Inside The Copenhagen Six: Dane Mania!
Susie, my chow chow would love these meat balls, cold, greasy, smelly with around one percent meat content; it’s a pity she’s not here – but think how awful it would be if she bit Danny Stam. Dinner time at the restaurant; day one the food was cool, but as the week goes on, the menu refuses to budge and the temperature of the food drops; ‘not good for riders to eat cold pasta,’ says Ronnie our number two soigneur…
Ronnie saves the day; he’s been ‘making massage’ to the guy who owns the restaurant and a gorgeous pizza arrives for him, of which I get half – those Belgian guys aren’t all bad.
Those Belgian guys (Ronnie) aren’t all bad!
Day five in Copenhagen, the food may be getting colder but the racing is getting hotter. The biggest race on the card is the 75 kilometre handicap chase; where the big teams give away up to six laps on the little teams. But that’s not ‘til 22.30; there’s a lot to do before then.
Just trust me on this one – Marvelous wears a MET helmet.
Exile and the O’jays take me through my helmet and shoe cleaning routine; Franco has a MET helmet and Northwave shoes, Alex and Michael are co-ordinated (you’d expect nothing less from two of Bjarne’s boys) on Bell helmets and Specialized shoes (with ‘wind-up’ wire closure system – cool) and Jens-Erik is with MET and Shimano.
Jens-Erik said to me yesterday; ’what are these wipes for?’
‘I use them to clean your helmet and shoes, every day Jens.’
‘Really!’ he replied; being a runner is just like being a housewife, no one appreciates you.
Franco arrives to read, text and Skype from the trackside cabin, he doesn’t like the claustrophobia of the main cabin, which is below the track; I know what he means, the air down there is heavy and stale. If he wants to chat, that’s cool, but if he’s thoughtful, I just work round him and give him peace.
‘Should I train or have a sleep, Ed?’
‘Do a few laps Franco, loosen the legs off.’
He laps the track with Michael Morkov’s brother, Jesper who is also riding the Six – more on him later. It’s ‘Mini-Six’ time and the track has to be cleared to allow the stars of the future to do their thing – legs whirl at a furious rate on restricted gears and the hand slings are better than any I’ve ever given.
Mini Six seems an appropriate title for these young lads.
The music is great, 60’s and 70’s pop; ‘Chicory Tip’ with ‘Son of my Father,’ jeez, I haven’t heard that in ages, the first UK number one to feature a synthesiser, written by Giorgio Moroder – I wish I had a recycle bin in my head!
UIV Cup time, that’s the sixes for the Under-23 riders. Back in the 70’s we used to watch the amateur sixes at Gent; it was like a more violent version of Rollerball – Maurice Burton’s backside spent more time on the boards than it did in the saddle.
Rolf Sorensen goes trackside to give some encouragement to the U23s.
If you’ve ever wondered how agents do their job of finding young talent; there’s ex-Tour of Flanders winner Rolf Sorensen trackside, encouraging the young Danes.
The Danish media are going crazy with Alex and Michael; today they were even filming them putting their shoes on. There’s Bruno; he skips up the stairs, he’s recovered from that virus he had – one look tells me that.
Seriously, every move.
Patrick Sercu has arrived, there must be deals to be done, that cell phone is a fixture on his ear; when I was a boy he was my idol.
I saw him once in a nocturne (night criterium, under the street lights) in Concarneau; he had on matching black and white patent leather shoes and helmet, Brooklyn shorts and his recently acquired Tour de France green jersey, astride his sparkling blue Gios Torino he was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a God.
Would you expect anything less from the Godfather of the Sixes?
Flying lap time and Dirk slides the rear discs into Michael’s Principia and Alex’s Pinarello – Dirk tells me that the rear fork ends on the Pinarellos are so hard that it’s difficult to get the track nuts to bite; he has to rough them with a file.
That Pinarello sure is pretty…but it takes a little work to get it right.
Jacob Moe comes in, his mechanic is AWOL and he puts his hand out for me to pull him to a stop; with some soigneurs this is seen as bad protocol – they think you’re trying to poach their rider.
Schep/Stam get 13.43 for the lap, Marvulli/Risi 13.40 – yes, Bruno’s better tonight. Alex and Michael are up and rolling for their turn earlier than usual – that’s a good sign. And the watch confirms it with 13.01 – more flowers.
Tayeb Braikia, who is one of the race officials drops in to congratulate his countrymen, Tayeb won this six in 1999, he was a Danish champion on road and track; winning road races in the US, Scandinavia and Europe, including the GC of the Circuit Franco Belge.
Tayeb Braikia poses with two guys you might have seen before.
The Ballerup Gran Prix is next; a knock out sprint series. Franco goes down to home boy Mark Hester, who’s quick, but not Franco quick. Hester milks the applause as Franco flashes me a wink from the banking.
Interview time and I wander round to see Daniel “Born in the USA” Holloway and his Garmin team mate Colby Pearce – cool guys and their words will be on PEZ soon.
Daniel Holloway and Colby Pearce relaxing.
Sebastian Donadio the six day man cum singer from Argentina comes to see me, he wants my pictures for his Facebook page; ‘no problem, Sebastian.’
Look for Sebastian on Facebook!
There’s a Madison behind the derny; Alex and Michael cruise to the win.
Another race, another Danish win.
Balustrade sprint time and it’s Tim Mertens who leads the string as; ‘almost heaven, West Virginia’ pumps out; Tim isn’t bad, but he’s no Daniel Holloway! Next up, it’s the man from North Ca. himself, leading the entire field high on the bankings; getting Brian May’s guitar solo in ‘We will rock you,’ down to a ‘tee,’ behind him riders clap, but no one else tries to handle the Stratocaster.
Mertens tries to take on Hollywood’s air guitar, but just can’t quite achieve air guitar god status.
It’s almost chase time; but there’s Soren Lilholt and it’s not every day you meet a GP E3 winner; ‘but you want to know how I win, Ed?’ ‘Yes, of course, Soren!’ I reply, like a school kid, completely forgetting that three of the world’s best six day riders are supposed to be the focus of my attention.
‘There are 12 of us in the final, I can beat them all in the sprint, I know it, but I take no chances and jump them, riding alone, winning on my own.’
It’s not everyday that you meet an E3 Harelbeke winner!
Kris gently reminds me that we’ve got a 75 kilometre Madison about to start; I shake hands with Soren and wish him well. The E3 wasn’t his only big win; he was world junior road race champion in 1983, won the Tour of Luxembourg, Route Adelie, Danish pro road championship and a stage in Paris Nice.
‘Cara Mia’ blasts; ‘darling you’ll be mine, ‘til the eeennd of time!’ wails Tony Christie – the lap board is more pragmatic; ‘300 laps,’ is all it has to say. Most sixes run chases over a maximum one hour, this one will be closer to one-and-a-half hours; and there’s a catch – the big teams are ‘giving away’ up to six laps on the small teams.
The capo should pull this back, but they have to race for it; there’s no settling in, Marvulli/Risi, Stam/Schep, Rasmussen/Morkov and de Ketele/Mertens set about the job from the gun. Franco and Bruno in particular look great – like overall winners, maybe.
It’s time for business.
It’s not that the little teams go out of the back, they just don’t have the engines to take lap gains and their lead slides like ‘snow of a dyke,’ as we say in Scotland.
What’s supposed to happen in the script is that the head boys snuff out the advantage towards the end and fight it out among themselves; but Jesper Morkov and his Austrian partner, Andreas Muller haven’t read that page.
There’s a lull and ‘Mini Morkov’ attacks, the big teams think, ‘what the?’
Big brother, Michael just happens to be on Jesper’s wheel and swings up, the gap opens, the crowd is on its feet and the big guns think, ‘this is good for the show,’ and let them take the lap – they know that the youngsters have no chance in the sprint. The organiser isn’t happy and tells Kris that Michael should have shut his brother down; maybe he was an only child?
Risi is riding like a scalded Swiss polecat tonight, there’s now way they’ll lose this one. I can’t take many notes, the guys are thirsty and I spend the night making energy drink, filling bottles then retrieving them from the far reaches of the track, where most of the guys discard them.
Risi is riding like a scalded Swiss polecat…
The real pros stick the empty bottle into the back of their shorts then drop it back with us a lap or two later; unfortunately our thirstiest guys, Alex and Franco don’t stick to that rule. It could be worse; a few years ago I was looking after the New Zealand team pursuiter, Marc Ryan in his first six at Hasselt six in Belgium. During the first chase, all the bottles disappeared; ‘Marc,’ I said, ‘what are you doing with those bottles?’ ‘I’ve just been lobbing ‘em into the crowd, mate, isn’t that what you do?’
Franco wins with ease and trackside, Eddy the Mechanic poses with a Beone. All is well in the world.
Iggy Pop blasts, ‘real wild child’ – he must have seen Franco; the big Swiss is rampant and makes the sprint look easy.
Flowers and a pretty girl to present them; what more could a six day man want? Money! I hear you say – that’s tomorrow, and until then, ciao,ciao.
That’s where you want to see your name.
But as a Colombo used to say, ‘just one more ‘ting, sir.’ As the boys sit in the cabin and I try to make sense of the piles of washing, the broad figure of Robert Bartko stalks in; there’s a little hush and we all think, oh!oh!
The big German goes over to where Madison hero, Jesper is sitting, pats him on the back and gives him a nod; Jesper is surprised, but his day is made.
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