An Introduction to the 96th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen
by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
The 96th edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen begins on Thursday, 25th January when an estimated 70,000 people will once again cheer and whistle the riders around the 250 metre track in the Landsberger Allee Velodrome.
After the tragic death of Isaac Galvez in Gent all the riders will have had a difficult time coming to terms with what happened. None of us present that late November night will ever forget what we saw and the shock, disbelief and subsequent grief we felt as drama turned to tragedy. In cycling, as in everything, life goes on and it will have been with heavy hearts that after a four week break the 'blue train' of regular six day riders embarked on the second part of the season in Zurich.
With the winter Six Day calendar now extremely busy many of the riders will have ridden back to races this month. Since the revived Zurich race finished, the six day circus moved on to Rotterdam, Bremen, Stuttgart and Berlin. This makes for a very tough schedule with riders getting just four days break (every Wednesday) from racing and many of those days may be spent travelling. Despite such a hectic schedule the riders will arrive in the German capital tired but motivated. Since its reIntroduction to the calendar in 1997, Berlin has earned its place as one of the best Six Day races with a knowledgeable and noisy crowd, good organisation and excellent facilities.
The 2007 Edition
The 2006 / 2007 Six Day season has been a strange one not least because of the aforementioned death of Isaac Galvez but also due to injury and the retirement of some top riders. Robert Slippens, winner last year with fellow Dutchman Danny Stam, has been out all winter as has Belgian Matt Gilmore after serious crashes on the road late last summer. The circuit has also seen the retirement of Kurt Betschart, Jimmi Madsen and Scott McGrory. So potentially the 96th Berliner Sechstagerennen is wide open, but logic tells us that the winners will come from four or possibly five teams.
The veteran Swiss rider Bruno Risi has just won his 43rd Six Day in Stuttgart and despite the retirement of his career long racing partner Kurt Betschart seems to be as strong as ever. So far this season Bruno has won no less than six of the eight races he has contested, no result was posted for Ghent of course. Three of these victories came with Erik Zabel which provided no real surprises but he also has three victories with fellow Swiss Franco Marvulli, including the home win in Zurich (note the win in Stuttgart included Alexander Aeschbach as they have three man teams). Indeed Marvulli himself has four wins having also won in Grenoble with Alexander Aeschbach. With this kind of form and confidence the Swiss pair must start as the slight favourites.
Having a great tradition for track racing Berlin of course has its home riders and in Guido Fulst and Robert Bartko we have riders on different teams sharing equal status as the 'home favourite'.
Hailing for an Eastern District of the city, and being a former GDR (East Germany) rider, team pursuit stalwart and track veteran Guido Fulst is a local guy through and through. He won here in 2004 with Bartko but over the last year or so Guido has been riding with the up and coming talent Leif Lampater where the pair have blended youth and experience for some good results. They have taken three 2nd and one 3rd place in their four Six Day races together so far this season and will surely be looking to push for that elusive win in their capital city.
Robert Bartko, from nearby Postdam, started the season badly with a crash that caused a serious injury to his ribs. Since making a full recovery Bartko has had a good second half to the season taking a win with Iljo Kiesse in Rotterdam. After podium places in Zurich, Bremen and this week in Stuttgart he will be looking to make the top step at his home velodrome in Landsberger Allee. His partner and fellow German Andreas Beikirch on the other hand has had a poor season by his own standards failing to finish a number of events due to injury or illness and being paired with weaker riders, he has no podium places this season. However the organisers, and Bartko, must have faith in his ability as they are Team 1 on the list and will wear the main event sponsors jersey which means a good finish is expected.
The Dutch pair of Danny Stam and Peter Schep are reunited after the classy Schep missed the first three events of 2007, including Rotterdam, due to contracting a virus. It will be interesting to see if they can return to the form they showed earlier in the season after winning in Amsterdam, to challenge for the podium. They recently finished 3rd in Stuttgart (with Olaf Pollack) but faded to at a distant seven laps in the last two nights.
The Belgian phenomenon Iljo Keisse has had a difficult but solid season without Matt Gilmore, and he will have felt a lot of pain after the Galvez tragedy with it happening on his home track. A win in Rotterdam and a number of 2nd and 3rd places, with Bartko, Villa and Marvulli show that Iljo is a main player and after missing Stuttgart he should be fresh. He is paired with, former track man but now middle ranking road sprinter, Olaf Pollack who after being released by T Mobile has dropped to a Pro Continental team for 2007. Pollack having worn the Giro's Maglia Rosa and also ridden for Gerlosteiner was reportedly very upset at not getting a contract at T Mobile. So far this year Pollack, a former East German, may have found his track legs, showing reasonably well in Bremen and Stuttgart, but after the Pro Tour contract loss his purpose for riding may be financial rather than sporting. For this obviously talented pair the podium may be a long shot although not impossible if Iljo Keisse can carry them along.
Best of the Rest
Elsewhere it is difficult to see any other teams who will challenge for the win although a number of them look interesting at least on paper. The experienced Italian Marco Villa is paired with Christian Grasmann who has looked promising so far this year and they should stay in the top half of the classement.
The young Dane Marc Hester who is surely a big Six Day rider of the future is paired with fellow Dane Jakob Storm Piil. Piil started life as a track rider racing Sixes regularly in the 1990s but turned his attention to the road and has a 2003 Tour De France stage win and the 2002 Paris-Tours classic on his palmares. These days at nearly 34 and approaching veteran status, he usually only rides the Copenhagen Six and his appearance in Berlin is probably more to help find his track legs for Copenhagen, which starts two days after Berlin. Although now signed for T Mobile it may be a chance to impress sponsors so the Danes should finish respectably in the top half.
Fellow Danes Rasmussen and Morkov had good results in UIV Cup (Amateur Sixes) a few years ago and have had a few starts around the circuit as well as racing in World Cups for Denmark. Rasmussen must be highly thought of as he has been paired with Piil as 'the Danish team' for Copenhagen, so he will look to gain form and stay out of trouble although the Danes won't be also rans. Another promising young pairing are the Belgians De Ketele and Steve Schets, who at just 21 and 22 respectively have a few Six Day starts under their belt in Gent, Copenhagen, Hasselt, Maastrict, Grenoble and Rotterdam. To my knowledge though this is their first professional outing in Germany so it may be more of a learning process for the Flemish boys.
Another Berliner on the start line is Andreas Muller (who spoke to your correspondent a number of times in Gent) riding here with the experienced Swiss Alexander Aeschbach. Muller like Christian Grasmann has ridden a few events outside of Germany this season and has generally shown well. In front of his home crowd and paired with a strong and competent rider like Aeschbach 'Andy' should be good for a top six place.
The Teams for Berlin
Bruno Risi (Sui) - Franco Marvulli (Sui)
Guido Fulst (D) - Leif Lampater (D)
Erik Weispfenning (D) - Michael Arends (D)
Marco Villa (It) - Christian Grasmann (D)
Gerd Dorich (D) - Henning Bommel (D)
Danny Stam (Nie) - Peter Schep (Nie)
Alexandre Aeschbach (Sui) - Andreas Muller (D)
Robert Bengsch (D) - Christian Lademann (D)
Marc Hester (Dk) - Jakob Piil (Dk)
Iljo Keisse (B) - Olaf Pollack (D)
Christian Bach (D) - Roger Kluge (D)
Andreas Kappes (D) - Erik Mohs (D)
Alois Kankovsky (Cze) - Petr Lazar (Cze)
Kenny de Ketele (B) - Steve Schets (B)
Stefan Loffler (D) - Sebastian Frey (D)
Lars Teutenberg (D) - Marcel Kalz (D)
2006 / 2007 Six Day Winners:
AMSTERDAM - Stam / Schep
DORTMUND - Risi / Zabel
GRENOBLE - Marvulli / Aeschbach
MUNICH - Risi / Zabel
GHENT - No Result
ZURICH - Risi / Marvulli
ROTTERDAM - Bartko / Keisse
BREMEN - Risi / Zabel
STUTTGART - Risi / Marvulli / Aeschbach
Sprinters and Stayers
The 96th Berliner Sechstagerennen will also host its annual International Sprinters Cup and Stayer (motor paced) racing competition.
Sprinting had a great tradition in the former GDR and the format of a nightly 1 lap time trial, keirin race and a match sprint (normally 3 riders in each heat of the sprint) keeps the crowd entertained. At the end of the Six Days the sprinter with the most points accumulated from all the individual races receives the overall International Sprinters Cup.
Traditionally only Dortmund and Berlin have had Stayer racing but this season these very specialist riders and pacers alike have had a bonus as both Zurich and Stuttgart have also hosted the 'big motors' this season. Each night the Stayers contest one 20 minute race with the nightly points (for 1st - 7th) going towards an overall winner on the final night. Once again local rider Carsten Podlesch will be the favourite having won 9 from 10 in Berlin and he is a big fans favourite too. However the results this season suggest a closely fought competition as the Swiss / Italian Giuseppe Atenzi has taken the other three Six Day Stayers competitions so far. Also look out for Carsten Podleschs perennial rival from Berlin Peter Jorg, from Switzerland, who took a big win at the traditional Boxing Day 'Grosser Weihnachtspreis' track meeting in Dortmund.
Family Tag in Landsberger Allee
Sunday at German Six Day races is traditionally the Family Tag (day) when the Mums, Dads and children attend together thus, hopefully, bringing in fans for future generations. For the racers Sundays are probably the hardest as they will have been up until 3 or 4am following the Saturday night programme and then start at 11am.
The Sechstage Rennen in Berlin, as expected, has been a close fought battle between Bartko / Beikirch, Fulst / Lampater and Risi / Marvulli but not to be counted out are Stam / Schep and Keisse / Pollack who are hanging onto there coat tails. Family Tag saw the battle continue with the leading places changing hands between the crucial Madison chases. The Madison's are of course normally where Six Day races are won and lost but in Berlin with a relatively small racing programme, and therefore less points from other events available, they are even more important. Your correspondent arrived in the Landsberger Allee Velodrome just in time to see the big 45 minute chase of the day.
With the aforementioned tiredness in evidence the chase didn't really come to life until the closing 10 minutes but when the major players made there move it was eye balls out until the finish. Bartko / Beikirch, Fulst / Lampater, Risi / Marvulli and Keisse / Pollack went clear and brought the crowd too its feet by gaining the lap they then all moved to the front were Leif Lampater confirmed the progress he has made this season by out sprinting Bartko, Pollack and Risi. Also showing well in the Madison were the young Danes Rasmussen / Morkov who finished 1 lap behind with the Dutch pair Stam / Schep who appeared to miss the boat, they would however bounce back later.
The shorter 30 minute chase took a different pattern with Danes Rasmussen / Morkov and Hester / Piil getting a lap ahead of the field alongside Stam / Schep. Coming into the final 3 laps it became a two way battle though as Hester / Piil couldn't keep pace leaving Peter Schep to finish off Rasmussen in a two up sprint. This crucial lap gain for the Dutchmen left them finishing the day on the same laps as the other leaders but just 3 points from a bonus lap. This Six Day race really looks like it will go to the wire.
Despite no Sunday madison success the 'new' Alpine Express of Risi / Marvulli kept their point's total ticking along with a victory in the team elimination (team devil) race. As mentioned the Danes Rasmussen / Morkov have also been going well putting in a much stronger showing than the more fancied Danish paring of Piil / Hester who are struggling at 11 laps behind the leaders. The youngsters actually broke their own track record for the 1,000 metre TT on Saturday night posting 56.183. The TTs in Berlin see each rider doing 500 metres (2 laps) each before hand slinging their partner in at the half way mark. MarcoVilla and Christian Grasmann also appear solid at +3 laps but everyone else is way back. Elsewhere a rider who we met in Gent, and a native Berliner, Andy Muller racing here with Swiss Alex Aeschbach has been ill and was out of Sunday's racing thus losing +10 laps and leaving them out of contention for a top 8 finish. Also an honourable mention for the Belgians Kenny De Ketele and Steve Schets who although 12 laps down are ahead of many of the German Six Day riders and have justified getting their first start at a 'pro' German Six.
Standings at the end of Sunday:
2. Fulst / Lampater 183 points
3. Risi / Marvulli 178 points
4. Stam / Schep 97 points
+ 1 lap
5. Keisse / Pollack 177 points
6. Rasmussen / Morkov 140 points
7. Villa / Grasmann 40 points
8. Piil / Hester 76 points
9. Muller / Aeschbach 51 points
10. De Ketele / Schets 51 points
As is the tradition we once again have the Stayers in Berlin and Sunday's programme saw a surprise win for Timo Schulz, this win however was preceded by a bit of drama and disappointment for the 10,000 + fans in the Velodrome. With 15 laps to go Swiss-Italian Guiseppe Atzeni and German Timo Scholz were well ahead of everyone but local hero Carsten Podlesch. Much to the crowds delight Podlesch made a massive charge in the last 20 laps but as he drew to within a few metres of the leading pair he lost contact with his pacer and thus lost his rhythm and all chance of the win. As he punched his handlebars in anger and frustration Atzeni and Scholz kept up a battle that Scholz took by a few metres on the line. Despite his frustration Podlesch continues to lead in the overall International Steher competition from Atzeni. This looks like another competition that will not be decided until Tuesday night's finale.
The field for the 'International Sprinters Cup' is not as strong on paper this year but they riders still put on a show for the largely Eastern Berlin crowd who have always followed the East German tradition for sprinting with passion. Today saw 19 year old German protege Maximilian Levy take the 250 metre TT and the 22 year old Dane Kasper Jessen taking the Keirin and a 3 up match sprint, the latter from the more experienced and better known Kilo specialist Stefan Nimke and Levy. Another German youngster, 19 year old Rene Enders took the other 3 up match sprint from the veteran Italian Roberto Chiappa and Matthias John.
29 January 2007
Monday in the Landsberger Allee Velodrome is called Berliner Tag (Berlin Day) and the overall standing suggest it could be Berlin week with local hero's Robert Bartko and Guido Fulst, with Beikirch and Lampater respectively, locked together on equal points and laps at the top of the standings. The overall win is however by no means a home banker and Bruno Risi / Marvulli and Stam / Schep proved in tonight's two chases that they will be in there at the finish.
The nights early 30 minute chase saw Fulst / Lampater and Stam / Schep lose contact with the other major players and with just 4 laps to go Bartko / Beikirch, Risi / Marvulli and Keisse / Pollack pulled a lap clear. In a shoulder to shoulder sprint around the final bend and into the home straight Bruno Risi confirmed his 2006 / 2007 charge by holding off the Germans Beikirch and Pollack and punching the air in delight. The season has been nothing short of remarkable for Risi who without the retired Kurt Betschart has clocked up 6 wins already pulling him clear of Canada's own William 'Torchy' Peden, Etteine De Wilde and Rik Van Steenbergen for 5th place on the all time Six Day winners list.
The longer 45 minute Madison was unfortunately missed by your correspondent but in a reversal of the placing in the earlier chase Stam / Schep took it from Rasmussen / Morkov and Fulst / Lampater. The Dutch and German pairing however succeeded in taking back the lap they lost in the earlier chase putting them back level on laps with Bartko / Beikirch and Risi / Marvulli. Keisse / Pollack are just one lap behind but this looks like a 4 way battle at the top although it also looks like a tough ask for Stam / Schep who being 100 points behind will need to gain a clear laps advantage if they are to win the Finale tomorrow.
Elsewhere on this Monday night the 'Derny Final' was won by Bartko / Beikirch. Bartko came very late and lost a metre to his pacer in the home straight but he was close enough to the finish line to hold off Risi for the bouquet. It was also another good night for Rasmussen / Morkov as they went 2 laps clear in 6th place. Andy Muller capped a return to health with a morale boosting points win along side Alex Aeschbach but it was another poor night for Danes Piil and Hester who did not show at all. However as noted in the preview Piil is perhaps only here to find his track legs and conserve energy for his home race in Copenhagen. Bartko / Beikirch also took the 1,000 metre TT and a Scratch race and must surely start the Finale as the favourites but it will be interesting to see how it pans out because they will be watching closest rivals Fulst / Lampater and the experienced Risi or Stam could yet spring a surprise.
Standings after Day 5:
2. Fulst / Lampater 222 points
3. Risi / Marvulli 212 points
4. Stam / Schep 126 points
+ 1 lap
5. Keisse / Pollack 210 points
+ 3 laps
6. Rasmussen / Morkov 200 points
+ 5 laps
7. Villa / Grasmann 40 points
+ 14 laps
8. Muller / Aeschbach 80 points
9. Piil / Hester 80 points
+ 16 laps
10. De Ketele / Schets 86 points
Another hard fought Stayer race saw Carsten Podlesch's disappointment once again. He and Atzeni looked to be battling it out for the victory but Swiss rider Peter Jorg had other ideas and with 10 laps to go he made a late charge. From 20 metres back Jorg kept coming and coming and in the last lap he took an almost blanket finish from Atzeni and a disappointed Podlesch. The Berliner Podlesch still holds the overall lead but anything other than a win in the final race tomorrow will see the consistent Atzeni take the overall Stayers prize.
The 'International Sprinters Cup' saw a TT win for Kilo man Stefan Nimke in 13.07 with Matthias John taking the Keirin. The Italian showman Roberto Chiappa pleased the crowd, and himself, by taking the 3 up sprint final from Levy and Nimke. The overall consistency and quality of Nimke sees him top the overall standings and in prime position to take the 2007 Sprinters Cup.
30 January 2007
96th Berliner Sechstagrennen Finale
There is always a buzz in the Landsberger Allee Velodrome but arriving prior to last nights Finale you could feel it even more than ever. The top of the standings saw 4 teams in strong contention for the victory and as 2 of the teams included Berliners Robert Bartko and Guido Fulst, riding with Beikirch and Lampater, the anticipation was clear. The usual evening programme of Dernys, elimination and points races preceded the Finale and a few points were won here and there notably by the Swiss pair of Risi / Marvulli to leave the standings looking very close indeed before the 60 minute Madison that would decide the overall winners.
Standings before the Finale:
2. Fulst / Lampater 239 points
3. Risi / Marvulli 239 points
4. Stam / Schep 137 points
+ 2 laps
5. Keisse / Pollack 232 points
Once the gun went off to start the final chase most of the 10,000 people in attendance were sitting or standing with their eyes glued to the 250 metre track. The first 30 minutes saw Bartko / Beikirch and Fulst / Lampater going away to gain a lap to be followed soon after by Risi / Marvulli, Stam / Schep and Keisse / Pollack. This appeared to be a pattern that would see the race decided by the points offered at the sprints during the last 50 laps but that didn't prove to be the case, as with 15 minutes to go, Bruno Risi launched one of his trademark attacks and immediately got a gap of 20 or 30 metres. The field was in panic and was strung out in single file for a number of laps. Sterling work by the Dutchmen Stam and Schep saw the gap remain at about half a lap and gradually with the help of Keisse and Bartko it started coming down. The Swiss pair have gone well when paired together this year but you sensed that this was a time when Risi missed his partner Kurt Betschart, of 14/15 years, the most. Marvulli although giving it everything, couldn't press home the advantage and as the final 50 laps approached the bunch had them back in sight. The Swiss team did manage to take the first 10 points on offer and so still looked in a good position for the fight for points and the win. This however proved not to be the case as soon after Risi / Marvulli were caught, and with 38 laps to race, Leif Lampater jumped away from the field in a classic Six Day counter move that at the time looked like an attempt to merely gain points as the lap gain seemed impossible.
With the main players tired after chasing Risi / Marvulli so hard, the gap edged wider and wider and roared on by the crowd Fulst and Lampater sped around the 250 metre track like men possessed. At a similar stage in last years Berlin Six the pair tried the same move but couldn't make it pay however the 2006/2007 Leif Lampater is a different animal and fulfilled his billing as the next big Six Day star by making contact with the field about 18 laps from the end. This basically sealed the win for the veteran Fulst and the young Lampater and it was just left for a disappointed local hero Bartko to out sprint Marvulli and seal a consolation second consecutive 2nd place with the Swiss taking the third and final podium place.
Elsewhere on the Final Night in Berlin
The final Madison is really all that matters on the last night of a Six Day race but with teams either looking for points towards that final or trying to salvage something from the event we still saw some interesting racing.
The team elimination especially proved hard fought and with Bartko / Beikirch, Risi / Marvulli and Keisse / Pollack the last teams on the track you know points were wanted. Bartko / Beikirch missed out and it was left to Gents own Iljo Keisse to beat Bruno Risi in a photo finish. The Swiss pair of Risi / Marvulli however took a prize as the overall Team Elimination winners, they took 60 points in total from this event over the whole six days.
Although the Derny Cup had been presented on Monday night there was another race behind the small motors and it was a fast finishing Andy Beikirch that took the win from Bruno Risi. This proved to be the highlight for the two Bs, Bartko & Beikirch, as the night ended in disappointment with them having to settle for 2nd overall. There was also an individual elimination race that saw a much needed and morale boosting win for Jacob Piil, from Franco Marvulli, before he heads to Copenhagen as the home favourite.
The 96th Berliner Sechstagerennen was of course a big success and having 5 teams in contention until the finish is what any promoter would wish for at the outset. Apart from the main teams and established riders we once again saw that Patrick Sercu's comments prior to the Gent Six about blooding new riders is what Six Day racing needs. And it would appear that there are riders around who are ready to take up the mantle. Already established and top of that list are of course Leif Lampater and Iljo Keisse but at 3 or 4 years younger and topping the list of the next wave of riders coming through must be Alex Rasmussen & Michael Morkov. The young Danes showed well in most events breaking the track record for the 1,000 metre TT and finishing at a very creditable 5 laps down in 6th place. Both looked to be going better than the more established, in Six Day terms, Marc Hester although Hester has raced at all the winters Sixes and at just 21 probably doesn't want to risk burn out going too hard. Belgians De Ketele and Steve Schets came through their first German Six well and as noted finished ahead of a lot of German riders who like the Belgians are also trying to break into the Six Day circus on a full time basis.
The final night for the sprinters saw Stefan Nimke take the flying lap in 13.114 and 19 year old protege Maximillian Levy take the Keirin after jumping away with 300 metres to go. These victories left the overall event to be decided in a 2 up match sprint between Nimke and Levy. The more experienced Nimke took it after a close run at the line and the Kilo specialist was crowned winner of the 2007 International Sprinters Cup.
The Stayers event (Steher Rennen) was also poised for a close finish with local favourite Carsten Podlesch needing to take the win to hold off Giuseppe Atzeni for the 2007 Steher Championat. From the start Atzeni once again took the fight to the whole field and romped away with only Podlesch staying anything like close. But with 10 laps to go Podelesch brings 'his' crowd to it's feet by coming really hard his legs turning the massive gear at an amazing rate of rpm. As he closed in on Atzeni you'd be forgiven for thinking that maybe Giuseppe had gone off too hard but that looks like it's just his way of racing, from the front. In the last 3 laps Podlesch goes ahead and in the final 200 metres he was as close to sprinting as you could possibly see in a motor paced race and crosses the line pumping his fist and saluting the part the crowd have played.
In a sporting touch Atzeni raises Podlesch's arm to acknowledge him as a worthy winner but Atzeni at 28 looks like he will be a player in Berlin for a good few years yet. Podlesch takes his 9th win in the Berlin competition and the reining German Steher champion I'm sure will be back looking for his 10th win in 2008.
+ 1 lap
2. Bartko / Beikirch 267 points
3. Risi / Marvulli 259 points
4. Stam / Schep 143 points
+ 2 laps
5. Keisse / Pollack 236 points
+ 5 laps
6. Rasmussen / Morkov 207 points
+ 7 laps
7. Villa / Grasmann 48 points
+ 16 laps
8. Piil / Hester 110 points
+ 17 laps
9. Muller / Aeschbach 83 points
+ 20 laps
10. De Ketele / Schets 90 points
More from BerlinGiuseppe the Steher | Extras | Heinz Seesing | The Life of a Six Days DJ
During the Berlin Six, TBCC's Six Day correspondent was able to speak to a few of the riders and personalities around the Velodrome.
Peter Schep - Still Improving
At almost 30 years of age Peter Schep is the oldest of the 'regular newcomers' to the Six Day circuit but in less than two years Peter has firmly established himself as a podium contender at every event he rides. He has now ridden in 21 Six Day races but only really established himself as a regular at all the events at the start of the 2005 / 2006 winter season. Indeed 2006 was really the breakout year for Peter as he dominated the field to take the Points race World Championship in Bordeaux last March. Then in the second Six Day race of the season he took his first win alongside Danny Stam in the Amsterdam Six.
The Amsterdam win with Stam came about out of the misfortune of Robert Slippens who was seriously injured in a late summer road crash. Schep was handed the Dutch team start at Maastricht alongside Slippens' long time partner Danny Stam. This could have perhaps been tough shoes to step into but the 'new' Dutch pair raced well and had other podium places in Maastricht and Munich. The blossoming partnership was however interrupted before Zurich as Peter contracted a stomach virus that kept him out of not only the Zurich race but Rotterdam and Bremen too. Missing Rotterdam was especially painful as he had over 200 people from his supporters club in attendance. He spent the week at home and was feeling very depressed paying little attention to what was happening in the Ahoy Velodrome.
Like many cyclists Peter Schep began his cycling life with ambitions to become a professional road rider although whilst at school and studying he only raced part-time. At aged 22 he was part of the Professional Rabobank development squad but the turn over was high within Rabobank and he didn't earn a pro contract with them for the road. Having also ridden on the track he then became part of the Dutch team pursuit squad for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Since 2000 he has been a full-time member of the Dutch track team but still rides in smaller road races in Holland and also Belgium.
For the future he wants to continue to progress and be part of the Dutch squad for Beijing, although he is unsure which events he will race. As for the Six Days he is looking to continue racing at his current level, a podium contender. Being a podium contender means better contracts of course and he knows that once Slippens returns he will no longer be paired with Stam. As he has built a reputation as a strong rider Schep will be available to ride with riders who are without regular Six Day partners and he should continue to contend for Six Day wins next season.
Giuseppe the Steher
Motor paced or Steher racing, as it is known in Europe, is certainly not the most glamorous part of cycle sport. They racers no longer have a recognised UCI World Championship to go for although there is a UIV European Championship but for six days every January in Berlin the Steher boys enjoy equal billing with the Six Day riders and sprinters. Night after night they bring the 10,000 plus crowd to its feet, of course local rider Carsten Podlesch helps but one man who has also contributed to the excitement is Giuseppe Atzeni.
So who is Giuseppe Atzeni?
GA: "I was born close to Zurich in Switzerland in 1978 to an Italian father and a Swiss mother. I still live 40 km from Zurich where I have a small cycle shop. I race professionally for the local team, VC Oerlikon-Zurich, which is based at the Oerlikon track (the track used to host the finish of the Zurich Classic for many years - ed) and is also the team of Franco Marvulli"
I wondered how he came to be a Steher?
GA: "I was racing on the road for a pro team when Peter Jorg who is a friend from the Oerlikon track and a Steher racer suggested I try Steher racing out, so a few years ago I started. I liked it and have had some good success. In 2006 I was European Champion and also won at the Six Days of Dortmund"
I asked how he managed to make a living?
GA: "The money is not great but we have about 30 races on the calendar mostly in Germany but also have some in Switzerland. They are held usually on the big outdoor tracks in the summer. The German races are reasonably well supported but in Switzerland not many people come to watch. The Six Days have been good for us as it's given us an extra 24 days racing over the winter"
Giuseppe had already won the 3 other Six Day events that hosted Stehers in Dortmund, Zurich and Stuttgart. The latter 2 were new for the Stehers and were good news for the riders. One thing that I notice though is that the riders are remarkably slight and seem small and skinny even by professional cyclist's standards. This is really amazing when you consider they push a 66 x 16 here and go to 68 x 14 on the bigger outdoor tracks. Atzeni is the only rider here not on a steel frame, he told me that "aluminium is much better", and so he is breaking with Steher tradition.
In the end Atzeni had to settle for second place but certainly won the crowd with his riding and sporting response to Podleschs win. TBCC's Six Day correspondent will follow him again next January.
Extras from Berlin
On Isaac Galvez
Following the tragic death of Isaac Galvez at Gent last November, the Six Day season resumed almost exactly one month later in Zurich. At Berlin I managed to get a few words with two people with strong ties to the city of Gent and it's Six Day Race.
Patrick Sercu was the winner of 88 Six Day races in his career and is without doubt the best rider to ever grace the winter tracks. Patrick is now the Sports Director at a number of Six Day races but Gent is perhaps the race he is most closely connected with. I wanted to know what the future was for the Gent Six.
PS: "There is no question of the race being cancelled so yes of course it will be run again in November. What happened was a terrible tragedy and it affected us all very much. In the days and weeks after the accident the organisation made sure that everything was dealt with correctly and done with the utmost respect and sensitivity to the family and memory of Isaac Galvez. Now we have to move on and as happens in everyday life when somebody dies people still have to go to work. Slowly, normal life returns for the rest of us and my life is working in cycling so we will be back at Gent in November."
Iljo Keisse was riding in Berlin were he finished in 5th place with Olaf Pollack. Iljo is from the city of Gent and his father and family actually own and run the De Karper bar / cafe which is no more than 500 metres from the track at the Kuipke.
SP: So how was life after the tragedy for Iljo and the other riders?
IK: "Of course it was really hard for all the riders and the people around the Gent Six. For days everyone was walking around with their heads down and of course the riders themselves were in deep shock. I was off the bike for nearly 2 weeks but then thought it was time to start again and get ready for Zurich. But I can't really explain how I felt and what a shock it was, even now".
The event organiser and head man of the Berlin Sechstagerennen is Heinz Seesing. We managed to get a quick word with him (via a translator) prior to Tuesdays Finale.
Can the Berlin Six continue to grow as you have had a full house every day?
"No, the Berliner Sechstagerennen is not going to get any bigger and no you won't see more people coming in through the doors. The way the event is organised is changing though and has already been changing as we are moving with the times to give people what they want. The people want more entertainment so the event has been slowly going from being solely a sporting event with a lot of constant racing towards having more live music and entertainment. However we are still putting on a sports event here so the idea is that the racing will be shorter but at the same time more intense and we will still have the Sprinters and Stayers programme as well."
But you are not yet looking to be like Bremen which is more of a party than a sports event?
"Sport will remain the main focus and we are of course still about sport, but we also have to go with the trend and so that's why we are improving the entertainment side of the programme, but no, we are not looking to copy Bremen."
So who does Herr Seesing think will win tonight?
"Obviously I think that the best will win. We have four or five very strong teams and we know it will be one of them, however, I am not enough of an expert to actually predict who will come out on top!!!"
What about the sporting future?
"It is of course important that we have young riders coming in and we have a lot of youngsters riding here in this race. It is also important that we have more Six Day specialist's not just guys coming indoors from the road. We want them to get used to racing on the track in the Six Days and gain experience to become regular future Berlin racers."
Danke Herr Seesing
The Life of a Six Days DJ
At any Six day race the music is very important it keeps the crowd interested and involved during lulls in racing and surely keeps the riders going at times of extreme tiredness. With Berlin being the capital of Germany, and one of the top Six Day races on the calendar, you'd expect the organisation to want a top draw DJ who knows the German crowds well. Of course getting into the insular circle of Six day racing in any capacity is difficult and for a DJ even more so as there is only one job at each event. So you'd expect a Berliner to be playing for the Berlin crowd but low and behold the Berlin Six Day DJ is in fact an Anglo who like me hails from Wallasey (near Liverpool), England. Also by a massive coincidence we even went to the same school, although he was their many years before me (sorry PT!!!).
So who is this honorary (scouse) German?
His name is Pete Traynor and our Six Day correspondant caught up with him before the last nights racing here in Berlin:
First things first, how did you come to be living in Germany?
"Well I left Liverpool in 1980 and worked as a Disc Jockey all over Europe in Spain, Italy, France, Norway and of course Germany. I spent many years coming backwards and forwards but settled here about 15 years ago."
How did you come to be working at the Six Days?
"I was working at a Radio station in Hanover and during that time I met Christian Stoll who is the speaker (commentator / announcer) here in Berlin and in Bremen. Christian invited me along to the Bremen Six to have a look and I liked what I saw. A few years passed, then 8 years ago the opportunity came to work here in Berlin and so I've been working here ever since. I no longer work as a radio DJ, I only play music at sporting events. I now have my own company (PT Promotions) that does artist promotion & artist management so that's what I do the rest of the time."
Which other events do you work at on the Six Day circuit?
"I also do Bremen, were I've been for over 3 years, Stuttgart I've been doing for 4 years, Zurich and of course Berlin. Last year I was also working as a DJ for 14 or 15 games at the Stadium's in Hanover and Hamburg during the 2006 Football World Cup."
Does the music you play vary from place to place?
"The staple of music is the same but it does vary a little from town to town as every area has its own popular music that people want to hear. Bremen for example is a coastal town and they are sea people who like a kind of sailor's music. In Stuttgart I play everything whereas here in Berlin I will always play a lot of Berlin songs."
What do you think makes the difference in the choice of music?
"Basically the most important thing at German sports events is that people want to have a good time and if they can hear their favourite song then they are even happier. Remember they are here for up to six or seven hours a night which is why we also have live music that always goes down well, so my job is just to keep them entertained. Knowing the songs that they like is, of course, important as you can see when they hear something they like they sing along which means I'm doing my job. I've been working here in Berlin for 8 years so I know the crowd, I lived in Bremen for a time so know what they like their too."
What was it like for you at the 'new' Zurich Six?
"Well, Zurich was a first for me and came just after Christmas and over the New Year holidays, we were working on New Years Eve. It was a pleasant surprise as the Swiss have a reputation for being very laid back but people came along and had a good time. They really went with us and enjoyed the music, yes it was good!!!"
Do you have a favourite Six Day Race?
"It's Berlin, it was the first Six Day I worked at. Bremen is also great although it is a different type of audience to here. It really is real fun at Bremen and it's like a six day party. Here in Berlin the public really like the sport and that is their main focus although they want to have fun too."
Are you a cycling fan?
"Oh yes of course, I wouldn't do this if I wasn't into cycling. I also do some summer races, criteriums mostly, and so having been involved for a number of years I know most of the riders and it's like spending time with friends. I also do something called the 'coast tour' which is a series of three or four races around Germany over a couple of weeks in the summer, so we spend time with the riders then too."
So do you have a favourite Six Day rider?
"Well of course Bruno (Risi) is a big favourite but there are a lot of good riders, I know all the experienced and established guys. But there are some good new lads coming up, Franco (Marvulli) is one that springs to mind he is a real showman and knows how to entertain the crowd, and they love him. He's someone I always find cheerful and happy, over the 5 years I've known him I've never actually seen him in a bad mood."
With a lot of the old guard getting older and retiring, how do you see the future of the Sixes?
"A lot of people were saying that there aren't many new riders coming through but the talent is there, the up and coming youngster's just need a chance to grow into it."
"What about the future of the various events, I can see Berlin is thriving but heard Stuttgart was not flourishing in the same way for example?
"Well Stuttgart is on the way back up, its just that every town is different and the people have a slightly different mentality. Here in Berlin they come for the sport, in Bremen they come for a party. In Stuttgart though it's just another event and it's perhaps not as important to the local people to go along as it is say here in Berlin or Bremen."
Do you think that the family days are important for the future generations?
"Yes of course, getting the kids along is very much part of the German Six day tradition. In Bremen they have a Family afternoon on Saturday as well as Sunday with many sponsors in attendance so yes its important."
"So if Pete Traynor was only playing his own choice of music rather than for the Six Day crowd, what would you play?
"Well I like all the old Tamla-Motown stuff and some new music too but to be honest I've been working with music for so long I don't have a particular musical taste as such. The variety I play at the Sixes, I guess, is all part of my musical taste but having been on the radio I've needed to have a wide ranging taste. Music has become my job and in fact I only really listen to music in the car nowadays. After 4 Six days in a month I can't even hear the music anymore even though I'm playing it!!!"
"In the future will we see you working anywhere else or is that not a particular ambition?
"My goal is to do ALL the German Sixes but the other events have got DJs and contracts with local radio stations etc., but I'm working on it and if it works out, great, if it doesn't, well, it doesn't, that's just one of those things."
Thanks Pete, see you next year!!!
And so when the presentations are over and the crowd have drifted away chatting into the winter night Pete will finally be able get some proper rest. He has been on the go since the start of the Bremen Six nearly 3 weeks ago and when he leaves Berlin he'll spend a few days getting back into a normal routine and recovering at a Health Spa. It will be much deserved as although it's enjoyable work the hours kept on the Six Day circuit are difficult for even the biggest fan to endure, your correspondent can vouch for that and I only stayed for 3 nights!!!