tony Doyle and Hans Henrik Orsted. Guillame was Eddy Merckx’s soigneur, accompanying him to Mexico for his successful hour record bid, 40 years ago – enough said. Etienne worked with former six day top men Jens Veggerby and Silvio Martinello.
The second horror of the day was the Frank Zander Show; this really is music for folks who don’t get out much.
He takes the Sutherland Brothers classic, ‘Sailing’ and hacks it to death in front of you – but the crowd loves him . . .
Stehers and after taking third place last night American rider Zak Kovalcik (who we interviewed last year) had a little bit of a rough time behind his BMW.
Then it was time for Frank – ouch !
Before the last ‘little’ chase we bade ‘farewell’ to Franco Marvulli – in his last ever six day. Like they say; ‘the head always goes before the legs.’
An emotional moment for me, I was his runner for more than a few of his 32 six day wins – there were lots of laughs.
Then it was time to wait for the last Derny – but a win on two consecutive nights? Come on!
Last washing tonight and then it’s destination Rostock and the Baltic ferry – I hope the ice breakers have been at work . . .
The ‘Sprint’ gas station at 02:11 am, just around the corner from the Berlin Velodrome. We’re gassing up for the run to Rostock and the ferry to Denmark where the Six Days of Copenhagen will start on Thursday evening.
Kenny De Ketele and Andreas Muller won from Leif Lampater and Jasper De Buyst with Robert Bartko and Theo Reinhardt filling the last spot on the podium. Kenny and Andreas are cool guys, congratulations to them both – and that’s all I’m going to say about the final result.
They even had a minute for me to snap them en route the ‘controle’ in the bowels of the velodrome – Andreas, ever the pro, hid the banana he was scoffing behind him.
But it was around 10 hours ago I started to write up today’s piece . . .
The Berlin Six Day reaches it’s climax tonight on the steep 250 metre pine boards of the Landsberger Allee Velodrome.
Home favourite, Bavarian Leif Lampater leads, paired with 20 year-old Belgian protégé, Jasper de Buyst. In second spot are Belgian former world madison champion, Kenny De Ketele paired with Berlin resident but Austrian national, Andreas Muller. Currently occupying third spot on the podium are Berliner, Robert Bartko paired with young compatriot, Theo Reinhardt. Bartko is the crowd’s favourite – last winning here in 2011 with Roger Kluge.
The questions to be answered are:
# Can De Ketele/Muller nudge Lampater/de Buyst off top spot despite a 53 points deficit?
# And can anyone steal Bartko’s podium thunder in his second last ever six day?
If we forget the formal journalist speak for a moment, the answer to both questions is probably; ‘nah !’
But it’s a full house again and the buzz is good. No gossip for you, today; and no special offers in the Netto supermarket to tell you about – sorry.
Presentations; then the sprints series with points hungry De Buyst and Lampater well to the fore – and they take the team devil too, with De Buyst making Andreas Muller look like he’s stuck to the track.
As I think I said the other day, Andreas isn’t quite looking as sharp as he usually does.
‘We Will Rock You!’ Old Freddy Mercury must have written that with flying laps in mind. Then there’s AC/DC, Quo, Golden Earring and more AC/DC.
Sometimes, when a potato chase is mesmerizing you into a coma, you think; ‘is this the answer?’
But then, with Max Levy riding hands off, tracking the fence on his Look, gesturing to the crowd to turn up the volume, the full house roaring approval and the Glitter Band thundering over the PA, you think; ‘yes, this what it’s all about.’
Derny time and Havik wins, the points won’t go amiss – are we going to see ‘The Potsdam Bear,’ as they called Big Bob in the old days, shaken out of his podium tree ?
Flying lap – De Buyst 12.8, that’s quicker than many of the sprinters. But then he doesn’t win World Cup omniums because he’s slow. However, Barth/Hesslich shade that – Hesslich has the best of genes, Dad is the awesome Lutz Hesslich, 80’s sprint legend.
That looks like that, but young Max Beyer slings Swiss flyer Tristan Marguet to a 12.5 – game over.
Guy sleeps through Steher time; despite the exhaust fumes, throbbing horizontally opposed engines, crazy speeds – the photogs have their biggest lenses on to capture the pain.
With 20 laps to go the crowd comes to life as the speed becomes positively scary. European Champion Mario Birrer takes it – choreographed or nae, it’s mad quick.
House band, Rachel Against the Machine bang out covers – and they’re not bad at all.
But what’s that damn tiger doing on the bahn ?
There’s a 40 lap points race and then the biggie, – “60 Minuten Zweier-Mannschaftsfahren.” That’s a one hour final chase to you and me.
As per usual for the runner, I saw the start but didn’t see the next 20 minutes – time for us to break camp – but I did see the last 40 minutes, or so. The chase really only sparked with 50 laps to go with Big Bob trying to take the lap that would have won him the race – that was never going to happen, but the crowd loved it.
Kenny and Andreas went for the winning lap with 19 to go and made the junction with four to go. Andreas lives in Berlin and Kenny’s a popular man here so a nice result.
And that folks was Berlin 2014 – Copenhagen, here we come.