Stroetinga is quick, Iljo is poetry in motion; but leaders Leif Lampater (Germany) and ‘coming man’ for Belgium on the boards, Jasper De Buyst are not about to blow it. Lampater in particular is rock solid, unspectacular but so strong and fast.
There are six laps to go when Iljo swings up – it’s futile against Lampater’s brute strength and De Buyst’s class.
Jaspar De Buyst – The new king?
‘The king is dead, long live the king’ – it’s too early to say that Iljo is deposed and De Buyst is the new King of the Kuipke but this win on the back of his recent World Cup omnium win confirms De Buyst as having entered the world’s top echelon of track men.
Iljo in action handing off to partner, Wim Stroetinga
Time for podium pictures and interviews – and for us to ponder the drive to airport in the morning and the flight home to where there are no cyclo-cross or six day reports on the evening TV news. But our first sight of the race came on Friday night . . .
Kenny De Ketele is on rails and ‘super strong’ – as the pros would say in Euro Speak – as he drives clear on this tricky Gent track which he knows so well. But partner Gils Van Hoecke isn’t ‘super’ – he’s struggling out there in that barren no man’s land between the front of the string and the shelter which the last wheel in the peloton affords.
His head is low, mouth open, elbows wide and his pedalling action is clunky. His plight isn’t helped by German strong man Leif Lampater’s hard driving on the front of the string. Lampater is back to the form which made him and Erik Zabel such a formidable pair on the German boards.
The Bavarian is partnered by Belgium’s rising star on the boards, Jasper De Buyst – he recently won the omnium at the Manchester World Cup round – and whilst he’s not as strongly as Lampater, he looks stronger than Van Hoecke. For a lap or two it looks like Lampater is going to end Van Hoecke’s misery in the cruelest way possible.
De Buyst handing off to German strongman Lampater.
But De Ketele isn’t going to see all that time spent in limbo go to waste – he finds another gear and there’s a pause in the beer drinking to watch what’s happening on the boards as the former World Madison Champion forces the gap open, again. Van Hoecke digs deep to hold the advantage and then it’s ‘Kenny !’ again and the junction is made.
But at the end of the 45 minutes it’s all in vain and it’s home favourite Iljo Keisse popping a huge wheelie to take the first madison of Friday night.
Yes, PEZ is in Gent for the last three days of the Lotto 6 Daagse-Gent at the T’Kuipke Velodrome.
The flight schedules have been changed so instead of our usual flights to Charleroi in Belgium’s southern region of Wallonia; we have to fly to Beauvais in Northern France. It’s a much longer drive but no complaints on a bright autumn afternoon through pleasant countryside.
But you’re never far from reminders that this is perhaps the most savagely fought over stretch of countryside in the world, with battles raging across these rolling hills in both world wars.
We decided to investigate the BMC superstore/service course on the outskirts of Gent which we spotted back in the spring when over for Het Nieuwsblad but didn’t have time to visit. Over the years I’ve seen a few bike shops but this is perhaps the ultimate in stylish temples to the velo.
Two story high glass curtain walling envelopes the light, airy space where the full BMC range is displayed like objets d’art – with some of the prices to match. Well worth a look.
Things haven’t changed much at T’Kuipke; there’s still the stand selling pictures of your favourite ‘renner’ and the smell of beer and frying burgers is just the same as it was 38 years ago when Dave and I first stumbled, open mouthed up the stairs to watch in awe as Merckx/Sercu reigned supreme.
But back to 2013 and it was Germans, former Olympic Pursuit Champion, ‘Big Bob’ Bartko and just as tall – but with less tummy than Bob – Marcel Kalz dominating the time trials. There are two each night in Gent; both flying start – over one 166 metre lap and then 500 metres.
Bartko winds up and provides the ultimate in efficient Teutonic hand slings for Kalz who finishes the job off.
But it’s not all about what’s happening on the boards – singer Garry Hagger belts out the tunes over the radio mic between races to the delight of the fans.
Whilst former Gent winner and now Copenhagen race organiser, Jimmi Madsen signs up Austrian six day regular, Andreas Muller for his race.
Back on the track and Danish former Copenhagen Six winner Marc Hester wins the Derny after a multi tasked warm-up on the rollers – to the delight of his fan club. Hester has had to sit out the chases; original partner and World Scratch Champion, Martyn Irvine crashed out early on night one.
Hester was then partnered with Franco Marvulli after ‘Marvellous’s’ partner, former multiple World Team Pursuit Champion, Australia’s Luke Roberts also crashed out on the first night. Irvine got away with bad bruising but Roberts wasn’t so fortunate – breaking his collar bone and hip. Marvulli meanwhile, is absent from the boards this evening, when asked where his partner is, Hester shrugs . . .
In the old days Hester would have to go ‘in and out’ on his own with a team on the same lap as he was when his partner exited the race – with no sling, that was hard work. But nowadays riders who’ve lost their partner sit out the madisons but contest the individual races.
There’s still another Derny and the ‘little’ chase to come but there are Jupilers down at the Vivaldi with our names on them – and we’ve got a cyclo-cross to get to up on the coast in the morning . . .
Lots more to come from Ed’s Belgian track and cross adventure – Keep it PEZ!