What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ In The Trenches: Zьrich Trackside!

No rest for the weary – after a tough Gent Six, Ed and friends hopped in the camper and headed south to Zьrich for this year’s Zьrich Six, er, Four. Let’s go trackside for a closer look at the first two days. Read on!

Sixdays Nights of Zurich ?

Well, first up you gotta get there – all day on the motorway for Kris, Jesper and me, a cheap little restaurant for dinner, equally cheap Formule 1 hotel to lay our heads down – where did that day go ?

The hall is huge, the unfinished track sits within it like a whale’s carcass washed up on the beach – it’s whitewood ribs bleached by the November sun streaming through the big, high level windows.

There are just over 24 hours until the four days of Zurich starts, the joiners, riggers and painters swarm.

I try to chat to my buddy Pete who’s a joiner on the job, but the foreman isn’t in the best of moods; ‘we work, not talk!’

Maybe he has a point, if I was running this gig, I’d be anxious too!

I almost feel guilty, hotel, double bed, en-suite bathroom, amazing buffet breakfast – a runner’s life shouldn’t be this good !

The Four Days of Zurich is just fine with me, so far.

We got the big cabin set up yesterday; but obviously not the track side one – they were still ‘flat packed.’

Well, the track is finished – nearly.

The slow running board still has to go down, they’re applying Skoda decals like there’s no tomorrow and I just hope that’s quick drying paint !

Lunch time and we have the track cabins set up, the foreman joiner is starting to smile.

The UiV riders holler at each other, the first ‘fine diners’ are in the track centre, Franco gives another interview – it’s 18:45 and the track is definitely finished.

If somewhat bumpy.

The good news for Franco fans is that the big man is paired with Iljo Keisse, who’s back, looking mean and doing his best to destroy a set of rollers down in the tunnel.

We also have Jesper Morkov, paired with ever improving Marc Hester.

And tall Suisse, Dominique Stark who rides with compatriot Alexander Aeschbach.

They line up, the cannon blasts, Robbie Williams guarantees ‘Entertainment !’ and the Sixday-Nights of Zurich is off and running – but over four nights, that is !

A 100 lap madison with Grasmann/Lampater taking the first ‘runde’ to polite applause.
Like Barry White says in ‘Let the Music Play – looks like most everyone’s here !’

Bartko, Hondo, Bengsch, Mertens, Muller and Gent winner, De Ketele.

Just the Dutchmen Stroetinga and Schep and slippery Frenchman Kneisky are missing.

It’s a stronger peloton than Gent – but to keep the Belgian theme going, De Ketele/Mertens win the chase.

Big motors – madness !

Two years ago the track started heading for the street under the pounding of the big beasts and extra bracing had to be added.

Points race and it’s AC/DC, ‘Highway to Hell’ – now that’s a six day tune.

Right Said Fred blasts out – ‘Stand up for the Champions!’ I trot round to the finish line with a cap, towel and drink.

Yes, Franco’s back.

It was the Franco of old as he and Iljo stormed the 220 lap madison – in Gent he was down, flat and not ‘our Franco.’

Here, he soaks up the autographs, photo opportunities, interviews, TV cameras and handshakes then uses them as fuel.

And Keisse ?

He’s the king of the ‘bahn’ at the moment – slim, tall, still boyish, fast, a wonderful bike handler and he knows how to work a crowd.

The cabin is like a Hollywood restaurant for 30 minutes, TV, radio – even a Swiss fashion designer.

But it’s not all, ‘ice cream and fairies’ Dominique has to pull out of the madison.

He was struggling in the 100 lapper and came off in a change.

From the gun he’s on the rivet in the 220 lapper – he pulls in, the pain is obvious, mental and physical.

One lap time trial time – and the golden boys do it again.

A huge sling from Franco puts Iljo on a flight path which a cruise missile would be proud of.

It’s a 10.4 and more flowers, hugs, kisses, cuddles – if Iljo is King of ‘t Kuipke then Franco reigns in Zurich.

He lives around one kilometre up the road and rides the Zurich summer track league every

Tuesday night on the open air Oerlikon track which is right across the road from the stadium.

Time for the singers, ‘I Quattro’ – four tenors who belt out that operatic stuff, despite the sound system not doing them any favours.

But when they attempt, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – ouch !

Derny heat number one, Hondo wins – he’s cool.

Derny two, I’m too busy looking for Jesper to see who wins.

And we’re a quarter of the way there – or if you look at it Jesper’s way; ‘no, no, half way – there are only three days to go from six !”

It’s like spring time in Zurich, I wish I had a bike with me to cycle the five miles from the hotel to the track.

The hotel has a beautiful breakfast spread – but it’s not as cool as ambling over to the bakers at Grenoble.

They don’t have a programme here, a ‘magazin’ is produced each day, Iljo rules the cover.

Dominique is back, he’s got spirit – his crash and the hammering he took in the big madison would have had many a man hiding at home, today.

It’s a rolling presentation, good for us, it gets the boys out of the way and we don’t have to worry about drinks being handed up.

It’s also good for the riders who didn’t bother to train today – it loosens the legs.

Franco is a little more nervous today – maybe he used up too much adrenalin yesterday ?

The first madison doesn’t seem as manic as yesterday’s and Dominique survives it.

The Czech rider, Hacecky says it all feels a bit flat tonite, the riders, the crowd – he has a point but we’re too busy to be flat.

Dernys – Franco wins !

It’s the first time in all the six days I’ve done with him that I’ve seen him win a Derny – cue, manic round of interviews.

The big chase, 220 laps – half distance and the podium girls are bored.

Meanwhile up on those hard boards, Dominique is swimming – he comes in with cramp.

His partner, Alexander Aeschbach can’t see him on the track and shouts down to me – I point to the cabin.

He goes back up, but it can’t last and soon he’s back in the cabin – a grim faced Alex goes ‘in and out’ with another team.

Jesper and Marc grab some nice laps; Franco goes with 30 to go but is caught – then homeboy Dillier with Aussie O’Shea.

It looks like the winner but they stall and end the race in no man’s land as Big Bob Bartko and the world’s coolest man, Danilo Hondo take the chase.

The guys are all complaining about sore arms; maybe it’s because the track is so steep or it’s the bumps – or even that everyone has a different partner and they all sling that little bit differently ?

‘Mr. Music’ himself comes to call – Pete Traynor, the famous six day DJ, we interviewed him on PEZ, last winter.

Zurich is his only six this year – a pity, because the sounds are good here.

The one lap time trial, Iljo thinks there’s another lap of wind up to go so doesn’t hit terminal velocity to sling Franco – second, ah well !

Members of the Swiss Olympic Committee come to call, best not chuck them out the cabin.

The stayers go up, 125 laps at BIG speed – and that’s with the rollers set well back.

The bigger and faster the track the closer to the motor they set the roller – on the big outdoor Italian tracks it’s set close and they run up to 100 kph.

I was always fascinated by the ‘stayers’ – such a technical discipline with many little touches.

Like the jerseys they used to wear in those pre-skinsuit days of my youth – silk on the front to cut through the air, wool on the back to grab at the turbulent air and create forward drag.

In the last lap one of the guys loses his motor – the wall of air hitting you in the head and chest at 80 kph doesn’t make for good fun.

Sprint series, balustrade sprint – Barth decides to borrow the race mascot’s head – crazy !

Kris has most of the washing done when I get to the cabin, shoes off – that’s better !

We’ll be in bed for 02:30, easy life – but not tomorrow, the race doesn’t finish ’til 02:00 am.

As we say here; ‘gute nacht.’

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