When you look at the field in a six day race, it’s tempting to think that the names you’re not familiar with are just average riders. The fact is that just to survive in a six day, you have to be a good rider – there’s no gruppetto on a 200 metre board track.
Take Martin Hacecky; he’s won Czech Republic junior and senior national titles, UiV Cups, UCI road races, stage races and is a key rider in big winning Dukla Prague team mate Alois Kankovsky’s sprint train. Kankovsky has bested the likes of Philly winner Alexander Serebryakov and former Costa Etruschi winner, Yuriy Metlushenko in UCI stage races, this year.
But Martin isn’t just a rider; he writes for 53×11 road race magazine in his native country and also commentates for Eurosport. We chatted to him during the Sixday Nights of Zurich; as Kris rubbed the pain from his legs.
PEZ: How did you get into cycling, Martin?
I saw my older brother racing – he was big for his age and was winning races. I started riding but never thought it was something that would become serious – however, I won the Junior Peace Race and was fourth in the Coupe du Monde (UCI junior world rankings.) It’s difficult to hold the level when you go into the senior ranks, though.
PEZ: How big a sport is cycling in the Czech Republic?
It’s a minor sport; my friends don’t really treat it seriously that I’m a professional cyclist. Even when my countryman, Roman Kreuziger won a stage in the Giro, this year, it doesn’t get a lot of media coverage.
PEZ: Your team is at Continental level – Dukla Prague.
It’s a military team – but no one on the squad is actually in the army. It’s a good team with good personnel – the vision is that we can move up to Pro Continental level.
PEZ: Before Dukla, you spent a year with the Swiss, Atlas team.
I was racing in Italy when I got a call from a guy connected with the Atlas team. Initially I declined because I’d already been talking to NetApp about a ride – but I knew by the time Mendrisio Worlds came round I knew it wasn’t going to happen, so I went to Atlas.
It wasn’t a bad programme but it was hard to get into race teams because they tended to select Swiss guys. It was easier to get rides when my brother was going to the same races – but at the end of April I had to have a major operation on my bowels which put me out of action for most of the rest of the season. I did come back at the end of that year and won a few races at home; but even now I still have problems with my stomach.
I enjoy being on Dukla with my brother and riding as a team player; although it would be difficult for me to move up to a Pro Continental team – but you have to maintain self belief.
PEZ: Dukla rides a good programme.
Our management work hard at getting invitations – and when we race in China, for example, we race hard and win stages. The Chinese organisers admire teams which make the race; and it means you get asked back.
We also have good connections with the organisers of the Fiorenzuola summer six day – they’re very well connected and have helped us get invites to Tour de San Luis in Argentina and the Coppi Bartali stage race in Italy.
PEZ: What are the races in China like?
They’re well organised and on good roads. They’re hard races to control because the Chinese riders are highly motivated and are always on the attack. And there are teams there like Team Type 1, Rusvelo, Champion Systems plus Turkish squads – they’re very strong.
PEZ: And you rode the Tour of Azerbaijan?
The Iranian guys are super-strong on home roads, but we won three stages – it’s special to ride races like that, they’re not at all like European races.
PEZ: Tell us about your role in the squad.
It’s like you see on TV – we let the break go and then pull it back to set it up for Alois. We’ve had a really successful season – we won the Czech Republic national championship with Milan Kadlec; Rabon was second with Stybar fifth. The Czech Republic and Slovak championships are combined with 200 riders lining up; guys like Sagan, Velits and Kreuziger – but we controlled it for Milan.
PEZ: How did you get the Zurich ride?
By chance; I got an invite to the Tilburg six day last year – it’s a very hard race with no ‘arrangements.’ I thought it would just be one ride but due to illness with other guys I got to ride Grenoble and Zurich – I went OK in both, so I got an invite again for this year. It’s something really special to ride a big winter track event – but there are other Czech Republic riders who deserve rides in the six days; guys like Blaha and Hochmann.
PEZ: What’s your preference, road or track?
Road! When I raced in Italy I was good in the mountains and won a number of climber classifications. But since my operation I’m not as good on the climbs – although I still have the strength on the flat.
PEZ: What’s it like riding with your brother?
We’re similar riders and if one of us goes full gas, then the other does the same – and we both know how to hold the wheels and use our heads!
PEZ: Have you been accepted into the Six Day ‘Society’ yet? It’s a very difficult society to enter! They don’t speak much to me, but I understand that, they’re the stars.
No star treatment for Martin and teammate Alois Kankovsky at the Zurich six. A 700km drive and then 1/2 hour warmup on rollers in a back corridor was their introduction to this years’ race.
PEZ: Tell us about your Eurosport commentating.
I was originally invited to co-commentate by a famous Czech Republic commentator – who unfortunately passed away. So Eurosport asked me if I would do it – I did Colorado and the whole Tour de France; some days for as much as six hours. If there are two of you in the cabin it’s not so difficult – but it you’re on your on your own it can be hard to find stuff to talk about.
Martin finding time for a brief rest at the Zurich six with teamate Alois Kankovsky.
PEZ: And when do you find time to write?
I think about what I’m going to write when I’m training – the magazine comes out six times each year so the deadlines aren’t too tight. I spent two years at university studying journalism – but then I became a full time pro cyclist. But that’s not a problem; I have all the skills I need.
PEZ: What would you still like to achieve in cycling?
I don’t really think like that – I take it race by race. It would be good to be in a big team but whilst I’m a strong rider, I’m not super strong. And the thing is that foreign teams would rather have local riders than foreigners.
I’m just happy to be doing what I love, with a good team.