Patrick Sercu visited our cabins on the third night. It was like being in the presence of a God – albeit one who smokes a lot and speaks Flemish. “The Flemish Arrow” they called him when I was a boy back in the 70’s, 88 six day wins, Olympic kilometre champion, World sprint champion, Tour de France green jersey – his palmares speak for themselves.
Make no mistake, he is the man; there is nothing happens in the sixes without his knowledge and/or say-so. He left behind two very happy Slovaks when he pulled a contract out of his pocket for our boys Martin Liska and Jozef Zabka to ride the Ghent six. Unusually, Secu is struggling to get a field together for the Belgian event. There’s a World Cup at Sydney and a German Federation training camp running concurrently so it’s proving harder than usual to get a competitive start sheet framed.
Night three also saw a “stand-still” contest as part of the sprint tournament, won by local hero Arnaud Tournant who managed 30 minutes plus. “Our” boy, Craig MacLean was second with just under 20 minutes. Craig is quite a character, he’s from the Highlands of Scotland and retains his lilting accent, he’s built like a tank and is the fastest guy in the world over one lap from a standing start. Despite his success and standing, every night after the race he fits a front brake and lights to his carbon sprint bike, and pedals back to the hotel.
The jerseys all swopped-around on night three, Franco and Aeschbach took the lead from Alex and Michael Who took the points leaders jerseys as consolation. Jozi and Martin lost the combine jersey but that contract for Ghent was more than consolation.
Climbing Alpe D’Huez in the middle of a Six Day is quite a change of pace.
On the morning of the fourth day Franco headed-off to climb Alpe D’Huez on his road bike – he concentrates on the track but isn’t a bad road rider, he beat sprinter Robert Hunter to win a big road race in South Africa last winter. Night four was enlivened by a colurful tale involving Belgian fast-man, Dimitri DeFauw, two red traffic lights and the French gendarmerie. It seems that the cops thought our hero was reaching for something more dangerous than his driving licence when he went for his inside pocket and hauled him out of the car at gun-point.
There’s a good bit of downtime for the riders on any give evening, so a little internet is mandatory – track burn is not mandatory.
A bad crash marred the racing, Dutchman Wim Stroentinga hit the boards hard during a change with Greek partner Ioann Tamourdis – apparently the first Greek ever to ride a six-day. The guys say he’s strong but hasn’t got the tactics yet to match his power. It was an ill-natured kind of night, every team had their squabble on the go whilst Marco Villa was arguing with just about everyone – I still think he’s cool though. The Dutch duo of world points champion, Peter Schep and Jens Mouris took the leaders’ jersey.
Franco and his wine gums…he isn’t too worried.
Franco says he isn’t too concerned and I think that he and Aeschbach are definitely stronger than the Orangemen – the last two nights will tell.
It was an early night for me – 2.30 am, so I can’t grumble.