Six Day Rider: A Day In The Life
Dukla Prague’s Martin Hacecky is our man in Eastern Europe; a cycling journalist, TV race commentator, professional roadman and winter boards rider. So there are few better people to ask the question of ‘What’s a day in the life of a six day rider really like?’
Martin was riding the sixth six day race of his career in Copenhagen, straight off the Berlin event. Berlin wasn’t part of his original schedule, he had been training in the sunnier climes of Majorca at Dukla’s winter training base when the late call came that he was riding far to the north in the permafrost of the German capital.
And just as a matter of interest, in Majorca he had been training with another gentleman from the Czech Republic – a certain Zdenek Stybar . . .
We sat down with Martin on the last day, just after he’d been paid his contract fee – a good mood was therefore guaranteed.
PEZ: How did you sleep, Martin?
Like shit! I drank too much coffee yesterday and besides, my big brother Vojtech snores – but he’s bigger than me so I can’t complain to him. Vojtech is riding here with the strong Spanish guy, Alberto Torres and I’m paired with the German rider, Achim Burkart.
I got up around 11:00 and went for breakfast; eggs, beans and healthy Danish bread. After that, with this being the sixth day, I went to get paid – this makes everyone happy, especially our mechanic. He doesn’t speak English, just Czech and Russian, so it’s difficult for him here – but he smiles when he gets paid.
PEZ: When do you go to the track?
Around 12:30, you have to wait around and arrange a lift from a rider who has a car, there’s no bus, this year. Last year the promoter, Michael Sandstod used his road team’s bus – but he’s sold it so we have to make our own way. When we get to the stadium there’s usually an argument about who gets massage first; again, because my brother is bigger than me, he’s usually first.
I’m on the massage table for about one hour; Stanek our soigneur is very good, he chats a lot and is a funny guy – the mood in our cabin is always good. I’ll fit in a sleep in the afternoon, too – then go for food after we’ve all had massage. The restaurant being in the stadium is good and the food is fine – there’s pasta, salad, vegetables, fish, meat . . .
PEZ: Do you manage to find time to write much?
I turn on my computer and sit and look at it for a while – your brain doesn’t work so well during a six day – and try to do some work. Just now I’m working in a piece about the coming UCI reforms to world cycling – I’m not sure that people realise what’s being proposed?
There’ll be just 16 World Tour Teams and only eight Professional Continental squads; there’ll be no UCI races in the UK or USA but World Tour races in China. I think that many of these proposed changes will diminish the sport.
I’ll read for a while too as part of my process of getting my mind ready to race – but there’s not so much pressure on me to perform in this race. I start to get ready maybe one hour before the start and go up to the track around 20 minutes before the presentation.
PEZ: Do you train during the day?
Sometimes, I go on ‘feel’ – if I need to then I’ll spend some time on the rollers. When I get up to the track side cabin you have to say; ‘hello’ to everyone then take a detailed look at the schedule sheet for the evening’s racing, it’s not always the same as is printed in the programme, so you have to check – see when the chases are and how long they are.
It’s a rolling presentation here in Copenhagen so that loosens the legs off and I prefer if they have a sprint series before the first chase; it helps to ride your legs in to the rhythm of the night’s racing. I’ve spent the winter building my endurance so I’m like a big diesel on the boards – in that 75 kilometre handicap chase last night I only felt like I was going OK in the last five kilometres!
I’ve been training for long races with climbs – not for speed; so I’m the worst rider on the track when it comes to the flying lap. We try to do well in the eliminations but we’re not under pressure and we don’t fight too hard if it starts to get scary with the positioning battles – if you’re looking to do well in an elimination then you have to be thinking ahead all the time. The little chases are just a matter of following wheels and surviving; it would be different if I was riding with my brother, my motivation would be stronger. Vojtech is going well but in the big chases the Germans are not giving him and Torres any slack; they ride them down and make it hard for them.
PEZ: What about after the racing ends?
I have a shower and go to eat in the restaurant – the atmosphere in the dining room is good, relaxed, the guys prefer to leave the aggression up on the track. After we eat we try to get a lift arranged and travel back to the hotel as soon as possible to get to bed.
But it’s difficult to sleep because your body is still pumping so it takes a while to drop off – and I’ll do some stretching before I go to bed.
PEZ: And do you dream about the six days?
Fortunately not! But then maybe I do and I just don’t remember . . .