What's Cool In Road Cycling

Grenoble Six: Days 1 And 2

Ed Hood is once again doing the thankless job of Runner at the Grenoble Six, but though it’s low paying and the hours endless, can you imagine a better way to get in on the action? Mr. Hood takes us directly into the fray for a recap of Days 1 and 2.

It’s midnight, BANG, one of the young French guys has just taken-out Dutchman, Wim Stroentinga and they land three meters from me, shit happens. Five minutes later, it’s no “bang” it’s an earthquake as six guys hit the deck hard at the exact same spot. It’s the young French guys at the bottom of the stack but one isn’t so lucky and he goes over the grab rail at the top of the banking to give the fans up there an inter-active experience of six-day racing. We’re invoved; Alex Rasmussen loses skin and both of his Zipps are totalled – but his tyres stay on the rims.

The wreck was not kind to Alex’s Zipps.

A sight that should never be seen.

The same can’t be said for the French riders, their tyres hang in sad loops from the rims. Nowhere is it more important that your tyres are properly stuck-on than in six-day racing. Even if you puncture the tyre should stay on the rim so you can steer down off the track. This may be the only six that the French guys ever ride and the local bike shop mechanic ain’t the man to entrust with your wheels at this level.

Bernard Thevenet is at the Grenoble Six doing a number of jobs: a bit of carpentry…

…and a bit of riding as well.

It’s not every day that you see a Tour de France winner doing the carpenter thing, but event boss, Frenchman Bernard Thevenet is standing with the best of them.

Bettini must be wondering what he has let himself in for as the first aid crews and maintenance guys work over-time. Patrick Lefevre will be shaking his head at the thought of the rainbow jersey being mown down by some unknown French local track dude before the season even starts

Yeah, it’s that time, the Sixes are here again and I continue to wonder why I do this to myself. Slave labour until the small hours for less than minimum wage, bad beds in the bowels of the stadium, irregular meals – I suppose it’s because I love it.

The Grenoble Track.

The view from the entrance to the track isn’t half bad.

The journey to get here? The usual, aeroplanes, endless motorway, wind, rain, crazy truckers, bad hotels – what else is new?

Next stop: Grenoble.

The first two nights went well for us, our young Danes, Alex Rasmussen and Michael Morkov took the lead on night one whilst European madison champion, Franco Marvulli of Switzerland and compatriot Alexander Aeschbach (who we aren’t looking after) took the points jerseys. By the second night we had all the jerseys when our Slovaks, Jozef Zabka and Martin Liska took the combined jersey.

Alex Rasmussen and Michael Morkov are having a good go of it so far: here they’re checking out the program for the night.

The morale in the cabin is good, but the first day was stressful, the kettle and can-opener both broke then the electric went-out, this sounds like minor stuff but it builds-up and the riders aren’t interested in the problems – they want decent chow and clean clothes.

Bettini seems like a cool guy, he arrived in a silver Porsche, smiles a lot and is always chatting-away. He doesn’t look so happy during the chase though, road strength and speed doesn’t neccessarily translate to the track. He doesn’t have the lightness of touch on the pedals that the regular, “squirrels” as they used to call six-day riders, have.

The opening chase was his first-ever madison and the word from his partner for the race, countryman and six-day “cappo”, Marco Villa was, “we take it easy for the first chase, eh?”. A sentiment not entirely acceptable to “chef de piste” Thevenet who has a paying public to consider.

Whilst the field may not be the best, the crowd doesn’t seem concerned and the track centre is full to capacity; huge quantities of oysters, prawns and fine wines vanish before your very eyes.

I’ve got myself even more work to do – my compatriot, Craig MacLean is riding the sprint tournament which goes-off between the pro events. I’m his pusher-off and general helper when it doesn’t clash with my main gig. Craig was second to Theo Bos (Holland) in this year’s world sprint championship and he’s been a world champion in the GB team sprint squad. I keep thinking he has something stuffed inside his jersey and shorts but it’s just that he’s solid muscle.

Would any Six Day report be complete without La Folies?

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m just on the way back from the mini-mart with more bread and cheese, but I’ve detoured via my favourite bar for one “presion” – that’s cool beer dude, just don’t let Kris know!

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