Ed’s London ‘6 Days’ Part 2
After a late night and a long drive back to Edinburgh in the ‘6 Days’ camper-van, Ed Hood has managed to give us the run-down on the last days of the first London 6 Days for many a year. The track meeting was an all round success for riders and audience alike. Part two of Ed’s London ‘6 Days’ from behind the cabins:
The first London Six Day in 35 years came down to the wire on points score late on Friday night in the Olympic Velodrome with all hanging on the last lap; young GB hero Chris Latham got the better of Belgian legend, Iljo Keisse in the final sprint but Belgium’s other Six Day heavy weapon and former World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele was just too quick for the tall Briton and took the overall spoils with rapid young countryman Moreno De Pauw.
Latham with partner Ollie Wood finished second and were one of the revelations of the event which brought the ‘race to nowhere’ back to where it all started in 1878.
Keisse finished third with partner Gijs van Hoecke but will be happy with his form for the forthcoming six day in his home town where he’ll be out to wrest back his crown as King of Gent. A nice exciting final sprint to conclude the race, then? However, some of my hardcore Six Day amigos saw the race’s crescendo a tad differently; ‘How can a six day finale be less than 30 minutes?’ enquired Gent regular, Steve Penny. I made it just over 31 minutes – but he does have a point, the finale was scheduled for 45 minutes but due to the demands of that Totem to which all modern sport must bow the knee, the TV schedule, the chase had to be shortened.
Another complaint which I heard from Steve, Dave and Viktor was that there was too much sprinter racing – the crowd did seem to enjoy it but it did rather make for a ‘six day lite’ programme. At Gent in particular the races come fast and furious at the riders and is one of the factors which make the event so tough. But as Kris says, ‘it’s a new race with new fans and you have to ease them in to things. . .
Copenhagen may still have 100 kilometre madisons but it’s been around all through the years London has been absent. But short finale or nae, too many sprinters, wrong choice of music and fact that it’s a ‘Five’ not a ‘Six’ – it was a winter boards race and one which enjoyed a sold out final night.
And with young British heroes well to the fore let’s not be too heavy with the negs. next year will be better.
Day Three dawned with the plaintive cry; ‘The dryers and compressors have all gone!’ Grown men cried, pictures were posted to the Internet and death threats were delivered but still the dryers remained ‘quarantined’ – it’s a dangerous animal is a 30 Euro plastic tumble dryer. But vitally important; the guys get changed between every race and the under vests and tricots they take off are soaked in sweat, we have to dry them and get them ready for the next race. And for the mechanics it’s just as important to have their compressors; try banging those Contis up to ten bars with a Bluemels plastic hand pump, dude.
However, in fairness to the organisers, bare wires poked in to extension cable sockets with feeding bottles full of isotonic splashing around maybe aren’t guaranteed to have the health & safety guys smiling contentedly. . . Eventually, most of them were released after they had the relevant checks and calm returned to the track centre.
Racing? Oh, yeah – sorry, there was a bit of that going on, too. But first, the music – much improved with The Human League, Gary Numan and even some proper 70’s Disco making us smile.
The Dernys? Well, they’re a different story; it looks like a couple of them are burning nitro whilst the rest are on bio-diesel. As one of our boys succinctly put it; ‘I could have gone faster on me f##kin’ own!’
There’s a mix of drivers too – it’s hard to expect local English pilots to dice with men like Belgium’s Michel Vaarten who’ve been wrestling the noisy little swine round the 160 bowls of Gent and Bremen for 20 years.
But the crowds love it – they think Dernys mis-firing and riders losing or even passing their Derny is all part of the show. If you work the six days you become oblivious to the Dernys – unless you’re trying to get two stroke out of riders’ socks, that is – but they bring the house down every time.
Speaking of ‘the show’ the on board camera footage up on the big screen is a nice touch – our boy Chris Latham is fully Go Pro-ed up; ‘but it’s comin’ off for the time trials – that’s worth a tenth of a second, that is!’
The word from my gurus in the Cycling Taliban back in the high caves to the north is that there’s too much sprinting and ladies’ racing; ‘we need 100 kilometre chases!’ And it must be said that some of the girls racing is a tad ‘conservative’ but there are compensations from having attractive, smiling young ladies all around you – and it helps keep the swearing under control
The fast twitch guys have been putting on decent entertainment, though and even if three time European Champion, Dmitriev is at a higher level than the rest it doesn’t stop ‘USA all the way’ Nate King from putting on a good show; and Japan’s Kazunari Watanabe isn’t shy either – and that ‘sun of Nippon’ paint job to his Look is well cool.
Daniel’s never quiet for long and produced new shorts tonight; complete with scary octopus tentacles – one of his sponsors is Sea Sucker who produce suction bike carriers for cars and of course our boy had to give us a demo of how well they suck. They’re very cool, clamping straight on the roof of the host car in seconds without any tools and taking up little space when not required.
And Cav was round to the cabin to give the boys some advice; people forget he’s been twice World Madison Champion – once with Sir Wiggo of Kilburn and once with Big Bob Hayles, so he knows the score. Cav was meant to be the star attraction here in the velodrome with Wiggins but the Manx-man’s Tour of Britain crash ruled that out – and Sir Bradley? Well, he’s a law unto himself . . .
The chases have been fast here but this track is big, fast, smooth and safe – none of these adjective apply to Gent, Rotterdam or Bremen and those races will be different ball games to this one.
And it does look as if the World Tour riders are ‘riding themselves in’ for the next three battles on the ‘walls of death.’ Berlin and Copenhagen are on bigger bowls but are now at the disadvantage of a road season which kicks off in January and sponsors who don’t want their riders messing about on indoor tracks when they should be getting their pictures taken in Argentina/Australia/the Middle East.
The Spanish guys were world champions in the Madison a year or two ago but are very approachable and still manage a laugh as they head up the ramp for the big chase of the evening.
Even though there isn’t much smiling once that gun fires – it’s fast racing with Daniel and Jake in the thick of it. We had ‘hot and spicy’ chicken in the camper – more like tepid, really – but the Hoegaarden was nice and cool . . .
Day Four and the girls stayed huddled together for warmth in the 30 lapper – for a minute it looked as if a move was going to go at eight laps out but common sense prevailed and they waited for the bell.
A much fuller house tonight with the upper tier of seats in the home straight occupied and the track centre much busier; and some real noise when the home boys were doing the biz – and on the subject of business. . .
London’s place in the calendar means it’s the shop window for the other organisers and we had Messrs. Madsen & Sandstod in from Copenhagen and the Bremen hierarchy browsing, too.
Meanwhile, out on the boards their countrymen were racing hard with Rasmussen, Hester and Jesper Mørkøv all wanting to show so they can get those crisp white six day contracts thrust in front of them for signature.
Mørkøv senior has no such concerns, he’s already signed for Gent with some local lad called, ‘Keisse.’
Chris and Ollie continued to burn up the time trials; you can bluff a lot in a six day race but that electronic timing just isn’t interested and always tells it like it is – those GB boys are in good shape.
I made the fatal mistake of pushing one of the sprinters of in a heat and since then every time the big guys are on the boards I’m up there holding one of them up – still, it’s been good exercise and did net me a nice race T-shirt.
And those sprinters are always ‘up for it’ come show time. . .
Sainsbury supplied the tinned ravioli tonight – with Martyn making sure it was ‘well hot’ and Kris concerned about the welfare of the pot’s backside – and it went rather well with the crisp, cool bierra Moretti.
Day five and the first chase went to Keisse/Van Hoecke – I thought it was just me but our Jake did confirm it was; ‘the most boring chase in the history of six day racing.’ Next up was the ‘longest lap’ – stay with me on this one, please. . .
Those not taking part in the Derny final have to do pop a standstill on the finish straight but if they break the standstill and cross the finish line then they’re out; eventually the commissar fires the gun – after a random period of time – and it’s every man for himself and crazy charge for the finish line, two laps later. Did you get that? Me neither – but big Chris Latham grabbed the points.
There are always visitors at a six day race and it was London’s own Maurice Burton tonight; Kris looked after Maurice here in London 35 years ago and now Maurice’s son, Germain is in action on the boards and performing highly creditably with Scottish team mate, Mark Stewart. Kenny De Ketele won the Derny final – his mum used to take him out in the pram behind one when he was a baby, after all.
Then sprinters, and that Nate King dude has to get over his shyness – and more ladies racing but it didn’t seem quite as ‘snappy’ as the previous nights; perhaps that’s why the final Madison over-ran ?
Our boys Chris and Ollie won the time trial again; more sprinters, more ladies and the final chase – and we know how that one ended.
Gent is next on the agenda; perhaps I’ll be with the boys in those tiny, hot cabins trackside, stony sober; or maybe with my amigos Dave and Callum in our favourite bar, the Vivaldi – maybe not so stony. . .
Whichever we’ll be there on Sunday night when Iljo heads down to his dad’s bar, De Karper to join in the celebrations or receive commiserations.
See you there?
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.