PEZ: Give us your six stats please, Franco.
Franco: 86 starts in six days, 27 victories; seven starts at Munich with two wins, this year and 2007.
PEZ: Hard fought?
Franco: For sure, I would say that this year was harder than 2007. The Danes are a very good team; Bruno and I think that if we’re there for the sprints in a six, we can win, but Morkov and Rasmussen are very fast in the sprints, so we can’t just leave it to that when we’re riding against them. Rasmussen is fast but it’s not just about that, it’s also about how you get put in – Morkov is very quick now and he sets it up perfectly for Rasmussen. They are a good fit – they ride well together.
The Danish Duo of Morkov and Rasmussen.
PEZ: You have good form – second at Amsterdam then winning Grenoble and Munich.
Franco: And I won Fiorenzola in the summer too, so that’s three wins and a second from my last four starts; it would be hard for me to be happier. In other years, I’ve maybe had better form, but as you gain experience, you learn when to go for the laps – it’s like firing one shot and hitting the bulls eye, rather than wasting a lot of bullets!
Marvulli and Risi en route to victory in Munich.
PEZ: How was your summer preparation?
Franco: I did a lot of road training and I rode the Tour of New Caledonia (Island in the Pacific Ocean) just before the six season, that was 12 stages and it was really good preparation. If my head is good, then I’m good; focused!
PEZ: Munich – poor crowds, it could be finished?
Franco: I think that the final figure is that the crowd was six or seven thousand down on last year, but the last night there was a terrific, knowledgeable audience – it was a great experience. In the six day circle, it’s still the unofficial world championships. It’s difficult to say why people stay away; one reason is that there are so many more things for people to see and spend their money on in big cities, now. Especially the young people, they want to see crazy things – guys parachuting off buildings and stuff like that. They are talking about not having it, or replacing it with a three day or one day event. But the six day calendar wouldn’t be the same without it; Gent, Bremen, Berlin, Copenhagen and Munich – these are the classic six day races.
A happy Marvulli.
PEZ: Dortmund was lost.
Franco: I think it’s a lot of little things adding up; the financial crisis is one; Zabel retiring is another and there are so many other events competing with the six days for spectators.
PEZ: Does Grenoble have the answer?
Franco: They made a very intelligent change; they broke with tradition and introduced the circus events to attract all kinds of people to come in, not just cycling fans.
PEZ: Gloom in Germany, but Gent is sold out.
Franco: You can’t say that the sixes in general are finished, there are new races coming up – Apeldoorn, Hasselt and Cremona so it’s not a deep, deep hole. In Belgium they have good riders – Keisse, Mertens, De Ketele and the public want to see them. Copenhagen will be a big six, the fans will want to see Morkov and Rasmussen – the Danes had a good Olympics and Worlds and the public want to see the stars.
Racing the sixes as World Madison champions.
PEZ: How is Zurich looking?
Franco: I don’t know, but I don’t see there being a problem, bearing in mind that it’s Bruno’s ‘goodbye race.’
PEZ: Have you thought about ‘life after Bruno?’
Franco: No, I have too much to think about in the short term; so many things can change, so there’s no point in making plans just now. I’m not worried about it; I think I won’t have too much problem to find a good regular partner.
What will the sixes be like without Bruno Risi?
PEZ: The sixes is a hard world to enter.
Franco: It’s difficult to step into, yes. It’s very hard to do what Zabel did, just come along and win – it usually takes a lot of time, there’s a lot to learn and you have to work hard at it; some guys give up before they get there. That’s why there are only a few guys who can win the big races.
PEZ: Gianni Meersman’s debut at Grenoble was impressive.
Franco: He did a really good race, for sure. But Grenoble isn’t Gent or Berlin – the French track is a big one and it’s much harder on the smaller tracks, you need a lot more skill, but I think he has what it takes to make it.
Gianni Meersman made a promising debut on the track in Grenoble.
PEZ: The De Fauw tragedy, your thoughts?
Franco: People say it was because of the crash with Isaac Galvez at Gent, but three years later, you don’t just go out and hang yourself because of that. It was premeditated, there’s no doubt about that, it’s not like jumping off a building in a split second – but I think there must have been more than just the Galvez incident behind it. When I heard, I couldn’t train for three days, I just sat motionless on the sofa the day I heard, I just couldn’t believe it – I had been racing with him just two days before.
PEZ: Biggest changes you’ve seen in the sport?
Franco: The races are shorter, quicker, the riders are younger, when I started, everyone else was over 30 but now there are a lot of young guys and it’s not all just about the madisons, anymore. Overall, I would say that it’s fresher.
Franco was a young rider once…
PEZ: Are the ‘Revolution’ meets at Manchester, the way ahead?
Franco: I love riding them, it’s good, hard racing and they sell out; but Britain has good track riders and the public want to see them. The trouble is, if it’s not a permanent track like Manchester, it costs the same to hire the track whether it’s one day, or six.
PEZ: The Spring date for the Track Worlds?
Franco: It’s hard to say if it’s been a good or bad thing; but it’s not good if you’re a six day guy, you’re tired at the end of the season.
PEZ: Which win has eluded you that you really want?
Franco: Rotterdam, that’s one of our goals for this season; it’s also one of the few six days that Bruno hasn’t won. I’ve been on the podium four times, but never won it – but I’m not in a hurry, it’s not like I’m 40 years-old!
With congratulations and thanks again to Franco; he’s 31, by the way. Next on the calendar is Gent – see you there?