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Bremen Six Day: The First Three Nights
With the road season making its early start in Australia and Argentina, you could be forgiven for thinking that the winter disciplines are winding down – hardly. This weekend, the Cross World Championships are set to dominate headlines, and through it all, the Six Day train keeps on chugging. This time, Ed is in Bremen to cover all the action, behind the scenes. Let’s take a closer look!

Day One
The Scorpions meets Lynyrd Skynyrd; if that’s the sound the band were looking for – they’ve found it.

But Eddy Cochrane’s ‘Somethin’ Else’ in German – well . . . .

The racing hasn’t started, but the band has fired up and the bass could break your ribs.

Welcome to Bremen; the whole circus has travelled north from Rotterdam to the 166 metres of laminated boards on aluminium box sections squeezed into the ЦVB Arena at Bremen Messe – we’d call it an exhibition centre.

Whilst it’s the same distance as Gent, it’s a different shape – with longer straights and tight, steep bankings.

Jesper has trained on it and says it’s fine, except where the track centre access panels are – there’s a dip there like going down into a drain cover.

The field is a little bit of a puzzler to me – Franco won in Zurich, was second in Rotterdam and second here, last year. Despite that, he’s paired with a lesser ranked German – no podium for Marvellous, I fear.

Leif Lampater goes with ‘rider of the season,’ Iljo Keisse – and for my money, it’s between them and Rotterdam winner Peter Schep paired with Gent winner, Robert Bartko.

For an outside third spot on the podium I fancy Marc Hester and Andreas Mьller.

Our second rider, Jesper Morkov is paired with 22 year-old German roadman sprinter, Tino Thцmel.

Jesper has raced against him in the past and says he’s fast and punchy.

We also have two men from all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, Brad Huff (32, Jelly Belly) and Jackie Simes (23, Jamis).

Jackie Simes and Brad Huff.

Brad was world omnium championship bronze medallist in 2007 and has won stages in races as diverse as the Tours of Arkansas, Hainan and Normandie.

Bremen is Brad’s first six day, but Jackie’s fifth ‘race to nowhere’ – he’s ridden three Fiorenzuolas and one Tilburg in the past.

Jackie’s Parlee.

Brad rides with 22 year old German, Ralf Matzka; whilst Jackie rides with 21 year old Theo Reinhardt, also from Germany.

The music is good, Bryan Adams ‘Summer of 69,’ Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ – and so is the food.

There’s not much more you can ask for.

Well, maybe some more showers, one isn’t really enough; and some running water in the cabin so we can do the washing; and a cabin that isn’t up the stairs . . .

The start is a big deal, TV, Paparazzi, microphones and over-eager security.

The big blonde security girl starts pushing me in the chest as I try to take some pics; ‘does this mean we have a relationship ?’ I ask – her scowl is all the answer I need.

The flames spew forth from the track side light columns and Wagner’s ‘Ride of Valkyries’ booms; just like Apocalypse Now – I’m half expecting Colonel Kilgore’s gunships to fly in through the windows.

The first race is a devil, Iljo was saying before the start that he was a bit worried about inexperienced riders and was going to go to the front and drill it to keep out of trouble.

He did indeed and it was one rapid devil – last year’s winner of this race (with Big Bob), Robert Bensch, got the flowers.

The madison wasn’t absolutely full on but it was no potato chase; Jackie looked the part and finished at three laps – what folks don’t realise is that it’s not that you’re going out the back when you finish X amount of laps down, it’s just that you don’t take the laps back.

Jesper takes the sling.

It’s as much about timing as strength, just as a lull starts is a good time.

Jesper & Thomel took one late in the day which was perfect, they were gone and back on in four laps – nice.

Big Bob and Peter win – a portent, I’m thinking.

Big Bob Bartko hard at work.

I missed a chunk of the sprinting, the guys needed rice and Kris needed a banana sandwich – all part of the job.

The GB Team launches off the line.

Scotland’s very own world junior sprint champion, John Paul is here – I missed him winning the sprint due to my chefing duties but got a few shots of him in the keirin.

John Paul.

Then the schedules were changed, the balustrade sprint was brought forward and the band put back.

We thought nothing of it, these things happen in the six days – and then the truth emerged.

The lead singer in the band went AWOL as a result of imbibing too much of Bremen’s most famous product – Becks beer.

He had to be located and then rendered capable of singing; they’re not the best but the Germans like that pseudo heavy metal vibe.

There were two Derny races late in the night; red numbers only – all our boys are black so we only had to contest ballustrade sprint number two.

And what do you know ?

Our boy Huff went and won it. Second last word on the Bremen Six to Jackie; ‘I’d call it hard !’

And very last one to Brad; ‘learning – and oh yeah, my nuts are numb !’

Postscript: so there we were with our Becks in the camper at 02:15 am and an SMS arrives from Dirk, our mechanic, he’s in the camper next to us; “Darts on bbc 2” – no one is boring in the world of the sixes.

Gute nacht.

Day Two
To misquote Shakespeare;

‘that which I greatly feared is upon us.’

Brad hasn’t been taking bottles in the chases thus far and we’d no reason to think he’d start tonight, but he did.

Right at the moment his mitted hand clutched that bottle, my heart sank – I’ve lived this nightmare before.

Back in the Hasselt Six Day, four or five years ago we had big Kiwi team pursuiter Marc Ryan on the books.

He took two bottles in the first chase but we couldn’t find the damn things on the track – at this point you should be aware that Kris is obsessive, if not obsessive compulsive about his baby feeding bottles.

‘Marc what did you with those bottles, pal ?’ I asked him.

‘Ah, I lobbed ’em into the crowd mate, isn’t that what you do ?’

I was worried Kris would have some sort of seizure, when Marc hit us with that gem.

So when Brad disappeared up the back straight, I was willing him to drop the bottle.
No danger; I saw his left arm stretch out – the bottle was lobbed into the crowd, or was it the bar ?

A little bit of history on the track in Bremen.

I spoke to two barman before the security guard moved me on – but I’ll be back there at two o’clock this morning, on all fours on that bar floor, I just know it.

The joys of the six days.

I shouldn’t have had that iced latte, late on Thursday evening, it took me ages to drop off to sleep, despite it being 03:00 am.

I was up at 09:30 to get the cabin sorted out, fold the clothes – all the boring stuff.

Brad decided to change his position a little, today.

He fitted a shorter stem, and lowered the saddle a little – he felt the Focus was a little twitchy up front when he was in the change.

Lampater and Keisse lead with 61 points, Franco and Kalz are on the same lap with 52 as are Schep & Bartko with 43 and Kankovsky & Bengsch also with 43.

Leif Lampater chats with the media.

Jesper is at one lap, Jackie at three and Brad at five.

The U23 race kicked off tonite – there were the usual hollers every lap and the inevitable clatter as five or six tasted timber.

No lasting damage, though.

The all important bell.

UK riders Barry Miller and Colin Berry who rode in Rotterdam are here, having the ‘full UiV experience’ with a nine in a room hostel, no food or transport provided and warm up and change in the tunnel.

As I said to Barry; ‘Character building !’

The opening devil was rapid, again, really fast ’til the field thinned a little.

I held up Andreas Muller at the start of the first madison, he looks sharp, cheek bones well to the fore.

Jesper Morkov (left) and Andreas Muller.

He spent December in Majorca getting in some good training but missed the Rotterdam six day to ride the Revolution at Manchester.

He rates the young British riders very highly; ‘not tactically good but very strong !’

He was showing me the tread band of his Continental tyres – they were coated with a white grit, it must be coming off the white painted advertising boards.

Jesper punctured yesterday, but that’s only one I’ve heard of, so far.

They’re big on Dernys here, four races each night – Bremen has a long tradition of motor pace.

They might not be filling the stands, but the party at the bars is doing just fine – as this arrested visitor can probably attest to.

But the organisers should be asking why the stands are almost empty – albeit the bars and discos are jumping and Franco says that the organisers are happy with how the opening night went.

The big chase wasn’t a bad race at all – it really sparked with around 17 minutes to go when Peter Schep launched a huge attack.

Danny Stam’s partner, Erik Mohs wasn’t having a good night, though.

And whilst Jesper was looking good, his partner, Thino Thomel wasn’t looking so sharp.

The night ended with Franco and Kalz in the overall lead; I said the other day that Kalz wasn’t a top level rider – maybe not, but he’s a big strong boy and fast.

Marvulli and Kalz.

The two also won the 500 metre time trial, with Brad and partner Ralf Matzka riding well and leading until Grasmann/Ratajczyk shaved their time.

Marc Hester was man of the night with three wins – ‘Super sprint,’ devil and Derny.

Marc Hester gets a visit from his daughter.

His family and fan club were down from Denmark, so he couldn’t disappoint.

And the bottle ?

It’s back in the fold – runners are a tenacious breed.

Afternoon and evening session tomorrow – ouch !

And I almost forgot, there was a fresh band tonight who had a Hispanic thing going on – but it’s always a bad thing when the lead singer says; ‘rock it !’

Day Three
Mannschaftsausscheidungsfahren – let’s settle for ‘devil.’

In Scotland it’s even shorter – ‘de’il’ as in ‘de’il tak the hinmost.’

Whatever you call it, the one they had here on Saturday afternoon was fast – Jesper reckons it’s because there are a lot of young German riders in the field and they still think like amateurs, going like hell from the gun.

As Jesper says; ‘it’s not the UiV – and it’s Saturday afternoon !’

Saturday afternoon sessions are loathed by riders and staff alike; everyone has to get up early – after getting to bed around 03:00 – to set up, the racing isn’t usually inspired and then you have to set up all over again.

And you have two pairs of shorts to wash after it.

There was a huge gap in the programme, filled with a band, sprinters and ladies’ racing.

Kris and Junior World Road Champion Lucy Garner.

Franco disappeared to the hotel, Jesper was bored, Brad did his stretches and Jackie give his BlackBerry a hammering.

Although we did have a good chat about saddle sores, infections and how in the old days they used to sew a steak into your chamois if you had a saddle sore – on the principle that the only thing you can put on raw meat, is raw meat.

Joerg enjoys a quiet moment and reads the newspaper.

On the plus side, the music for the Dernys was cool – AC/DC, The Gossip and let’s not forget Fred Flintstone who’s prone to giving us a ‘yabadabadoo !’ when someone wins well.

It’s 16:15 pm and as soon as these jerseys dry, I can go and get fed – ’til it all starts again at 20:00.

Night time – and the riders are on the bahn for the rolling presentation, the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme pumps – show time !

A happy Franco Marvulli.

The devil isn’t too bad and neither is the first chase – Franco wins and our Americans both ride well, so far, so good.

There’s a good mix of music for the big chase, ABBA, Sergio Mendes, Boney M, Johny Wakelin, New Order – we’re standing beside the Havana Club bar, a little bit of Cuba in damp and dreary Bremen.

Along with the good music, there’s…yodeling.

The chase goes a bit wild just as Jackie is about to latch on the tail of the string – and then, to add insult to injury, he punctures.

Dernys, more Dernys and two sessions, tomorrow – all we need now is Franco to keep us waiting in the cabin for an age tonight . . . .


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