On the road to the Six from their road racing base in France the ‘not to be messed with’ Russian riders Alexei Chmidt & Konstantin Ponomarev get pulled over at the Danish border by the police, white Bee Em on Russian plates loaded with all manner of cycling hardware – suspicious or what?
In the commotion of the search, four pairs of Oakleys get left by the curb.The Russians are never flush [in fact the name in the sixes for a sparsely kitted-out track-side cabin is a ‘Russian cabin’] and the Moskva boys are on a downer. Next day a package arrives at the stadium with the shades and a note of apology from the Danish police, cool.
It’s a split day, afternoon and evening sessions, everybody hates this because it means two full set-ups of food and kit. As a consequence the racing is lack lustre.
Seriously, What Were You Thinking?
Saturday night is hectic and I lose points with Michael Morkov because I write his name in his shoes and it comes off on his socks and because I don’t have his shades for the derny race; ‘but I win anyway!’ so harmony is restored.
Betschart and Marvulli make a solid shot-calling pair.
Like the football pundits say, – it was a chase of two halves, the most exciting thing that happened in the first part of the chase was Alexander Aeschbach examining the contents of his ears between spells, later in the race Rasmussen and Beikirch tried for a lap but it wasn’t in the script; a word from Betschart to Stam and the escapees were left out front to dangle for five minutes – not gaining, not losing, just hurting.
Alex was so tired he forgot he had a controle; drove back to the hotel then had to come all the way back to do the necessary in the bottle.
Day Four: Thanks Mr. Lombardi
‘Lombardi say we take it easy, then he f***s us!’ so says Michael Morkov when he comes off his bike after he and his two junior brothers have just gone down to Lombardi’s ‘Rest of the world’ team in an Olympic sprint. Lesson learned Michael, if he stiffs you in a ‘fun‘ race, imagine what he’s like when it’s for real.
Sunday is an afternoon-only affair and it’s hard for Ivan and I to think about anything other than the pizza Kris has promised us in Copenhagen tonight. Gilmore and Schep take the lead, but we can taste the mozzarella already.
Bla bla bla racing bla bla…PIZZA.
Day Five: ‘You Go For The Girl?’
So says the Danish mechanic in response to our innocent request for some basic Danish expressions, like ‘hello’ – we must look desperate. It’s another pain in the butt split day, nothing of consequence happens after lunch but there’s drama at night.
Tonight it’s the handicap madison where the big boys give away seven laps to Dorich & Berling and our young Danes Michael & Jens with the other teams somewhere between, and it’s not just any old madison – 300 laps, 75 kilometres, ouch!
Don’t Forget To Go To The Bathroom!
One of my duties tonight is to remind Michael Morkov to go to the toilet before the chase, in case he gets too nervous and forgets. The race starts at an steady tempo, everyone is thinking about the distance, the big guys tactic seems to be let the lap count take its toll on the minnows then do the damage in the ‘final’.
Can you imagine going doing this…for 300 laps?
How Long Can You Go?
First guy to drink is Jimmy’s partner Lars Thomsen with 245 to go, he then had a drink every ten laps or so, by contrast our guys had one or two during the entire race. Disaster comes at 100 laps to go; Dane Jakob Mo Rasmussen [who is riding with Alex due to our Rasmussen’s normal partner Beikirch having a temperature] gets it wrong and runs up the back wheel of Michael Morkov. Both hit the boards, Michael sits for a moment to regain his composure; in the absence of a mechanic I check Michael’s black Pinarello, there’s a ‘shake’ in the four spoke carbon front, the rear is true, but the transmission is grating so I run back to the cabin with it, [after the race we discovered both wheels are in fact broken and good only for the dumpster].
The mechanics are already wrestling with Jacob’s red Pinarello when I get there and I have to convince them that we need a new front, eventually Michael’s little brother changes it for me. The problem with the rear is that the sprocket has run off and the mechanic has to remove the rear and take a sprocket wrench to the offending cog. Fortunately the race has been neutralised due to there being a chunk out of the track surface and Michael doesn’t lose anything other than skin and handlebar tape, ‘he is good road mechanic, eh?’ Michael tells me after the race as I sponge the track datum line paint from his knees.
Alex wins the handicap after the big guns give him the lap he needs – it almost has a ribbon and a bow on it.
Day Six: How To Time Elimination
Everybody’s favourite day [not least because it’s pay day] there’s a full house and there are TV cameras everywhere – this is more like it!
In the devil Jimmy Hansen explains that; ‘you time your elimination so you come in for your tea to cool to the right temperature man,’ OK Jim. It’s Jimmy Madsen’s last race on home soil [he’s riding the Hasselt 6 in Belgium as his swansong] and there’s a big presentation planned but he tells the organiser that he doesn’t want a ‘guard of honour’ from the other riders and then rattles off his ‘farewell’ lap with bouquet in his paw at near race pace to do his ‘difficult’ tag full justice; somebody is bound to miss you Jimmy.
Politics In Effect
Before we talk about the finale, let’s look at the politics of the race; home wins are what organisers want, there’s a big BUT though, – it must be credible. Madsen was supposed to win here, an excellent source told me on day one that; ‘Madsen wins 99% sure,’ and in fairness to ‘the happiest man on the track’ he was looking lean, mean and fast.
Thanks Mr. Lombardi, Part II
What wasn’t in the script though was that his Italian ‘super domestique’ partner Giovanni Lombardi just couldn’t find his pista form; his legs and that Specialized track bike from his Aqua Sapone days just wouldn’t do what his mind wanted them to – for him to win would have been a mockery. Madsen could have won if he had been partnered by say Marco Villa or Franco, but if he couldn’t have a Danish partner [his winning partner and compatriot from last year, Jakob Pil is still recovering from injury] then Denmark had to be in the mix; enter the CSC connection and Lombardi. However, to expect Lombardi to produce the goods against Slippens & Stam and Marvulli & Betschart was surely optimistic.
Once again, the win went to Slippens/Stam
For The Paying Public
As my buddy Dave says though; ‘Sixes are not for the purists, they’re for the paying public,’ true Dave, true. The last chase was OK for said paying public, but when Stam went to the front and a certain rider for whom I have much respect simply let him ride away and open the race winning gap, I could almost hear him say; ‘here’s the winning lap Danny,’ it was that obvious, still the crowd liked it.
Then it was chaos, drinks, autographs, TV, laps of honour, interviews, photos – as they say in Euro-speak; ‘Is normal, eh?’
On The Road Again
For Ivan and Kris it was 900 kilometres and 12 hours in the camper to Hasselt near Brussels for the last six of the season. Me? A 02.00 lift into Copenhagen from Michael Morkov, four hours sleep in a back packer’s hotel; the 08.00 bus to Malmo airport in Sweden; two flights and a near 100 mile car journey back to Fife from Prestwick airport.
Is easy life being a runner, eh?
Talk to you at Het Volk, for sure [I must stop talking like this].