There’s really only one story on day one . . .
. . . but what’s that? how did we get to the city of the Little Mermaid?
We finally got clear of Berlin at 01:40, drove to Rostock and the ferry terminal, crawled fully clothed in to the camper bunks at 04:30 – it was a cosy minus 11 outside – the alarm blasted at 09:30, we were first on the ferry, the Baltic was cold but calm, breakfast was grim, the 200 K to Copenhagen under grey skies required large quantities of Red Bull and eventually, there was Ballerup Super Arena.
The lap board was glaring at us when we walked up to the track centre – 400 it declared.
The riders tried not to look at it as they passed, but on Thursday night they had no choice, every time they crossed the line it was there, clicking down just one pain filled circuit at a time.
I must admit, I had my doubts when I heard that the very first race of the six was a 100 K chase, but it turned out to be a man’s race.
It was a throw back, brutal, a killer for the weak riders but a great spectacle.
We were busy boys with drinks during it but it was a proper race.
Keisse top the win in the opening chase…but not really.
Iljo Keisse out sprinted Michael Morkov to win, said the judges – but a picture turned up the next day clearly showing that our man had won.
But that’s six day racing for you.
And spare a thought for Worlds omnium silver medallist, New Zealand’s Shane Archbold – none of that sprint series nonsense to ease him in to his first six day; ‘100 kilometres? I don’t go that far on the road!’
Jackie Simes (left) and Shane Archbold (right) give a look at the evening’s program.
Danny Clark, they do him proud at Copenhagen, inviting him back every year to drive the Derny and sing a few songs – it won’t surprise you to hear that his speciality number is, ‘My Way.’
This year they had a tribute to him, he rode a few laps, sang a few songs.
Danny Clark accepts flowers.
It’s easy to forget how good the man was:
# Commonwealth Games pursuit silver medallist in 1970
# Olympic Games kilometre silver medallist in 1972
# twice world keirin champion
# twice world motor paced champion
# 13 times a European champion: 4 x madison + 6 x omnium + 2 x Derny + 1 x motor paced.
# 236 six day starts (the record)
# 74 six day wins (second only to Sercu’s 88)
His stats for Copenhagen are staggering, he started the race 21 times between 1976 and 1997, winning 8 times, coming second 6 times and third once, finishing 19 times.
On the old track at The Forum in central Copenhagen, he recorded the fastest lap of the race no fewer than a dozen times.
Every morning during the six he’s on the track, lapping steadily – some days for two hours.
Jack Simes, Soren Lilholt, and Danny Clark.
He’s been racing Masters and riding Grand Fondos in Italy, with 11 wins in 2011, he tells me.
If it hadn’t been that the ‘powers that be’ stopped him from racing because it looked bad, this old guy giving riders half his age a kicking, he’d probably still be up there in the chases.
And he has other talents!
And his singing isn’t too bad.
Danny’s views on the state of current six day madison racing are blunt; ‘they’re all too friendly, there’s no confrontation.
Back when I raced we weren’t friends, not a bit of it.
Nowadays you can see that it’s this team’s turn to take a lap, then that team’s turn – but there’s no real chasing.
I can remember being out front for 10 or 15 minutes to get a lap with the bunch chasing us like hell.
The gears now are that bit higher and the bunch sits at a higher speed, so maybe the average speeds have gone up a little but the racing is less exciting because there are less attacks.’
I have to agree that this season hasn’t seen the best chases, the guys come off the bike and tell you it’s hard, but apart from the 100 K race on Monday and a couple of the chases at Rotterdam, I haven’t been thinking, ‘wow !’ too often.
But maybe Danny and I are dinosaurs?
If you like six day stats like the ones on Danny above, you’ll love the book which retiring organiser, Henrik Elmgreen has produced for this year’s race – Danish language, but stats are stats and pictures are pictures.
There are stats on everything – total number of riders who have competed in the six (excluding 2012) 430, total number of nationalities who have competed, 22 including eight Russians, one Luxembourger and one South African.
My favourite picture has to be the elephant trashing the cabins in 1976 – wish I’d been there!
The UiV (Union International de Velodromes) talent cup – at Copenhagen they embrace it, race organiser Henrik Elmgreen has been one of the champions of the youngsters’ race.
But it’s not like that at all the six days, Jesper Morkov came up through the UiV and he’ll tell you that many organisers treat the U23 races as an inconvenience with nowhere for the young riders to change or warm up.
Jesper is ascending through the ranks in elite Six Day racing now – he was paired with Franco Marvulli in Copenhagen.
Many venues only organise it over three or four days – but at Copenhagen it’s over the full six days and the winners get properly treated, with wreaths and laps of honour.
The worth of the competition can be gauged by looking at the names of riders who have competed in it; Iljo Keisse, Michael Morkov, Marc Hester, Alex Rasmussen, Roger Kluge, Tim Mertens, Pim Ligthart, Peter Kennaugh . . .
This year, one of the best riders on the circuit and the one who ran out overall winner in Copenhagen was Dominik Stucki of Switzerland.
Dominik actually rode the elite six day nights of Zurich, at the end of last year and didn’t embarrass himself.
The UiV winners.
But he’s talking about calling it a day to concentrate on his studies – let’s hope not.
Saturdays are split days at Copenhagen, there’s an afternoon session too, the riders can’t really be bothered and it’s grim for us.
You have to be up early on the Saturday to get everything ready for the lunchtime kick off, but bearing in mind it was 03:00 am when we got to bed.
In between the afternoon and evening sessions all of the kit has to be sorted out again and the racing goes on ’til late.
Danny Clark chats with Jackie Simes and Shane Archbold.
The final nail in the coffin is that there’s a Sunday afternoon session too, so no long lay on the Sabbath.
Michael Rasmussen dropped in for a visit.
The racing finishes at six on Sunday but by the time the washing and chores are done and you’ve had a bite to eat, all you want to do is sleep.
Seb Landers rides a pretty special Fuji.
Monday morning is my favourite morning at Copenhagen, you can sleep until you waken – not get jolted back to life by your phone alarm.
Sundays, never a day for epic racing but it was ‘house full’ and a good buzz in the Arena.
Shane got himself a win on Sunday.
Shane enjoys the spoils of victory.
Shane sports a legendary mullet – business in the front, party in the back!
And it is a Sunday so the chases don’t get too savage.
Kris took us for a pizza, that was nice – and we had a beer in our room before lapsing into comas!
Handicap night, a long standing Copenhagen tradition – over 75 kilometres, that’s 300 laps with the ‘big’ teams giving away up to six laps on the ‘small’ teams.
There’s no room to pussy foot, all laps lost/gained count for the overall standings.
That’s quite the handicap.
Usually it’s one of the strong mid ranked teams which wins, last year it was the Czechs, Hochmann & Blaha who took it with a track record 1:25:23, that’s 52.703 kph.
Once the going gets tough, the weaker teams don’t have the horse power to go with the strong ones, but some of the mid ranked teams can, if they’ve saved a little bit then maybe they can sneak it.
Speaking of the last two years…
The last two years it’s been a good race with the winners not decided ’til very late in the day.
This year, whilst it was a tough race, it wasn’t a great spectacle; the big Germans Kalz and Bengsch came solo on to the zero lap at around 75 laps to go and held the advantage to the end.
A smooth transition for Bengsch and Kalz.
No one seemed to have the will or legs to get up to them – I was looking for a late charge, but it never happened.
What was apparent though was the needle between teams 7 and 9 – Alex & Michael and Keisse/Hester.
Keisse pauses for refreshment.
Marc Hester shadowed Michael all night – there was no way he was going in to the final night a lap down on the men in red and white.
Morkov and Rasmussen field questions from all angles.
And it’s not just pressure from team number 9 which Alex and Michael have to live with.
Martyn and I were in the cabin when Michael arrived for massage, TV crew in tow.
But the man with the mic wasn’t asking questions about the 50th Copenhagen Six Day, they were about Michael’s team mate, Alberto Contador.
Morkov answers questions on his in-the-news teammate.
Michael is a very polite, respectful man, but as he says; ‘when they ask you the same question in four different ways, it’s hard not to get a little annoyed!’
Marc Hester: when I first worked on the six days, Marc had a little bit of a rep. he was neutralised with illness and/or injury a little too frequently and was prone to making statements which didn’t meet with the approval of the other riders.
Hester and Keisse formed a powerful, successful pairing in Copenhagen.
But each year the man has matured, he’s a proud father, trains hard and does his job well up on the boards; he’s approachable, has time for runners like me and likes to fool around a little when the time is right.
Last winter, paired with former Olympic silver and Worlds gold medallist in the team pursuit, Jens Erik Madsen he made great progress up the greasy pole – making the podium in Grenoble, Bremen and Copenhagen.
Jens Erik pays a visit.
But Jens Erik decided to take a year out; it’s not everyone who can handle the six day life style, away from family for weeks, hours of down time in hotels and track cabins – not to mention the fake bonhomie which exists among some and which a thoughtful man like Jens Erik has no time for.
Hester dug deep with Iljo Keisse.
Hester went deep in the Monday handicap and very deep in the finale, he’s pale skinned but was practically see through in the last 50 laps as he battled with Alex and Michael – ‘Par # 7’
But not only that, he had to repay the organiser’s confidence in pairing with him the man who has made this winter season his own – Iljo Keisse.
Marc was emotional on the podium, Iljo beamed – and thought about how he can beat those Aussies in the Worlds come the spring.
A very happy Marc Hester after the race.
It’s good for the fans and the media for there to be a change at the top – a challenge to the domination of the men in red, white and seven.
Keisse turns his attention from the track to the road next – this will be a crucial season on the road for the rider from Gent.
Hester/Keisse’s victory set things up neatly for a re-match in 2013.
You can be sure that Par No. 7 will be back in 2013 to regain their Copenhagen title.
Bartko/Lampater took third, Danny Stam/Stroetinga took fourth in the veteran Dutchman’s last six day and Marvellous/’Mini Morkov’ as they call Jesper, took fifth.
And with the finish of the Copenhagen Six, Danny Stam’s career comes to a close.
Not a bad six, but not a great one – I think I’ve said that quite a lot, this season
Unless things change, there will only be six ‘sixes’ in winter season 2012/13 – Grenoble and Zurich will be four day races.
Ciao, ciao and thank you for reading – and if we don’t see you in Gent, see you in Grenoble in October?