Grenoble 2012 DAY 1:
But wait a minute, there’s our boy Guy East on the deck – it’s another crash!
Dirk and I trot round to see what’s happened but everyone is OK and ‘chef de piste’ Bernard Thevenet decides to call it a night – it is the last race of the night after all.
The exterior of the famous Grenoble velodrome.
It isn’t all gloom and doom for our guys, though – It’s not every day you get to ride a team time trial with an Olympic champion. But Guy and his partner Austin Carroll – our two young charges from the USA – did that very thing before everyone started falling off. Blasting round the velodrome with triple Olympic champion (twice team and once individual sprint) Jason Kenny glued to their back wheel. When their agent, Patrick Lyons signed them up for the ride they weren’t expecting that one on their CV.
One of Ed’s charges for the race, Guy East from the U.S.A.
But down here in Grenoble you never know what to expect next – those Paris Folies girls even kept their clothes ON for one number.
The track may be showing its age – those boards have been here since 1971 and the programme may have been cut back to four days, but it’s still a cool race.
The famous boards of Grenoble. You’ll be counting the splinters when you fall off here.
It’s the second race of the winter season; Amsterdam was the first indoor battle of the year. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Morkov used his strong road form – he was away in long breaks in Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours – to win, paired with former Netherlands elite road champion, Pim Ligthart.
Coolest man on the winter circuit, Iljo Keisse paired with current Netherlands elite road champion, Niki Terpstra for second with strong Dutch pairing Wim Stroetinga and Peter Schep taking the last podium spot.
World champions Kenny De Ketele and Gils Van Hoecke were fourth after doing all the work to try and contain Morkov/Ligthart then losing out on sprint points.
Iljo Keisse’s bike ready to be ridden in anger. Go on Ed, give us a few laps!
Keisse and De Ketele pair up here, taking on ‘home boys’ Morgan Kneisky and Bryan Coquard. Kneisky won here last year, with Keisse and is a class act; he’s been world scratch champion in the past. If Coquard doesn’t succumb to the night clubs and fast cars he’s headed for the top. Twice a world junior champion, he took silver in the omnium at the London Olympics and the same colour of medal in the Worlds U23 road race in Limburg. In the omnium he’s fast but also highly tactically aware – keeping his points low in the elimination, scratch and points, where many of the pure speed merchants lose out.
‘Homeboy’ Bryan Coquard.
Recordman for Grenoble – with six wins – Switzerland’s Franco ‘Marvellous’ Marvulli rides with rapid compatriot, Tristan Marguet. But Franco’s season has been compromised by a bad crash in a Derny paced track race in France, back in August. Not only did he hit the deck, he had the riders and Derny behind him ride over the top of him once he was down – so it’s not certain how he’ll go here.
If you’ve followed our Grenoble adventures over the years, then you’ll know that the pro racing is just part of the deal.
Sprinting is big in France and there’s always a major sprint tournament as part of the entertainment. Top name is of course Mr. Kenny; but France’s reigning world sprint champion Gregory Bauge is here. And also here is the fastest man alive; Kevin Sireau of France who rode 9.572 for the flying 200 metres in Moscow in 2009.
Gregory Bauge looking cool before another sprint.
As well as cycling, the ‘shows’ are amazing, this year – apart from the contortionists, there’s the trapeze act where one guy dangles from the bar with one hand, whilst his amigo dangles from him by a single hand.
Then there’s the ‘Statues D’Or,’ a male and two females who perform feats of balance and strength – they really are something.
The Folies girls look as lovely as ever, even though it’s disappointing that one number involves them being fully clothed – never mind.
A fully clothed number by the Folies girls still managed to keep Ed’s attention.
Throw in the track centre restaurant with excellent food and fine wines and you have an indoor race which harps back to the old days when the Six Days were the place to be seen.
You may think that the first day of a six is low key – you’d be wrong. For all the talk of sixes being ‘arranged’ you have to be fast and fit enough to be ‘in the mix’ or you can forget the podium.
The first night is law of the jungle, with the big cats marking out their territory.
The first 35 minute chase established that it’s Belgium v. France; the experience and strength of Keisse and De Ketele against the panache and youth of Kneisky and Coquard. My feeling is that the Belgians will be too strong on the last night – but both the 35 and later 20 minute chase weren’t bad races.
One of the historic problems with Grenoble has been that the ability of the local riders has been below that of the ‘Bigs’ – but this year the French guys have been performing much better and the chases aren’t at all bad to watch.
The fact that Franco isn’t firing on all cylinders was driven home when he had to be stretchered off to hospital with a viral infection, dehydration and diminished kidney function. Despite the seriousness of that, just before his demise, he partnered Tristan and Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny to victory in the team time trial.
Guy and Austin didn’t enjoy the 35 minute chase but went much better in the 20 minute one, and in the supporting races they’re holding their own – except when Iljo, Kenny, Morgan and Brian get serious.
It’s always good to get the first night in, sleep came easy – but it was just a pity the local council chose next morning to trim the trees around the stadium.
Those chain saws sure do make good alarm clocks.
Grenoble 2012 DAY 2:
As I said yesterday, the other French guys aren’t just rolling over – team 9, Vivien Brisse and Thomas Boudat are getting involved. Brisse has World Cup madison podiums to his name and Boudat is European junior points champion.
It makes for much better racing when it’s not just a procession with two or three teams doing the damage and the rest swimming.
The Italians Angelo Ciccone and Fabio Massotti won’t win but are riding strongly in the madisons, too.
The leaders after 2 days of racing are the Belgians Kenny De Ketele & Iljo Keisse
When you’re a runner, you have to be able to pick up the vibe with your riders – if they’re out early in an elimination race and joking about how they messed up, then it’s cool to chat.
But if they’ve just come down from some chase where Iljo is feeling frisky and the sweat is dripping from them, then best to get them rubbed down and changed in silence.
Chat or rubdown in silence? It’s Ed and the other runner’s jobs to decide.
The sprint tournament all seems a tad subdued, this year – except maybe the time trials where it’s full ‘gas.’ There’s obviously a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ in place that there’s no rough stuff and nobody gets any splinters.
Ed’s boys in the time trial.
The time trial – where our boys rode with Jason Kenny, this evening – became a bit controversial when Coquard and Kneisky had their sprinter – Mickael Bourgain do the first spell leaving rapid little Coquard to do the final spell and go top of the leader board.
Until Monsieur Thevenet showed them the rule which states that the sprinter has to do the last lap – all good fun.
The Folies girls were happy to strike a PEZ pose for me before everybody started falling off, that is.
Still, scratching the last race means there’ll be more bed time for the boys.
I just hope the guys with the chain saws don’t come back tomorrow!