The first big show down among the Masters of Darkness came at Amsterdam. Home boy, Danny Stam, partnered with super-classy German, Leif Lampater looked like favourites; but Switzerland’s six day king Bruno Risi – in his curtain call season – and prince regent, Franco Marvulli were confident of winning on Saturday morning, before the last session. Both those scripts went west, however when Germany’s ‘Big Bob’ aka Robert, Bartko and Roger Kluge proved too strong for all comers on Saturday night. Pez had a man there, here’s his take:
PEZ: Kris, remind us on your stats, please.
Kris: 34 seasons, 359 sixes and 51 riders [yeah, we think he's experienced enough!]
PEZ: Bartko & Kluge, saviours of German indoor cycling?
Kris: Yes – if they continue winning they could spark a revitalisation of the German winter track scene. They were very strong in Amsterdam; Kluge is up and coming – he still has a bit to learn, though.
Kluge and Bartko: on top in Amsterdam.
PEZ: Were Franco and Bruno mightily disappointed to lose?
Kris: No, but I think they were surprised at how strong Bartko and Kluge were. The Germans have obviously both done a lot of preparation, over the summer. Bartko doesn’t do a full road programme; like most of the six day guys, he has private sponsors and isn’t in a team. That makes it impossible to get into the big road races – the six day guys will get together to form a team to ride smaller road events – particularly in Germany. You need road miles and racing to be competitive in the sixes; they’re not real track racing – they’re more akin to stage racing.
Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli missed out on the win in Amsterdam.
PEZ: Is Bruno still the Boss?
Kris: Oh yes! This is his last Amsterdam six, so there was a presentation for him – riding below the arch of wheels and all that stuff. But he’s showing no signs of slacking – he’s still in charge! It’s hard for the big riders in Holland, there are the same number of sixes in Holland this year as there are in Germany, so there are a lot of strong Dutch guys who’ll give it a go – riders like Van Bon and Pronk. So there’s no rest for the big riders – and Bruno can’t show any sign of weakness!
This will be the great Bruno Risi’s final season.
PEZ: Who’ll be the new King of the Sixes?
Kris: That’s open to debate – watch this space! Lampater, I’m not sure if he wants it. Keisse, yes he’d like to be – but he has his problems at the moment. Stam and Bartko too and other strong German guys, like Pollack. Marvulli, of course – he has definite ideas about the direction the sixes should take.
PEZ: Danny Stam – the same rider without Robert Slippens?
Kris: He was riding with Lampater at Amsterdam, they were both sponsored by AA Drinks, but I think that’s just for the race – Leif has his own private sponsors. I think that Danny is missing Robert; they were asking one of the race sponsors here, who his favourite rider was – he said; “Slippens and Stam” They were the most successful Dutch team ever, although I have a soft spot for the 70′s team of Karstens & Duyndam – but I’m biased, Gerben Karstens was one of my riders – he was crazy, but they all were, back then!
PEZ: How did the good Dutch road guys like Kenny Van Hummel and Bobby Traksel do?
Kris: They did OK, but the cadence is different and it’s hard for them. I’ve heard so many good road guys say; ‘I’m gonna ride those six days, those guys make a lot of money!’ But when they come to the race, they find out how hard it is – some don’t even finish their first six. The thing is that even when you are resting, you are still riding in a six; in a road race there are easy spells and free-wheeling – not in a six, you are pressing on the pedals all the time. It’s a difficult transition to make.
Kenny Van Hummel giving it some gas.
PEZ: Kluge has just signed for Milram, will they let him ride a full winter?
Kris: I was talking to his soigneur and she was saying that he’s riding Munich, Rotterdam, Bremen, Berlin and Gent – plus Amsterdam, of course.
Roger Kluge was sensational in Amsterdam. We will be seeing more of him on the boards this winter.
PEZ: How are Iljo’s troubles?
Kris: His hearing was Monday past, he was granted dispensation to miss the official race start at 3:00 pm to attend. Mistakes have been made before with tests; word is that he’ll get out of it and ride the full season.
Things appear to be taking a turn for the better for Iljo Keisse.
PEZ: World madison champs, Morkov & Rasmussen – will Bjarne Riis let them ride the sixes?
Kris: They were going to ride five, but Dortmund was cancelled, so it’s four – Gent, Munich, Berlin and Copenhagen. Riis will want them to ride Copenhagen – Saxo Bank is a Danish team, they’re Danish riders and it’s Danish sponsors!
Morkov and Rasmussen won’t race a full Six season, but they’ll be present at some of the big races.
PEZ: Why is Dortmund kaput?
Kris: Zabel retiring was a big factor, but the crowds have been declining there over the last few years – latterly, they were shocking. Sponsors want a return on money. Apart from Zabel’s retirement, there are three other factors which have come together – there’s been a general drop off in cycling in Germany, Ulrich and Zabel were the big attractions; the drugs scandals haven’t helped and of course, there’s the general poor world wide financial situation.
PEZ: How were the crowds at Amsterdam?
Kris: It’s a good race, well promoted with an experienced team behind it. The promoters were satisfied with the crowds – ticket sales were good. But that said, they’ve started to do a lot of stuff in house, to save money, rather than contracting it out.
PEZ: With the loss of races, are there too many soigneurs and mechanics?
Kris: Yes, because old farts like me won’t retire – Guillaume is still working as a soigneur at 73! Another factor to think about with the reduction is races, is that it’s harder for the riders to keep in shape – before, one race would end and they would drive straight to the next on. There are big gaps in the programme now; it’s hard to keep in top shape in the middle of a Danish or Swiss winter.
PEZ: Is this the worst you’ve seen it?
Kris: You have to keep saying positive things, but when I started there were 21 sixes; that’s down to 14, now. One of those is a summer, out door six, which you can’t really count and there are overlaps, where two sixes run at once – you can ride ten, maximum. Of those only six are real ‘classic’ races – Gent, Bremen, Munich, Berlin, Zurich and Copenhagen.
PEZ: The future?
Kris: London will be back, next winter, Tony Doyle assures me; the story is that they are waiting until the London Olympic Velodrome opens. The Dutch are doing the most with races like Appeldoorn – that’s on at the same time as Zurich, but it let’s the smaller riders get a chance.
But it’s like Franco Marvulli says; “the riders are going to have to start thinking more about the future !”
With thanks to Kris for his insights, we’ll be hearing more from him as the winter season progresses.