An Introduction to the 97th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Watford, UK
23rd January 2008

The 97th edition of the Berlin Six Day Race, or Berliner Sechstagerennen as it is known locally, begins on Thursday 24th January at the Velodrome on Landsberger Allee. The event has been held here since 1997 and 70,000 spectators will attend over the six days packing the Velodrome to capacity. This very passionate Berlin crowd will also create a level of noise that is unrivalled anywhere else on the track racing calendar. It's the crowd that really makes the Berlin Six such a wonderful spectacle. The way they cheer on everybody, no matter their nationality or fame, in every single race is what the term sporting public was made for. To further highlight how track racing has such a special place in the Berlin public's hearts before each night's racing there is a Track Champions parade. The parade sees any current World, Olympic, European and National champions competing here get introduced to the crowd and then enjoying a lap of honour even before they've turned a pedal in anger for the evening. A morale boost if ever a rider needed one.

The Favourites

The current Six Day season has been a battle for the most part between two teams Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli and Robert Bartko / Iljo Keisse with a little intervention from Danny Stam / Leif Lampater in Rotterdam. The latter pairing only came together because their respective partners in Rotterdam (Robert Slippens and Andreas Beikirch) abandoned due to injury. The Stuttgart Six that finished yesterday has teams of 3 not 2 riders and was won by Bartko, Keisse & Lampater. In 2nd were Risi, Fulst & Aeschbach. The team had been all Swiss but before the Finale Marvulli had crashed, being replaced by Guido Fulst.

So whilst we await news on Marvulli's condition before Stuttgart the Swiss pair Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli, who are also the reigning World Madison Champions, had won in Dortmund, Munich & Zurich. The German / Belgian duo of Bartko / Keisse had wins in Amsterdam, Gent & Bremen and everything looked like it was set up for a traditional 2 man team showdown on the 250 metre Berlin track. However any hopes of seeing the battle continue where quashed as Robert Bartko and Keisse are not on the start list. A report on cyclingnews.com in December said that Bartko was unhappy that the Berlin organisation would not at pay him his regular appearance fee. We have no further news on that at present. One can only assume that Keisse is not starting out of solidarity, as this is not usually a race Six Day riders would miss through choice.

Without Bartko who is from Potsdam, just outside of Berlin, the undisputed local hero and a major favourite will be Guido Fulst. He was a Berlin winner last year with Leif Lampater and also won 2004 with Robert Bartko no less. Guido Fulst doesn't ride in all the Six Day races and at 37 is close to the end of his career but Berlin is 'his race'. He is probably the last active rider whose career spans the old East Germany (GDR) and the unified Germany of 1990. He had represented the GDR winning a Team Pursuit gold medal at the 1989 Worlds. Riding for the unified Germany he has won numerous World Championship medals in that discipline plus Olympic gold in 1992 and 2000. The Landsberger Allee (formerly Lenin Allee under Communism) velodrome is in the eastern district of Prenzlauer Berg and many of the Six Day crowd come from what was the former GDR. Guido typifies their spirit and represents the old school in the sense that he is very much a blue collar guy. His roots are also given away by the fact he speaks German and Russian, no English, younger people will usually learn German and English. The cycling club he belongs to is from Marzahn which is an area of vast white concrete buildings (in the States they'd be called projects, in the UK housing estates) that where built by the GDR to house 'workers' during the hard line days of the cold war. His 2008 partner is once again the 25 year old Leif Lampater who hails from close to Stuttgart.

Readers will know that we've championed Lampater as a rider with a big future in the Sixes for a couple of years now. So far this season he got 3 rides with Erik Zabel in Dortmund, Munich and Bremen, making the podium on each occasion. He has 2 wins though, as noted, at his home race in Stuttgart yesterday and in Rotterdam when he paired up with Danny Stam on the 2nd night. At that point Stam / Lampater were 2 laps behind the leaders but came out on top with a one lap advantage after the Six days. Racing again with Guido Fulst and having the crowd behind him all the way Leif will be more than motivated to go well in Berlin.

The Rotterdam Six was also Danny Stams only win so far in 2007/2008. His long term partner Robert Slippens return from serious injury this season saw the pair do reasonably well but still a little way from the form that saw them storm around the European tracks in 2005/2006, winning the Berlin Six amongst others. In fact Slippens had to abandon in Zurich and Rotterdam with saddle sores and after he didn't race in Bremen or Stuttgart he will not race in Berlin, although he was originally on the start list. One assumes that he has been unable to sufficiently recover in time and Stam will now pair up with Italian veteran Marco Villa. Stam has shown some very strong form this season and had very much been the strong man of the Dutch pairing. He teamed with Villa in Bremen where they finished 1 lap behind the victors in 4th place. With neither being particularly fast sprinters the 250 metre track may suit them better than the 166 metres of Bremen. Also, if Stam continues to show the same form he has had all season then they should make at least 3rd place, but a win may be too much to ask.

The top favourites however will be the seemingly ever youthful 39 year old Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli (provided Marvulli is ok after his Stuttgart crash). As mentioned they are currently World Madison Champions and as Franco Marvulli told us in our interview with him they are aiming for the Olympic Madison title later this year too. Before that though they'll be looking to add the Berlin Six to their palmares together, Risi has won with Kurt Betschart in 2003 and 2005. The 29 year Marvulli had also noted in that interview that Berlin is his favourite Six Day race. He loves the public and they seem to like him too. Franco 'marvelous' Marvulli the announcer likes to call him. Risi recently passed the considerable milestone of 50 Six Day victories and after missing out on the win in Rotterdam and Bremen, all being well, watch out for the Swiss team come Tuesdays hectic Finale.

Other Interesting Teams

There is a large field racing in Berlin, 18 teams / 36 riders, but apart from the 3 main teams as at all the Sixes these days it is once again difficult to see who else can challenge for the podium.

The young Danish pair of Michael Morkov (22) and Alex Rasmussen (23) are very good track riders and they won the less competitive Grenoble Six in October. Since then they've only ridden in Munich and Zurich with there priority being the track World Cup and preparation for the Worlds and Olympics with the Danish squad. However at Zurich Rasmussen dropped out with illness and after Slippens abandoned Morkov paired with Stam. The Danish / Dutch pair went very well finishing a creditable 3rd even leading at one point. They are very quick in the Time Trails and Rasmussen was attacking the track records last year when they finished 6th overall at 5 laps down. With a weaker field they could well be in the top 6 this time around but may come to Berlin with an eye on the following weeks 'home' Copenhagen Six.

Berlin likes to pair Germans together so following 5th places in Munich, Gent & Bremen, Andreas Beikirch will team up with promising youngster Erik Mohs. Without Bartko / Kiesse they are another team who should stay in the top 5 and if anyone falters or abandons they could make the podium but 4th place will likely be their objective.

A friend of our website Andreas Muller (see Andreas' interview) is from the area close to the track and will be another guy who's motivated to do well. He is partnered with his friend and preferred partner Christian Grasmann from Munich. If they are fit they will be looking for a top 6 place that would give them some contract bargaining chips for the next Six Days season. Neither rider is involved with the National team and therefore not going to any Championships.

Elsewhere the underrated Swiss Alexander Aeschbach comes into Berlin having ridden to 2nd place in the 3-up team Stuttgart Six with Risi and Marvulli (then Fulst) and should be going well. However he'll race with German Six Day specialist Christian Lademann and this won't be a pair to contend for more than the top 8 at best.

Peter Schep returned to the Sixes in Rotterdam and Stuttgart and with Slippens dropping out he may have hoped to be reunited with Danny Stam after they went pretty well together last winter. This time however the classy Dutchman will ride with Berlin debutant Jens Mouris a fellow member of the Dutch team pursuit squad and this pair could be a good bet for a top 6 spot.

Czech pair and World Madison bronze medallists Alois Kankovsky (also World Omnium Champ) and Petr Lazar from the Dukla Prague Club will race in Berlin after also getting starts in Dortmund, Munich, Gent & Rotterdam. This is their first real season in the Sixes and they haven't had any high overall places but may go well in Time Trials and points races.

With no Iljo Keisse on the start list Belgium has only one representative, Kenny De Ketele. At 22 years old De Ketele is one for the future for Belgium and Six Day racing. He went well at Gent in November with Marco Villa and has also been nominated as partner for Keisse at the Beijing Olympics. Overall though he is quite inexperienced in Sixes and racing on the long track in Berlin will probably serve as little more than preparation for the rest of the year. He is partnered by Danish hope Marc Hester who despite riding all over the circuit has not yet shown he will step up to the top level although he has time on his side.

One other fairly interesting team is that of one time Giro leader and stage winner Olaf Pollack who is a roadman sprinter from a track background. Last year Pollack partnered a strong Keisse to 5th. His partner this time though is one with his eye on the future, young German Roger Kluge who looks a good prospect but only time will tell if he is looking to become a full time Six day rider or not.

The Veterans Say Farewell

Two veteran German riders Gerd Dorich and Andreas Kappes will be saying "Auf Wiedershen" to the German public in Berlin over the coming six days after long but quite different careers.

Andreas Kappes, now 42, was Junior World Points Champion in 1983 and developed into a strong road rider turning pro with the French Toshiba-Look team in 1987. He started riding some of the winter Sixes during this time taking his first win in his home race at Bremen (with Roman Herman) in 1989. He had some wins on the road during the first 6 or 7 years of his pro career including the Het Volk semi-classic and stages in the Tour of Switzerland and Paris-Nice. Although Kappes didn't always race the full Six Day programme (as was the general trend before specialism set in during the mid-90s) he was a regular winner on the winter boards between 1989 and 2004 when he had his last win at Stuttgart. He formed a strong but not altogether regular partnership with Ettiene De Wilde that saw them take 13 victories together at most of the major Sixes between 1989 and 1999. There last being Kappes' only victory in Berlin. From about 1996 onwards Kappes' top level road career came to an end and he concentrated more on the winter programme plus smaller German road races and Criteriums. A couple of bans for doping offences (one in 1997 and another that was contested in 2000) also stop started his Six Day career but they didn't seem to see him lose popularity especially in Bremen where he is a resident. Between 2001/2002 and 2005/2006 he formed a fairly regular and strong partnership with Andres Beikirch that took 2 Sixes and the 2003 European Madison title. His final career total of 24 wins from approx 130 starts puts him high on the all time winners list, level with Tony Doyle. At the start of the millennium he had an impressive 21 wins from around 80 starts. He had continued to be a regular winner in the summer Criterium road races across Germany through 2005 but after the Six Day partnership with Beikirch fizzled out he has been in decline. Over the last couple of years he has just been going through the motions on the winter boards and old father time seems to have caught up with him. Very much a case of a few seasons too many

Gerd Dorich who will be 40 soon after the Berlin Six finishes has been a regular feature at the winter, and summer, Sixes since turning pro in 1990. With no real road pedigree to speak of, although he spent 1991 with the then smaller Deutsche Telekom team, he has been very much a trackie through and through. At the time of writing Dorich had started about 160 Sixes, 12th on the all time list, but during this long career he has just one win. That came in his home race at Stuttgart in 2004 (a 3 man team Six) with Kappes and Beikirch (this was also Kappes last win). That victory must have ranked as his finest hour after all the thousands of laps he'd ridden and hand slings he's made. His 2004 year was capped with a win in the German Madison title and he also won that crown in 1994. Generally, though, Dorich's roll in the Sixes has been that of the taxi driver for young or inexperienced track riders or as an entertainer, rather than a contender. He could normally be seen leading the bunch around the track, getting the crowd involved with Mexican waves etc during Supersprints (or Scratch races). He is a character and they are few and far between in the serious world of bike racing and although at times he looked like he was struggling in Madison chases he was still a safe and reliable rider that riders, promoters and importantly fans across Germany liked. We wish him all the best for the future.

The Teams

Andreas Beikirch (D) - Erik Mohs (D)
Bruno Risi (Sui) - Franco Marvulli (Sui)
Guido Fulst (D) - Leif Lampater (D)
Christian Lademann (D) - Alex. Aeschbach (Sui)
Peter Schep (Nie) - Jens Mouris (Nie)
Gerd Dorich (D) - Lars Teutenberg (D)
Marco Villa (I) - Danny Stam (Nie)
Christian Bach (D) - Marcel Barth (D)
Jozef Zabka (Slvk) - Marcel Kalz (D)
Alex Rasmussen (Dk) - Michael Morkov (Dk)
Olaf Pollack (D) - Roger Kluge (D)
Kenny de Ketele (B) - Marc Hester (Dk)
Rafal Ratajczyk (Pol) - Mariusz Wiesiak (Pol)
Andreas Kappes (D) - Stefan Loffler (D)
Sebastian Frey (D) - Christoph Meschenmoser (D)
Andreas Graf (Ost) - Daniel Musiol (D)
Christian Grasmann (D) - Andreas Muller (D)
Alois Kankovsky (Cze) - Petr Lazar (Cze)

Stehers

The Stehers (motor paced racers) will once again be in Berlin to fly around the track at 60+kmph behind the big motors. This form of racing is fairly rare these days but still has a scene in Germany, Holland and Switzerland where they race during the summer on long, wide outdoor tracks. During the winter the Stehers get a rare chance to shine in front of large crowds in Dortmund, Zurich and Berlin and 7 very specialist riders will once again do battle in Landsberger Allee.

So far this winter Timo Scholz won the Dortmund Steher Six. Peter Jorg won the traditional Boxing Day Steher meeting in Dortmund (the 'Grosser Weihnachtspreis') and his home event in Zurich. Last winter we spoke to Giuseppe Atzeni in Berlin and Giuseppe missed the Dortmund Six after injury and was perhaps not yet at his best of the Christmas / New Year period in Zurich. He'll hope to show the form he showed in Berlin when he gave local hero Carsten Podlesch a close run for his money. Podlesch was the last ever UCI 'Steher' World Champion in 1994 (the last time it was contested) and I understand he is due to retire (tbc). If this is indeed his last Berlin Six then he'll be looking to give everything for one more win in his home Velodrome.

With Scholz, Jorg and Atzeni all strong Stehers it should be quite a battle as they'll all want to take that place in the spotlight away from Podlesch.

Rider
Pacer
Timo Scholz (D)
Peter Bauerlein (D)
Giuseppe Atzeni (Sui)
Bruno Walrave (Nie)
Carsten Podlesch (D)
Helmut Baur (D)
Mario Vonhof (D)
Dieter Durst (D)
Peter Jorg (Sui)
Rene Aebi (Sui)
Jan-Erik Schwarzer (D)
Christian Dippel (D)
Florian Fernow (D)
Karsten Podlesch (D)

Sprinters

The sprinters, like the Stehers, get a chance to bask in the applause of 12,000 people every night for 6 days in Berlin where as in Germany on a whole there is a great tradition in match sprinting. This year the field lacks a real champion though in the vein of Jens Fiedler (a former hero here until his retirement) or Arnaud Tournant riders who regularly rode here in the past. Perhaps with possible Olympic or World Championship places up for grabs bigger riders are away training but those on show will be looking to prove themselves worthy over the week in a series of match sprints, flying laps and Keirin races.

This year's starters are:

Matthias John (D)
Damian Zielinski (Pol)
Robert Forstemann (D)
Maximilian Levy (D)
Kasper Jessen (Dk)
Rene Enders (D)


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97th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Familientag (Family Day 4)

by Steve Penny
30 January 2008

Sundays at German Sixes are traditionally for the families and Berlin is no exception and this is where Six day fans of the future get there introduction. Rather like a dad in the UK taking a son to see a football (soccer) or a Canadian taking the kids to watch hockey, although here its mums and daughters too which is nice to see.

Your correspondent arrived at the Velodrome just after the UIV Cup for Under 25s, which is run for 4 of the 6 days, had finished. The final result was a victory for the British pairing of Jonathan Bellis and Peter Kennaugh. The pair had apparently been the class team in the field and Kennaugh had also won the UIV event at Gent back in November. The professionals get their customary introduction from the voices of the Berlin Six Christian Stoll and Herbert Watterott whilst the Liverpudlian / German DJ Pete Traynor as always plays the music (see interview with Pete). After a leg warming set of sprints where points go towards the overall classification the days main Derny race finishes with a narrow victory for Christian Lademann and Alexander Aeschbach. The German / Swiss pair show that their seemingly surprising place in the top six, within a lap of the leaders, is no fluke. Next on the main programme sees a points race win for Olaf Pollack and Roger Kluge. In between the main Six Day races the crowd can enjoy the Sprinters, but more of them later.

Each day of the Berlin Six has a 45 minute and a 30 minute madison. Sundays big chase over 45 minutes is probably not at full gas as the riders will have had no more than 7 hours sleep after their Saturday night finished in the early hours. Never the less some teams want to go for it and 3 teams a little way down the classification are challenging for the bouquet a lap ahead of the field, Muller / Grasmann, Hester / De Ketele and Pollack / Kluge. Pollack somewhat surprisingly takes off with a few laps to go and when it all comes back, Muller outsprints Hester as Pollack and Kluge have nothing left. Franco Marvulli takes an elimination race from Sebastian Frey who was clearly disappointed as he and his partner Meschenmoser are propping up the field in last place. The second chase over 30 minutes comes later in the day and sees Marco Villa and Danny Stam make there move for a podium place with a last gasp sprint from Villa.

The Time Trials in Berlin are only contested by six seemingly random teams and the Poles Ratajczyk / Wiesiak with 57.289 take it from the Czechs Kankovsky / Lazar who clock 58.442

The day finishes and the leaders board has a close but slightly surprising look to it with Beikirch and Mohs just out in front.

Standings after Day 4:

Beikirch / Mohs 137 pts
Fulst / Lampater 129 pts
Villa / Stam 104 pts
+1 lap
Risi / Marvulli 143 pts
Rasmussen / Morkov 141 pts
Lademann / Aeschbach 121 pts
+2 laps
Pollack / Kluge 127 pts

The Sprinters Cup as noted in the preview lacked World Champions but pride was at stake and the Berlin fans love their sprinting. The flying lap is won by German Champion Mattias John in 13.366. John then contested a 3 up match sprint with fellow German Maximilian Levy and Polands Damian Zielinski, Levy coming late to win by a tyre. Rene Enders took the Keirin but the overal Sprinters Cup is a battle between Levy and John.

1.Matthias John (Erfurt) 47 Pkt.
2.Maximilian Levy (Cottbus) 43
3.Rene Enders (Erfurt) 41
4.Robert Forstemann (Gera) 39
5.Damian Zielinski (Polen) 25
6.Kasper Jessen (Danemark) 15

The Stehers got onto the track for the 4th time and Local hero Carsten Podlesch riding his last ever Berlin Six couldn't bring the house down. The race was won by Florian Fernow from Jan-Erik Schwarzer. In 3rd was Guiseppe Atzeni but he doesn't appear to have the same form he had 12 months ago perhaps the result of injury the in late summer and early winter. The overal Stehers Cup is still wide open and Podlesch holds the lead from European Champion Timo Scholz.

1. Podlesch (Berlin) pacer Baur
2. Scholz (Leipzig) pacer Bauerlein
3. Schwarzer (Koln) pacer Dippel
4. Jorg (Switz) pacer Aebi
5. Fernow (Berlin) pacer Podlesch (K)
6. Atzeni (Switz) pacer Walrave
7. Vonhof (Rottal) pacer Durst


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97th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Berliner Tage 5

by Steve Penny
30 January 2008

My visit to the Velodrome was cut short on Monday but the racing was as ever hard fought and the scene set for the final showdown on Tuesday.

Risi / Marvulli took the 45 minute chase without gaining any laps on the leaders. Pollack / Kluge took the 30 minute madison later in the night. The Polish pairing of Ratajczyk / Wiesiak with 57.372 once again took the 1,000 metre time trial from Pollack / Kluge in 58.989. The Derny final takes place on Monday and Danny Stam and Marco Villa took that from Beilirch / Mohs. The Berlin Six sees the riders swap over half way through a Derny race unlike in Gent where the individual rides the full race. The possibility to change is of course easier here as the track is 250 metres compared to 166 in Gent. Rasmussen and Morkov the young Danish pair took the team Elimination race and generally scored well to climb the overal standings and set up the possibility of gaining a bonus lap before the final, bonus laps are awarded for every 100 points gained. Lademann / Aeschbach are still hanging on well in 6th place and although not youngsters they are the surprise package of this Six Day.

Fulst and Lampater didn't actually win a race but went to the top of the leader board due to consistent points scoring. This is actually Guido Fulsts last Berlin Six and he will be motivated to give his home fans a fond farewell come midnight tomorrow.

Standings after Day 5:

Fulst / Lampater 173 pts
Beikirch / Mohs 157 pts
Villa / Stam 129 pts
+1 lap
Rasmussen / Morkov 192 pts
Risi / Marvulli 174 pts
Lademann / Aeschbach 150 pts
+2 laps
Pollack / Kluge 170 pts

The sprinters again fought it out with Levy taking the flying lap in a most impressive time of 13.093 from Robert Forstemann with 13.280. In fact all the sprints improved on their Sunday lap times by nearly half a second. John took the 3 up match sprint from Zielinski and Levy and holds the lead over Levy. Young Danish sprinter took the morale boosting Keirin but John and Levy are in command of the 2 main events and the 'Champions Sprint' classification:

1.Matthias John (Erfurt) 58 Pkt.
2.Maximilian Levy (Cottbus) 56
3.Rene Enders (Erfurt) 52
4.Robert Forstemann (Gera) 41
5.Damian Zielinski (Polen) 33
6.Kasper Jessen (Danemark) 23

Carsten Podlesch was able to give the crowd what they wanted by taking the Steher race from Timo Scholz and Jan-Erik Schwarzer. Tomorrow will see the Steher Cup going to one of these 3 and the last race will be a final in more ways than one with Podlesch looking to bow out with an 11th win from 12 attempts hin the Landsberger Allee Velodrome (this is the 12th Six Day held here).

1. Podlesch (Berlin) pacer Baur
2. Scholz (Leipzig) pacer Bauerlein
3. Schwarzer (Koln) pacer Dippel
4. Jorg (Switz) pacer Aebi
5. Atzeni (Switz) pacer Walrave
6. Fernow (Berlin) pacer Podlesch (K)
7. Vonhof (Rottal) pacer Durst


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97th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Finale Day 6

by Steve Penny
31 January 2008

The 97th Berlin Six finished in exciting fashion at the Velodrome on Landsberger Allee. The eventual victors Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli would seem to present no real surprise but with 25 laps of the final chase remaining their overall victory was anything but assured. Even more surprising was the fact that so near the end of a Six day race, appropriately, six teams where still in with a chance of taking the win. An estimated 77,000 fans attended over the six days and the organisers will be content that they promoted another hugely successful edition and dates are confirmed for the next 3 years including the 100th edition in 2011. The 12,000 plus fans in attendance on Tuesday certainly saw a 'finale' that will stay in the memory at least until they come back next January, and come back they will.

Setting the Scene

The opening race of the evening in Berlin is always a set of sprints for points every 5 laps, it's not a points race in the traditional sense as the points gained in each sprint go towards the teams overall totals. The Danish pair of Rasmussen and Morkov got the 8 points they needed to gain a bonus lap and put them, surprisingly, on top of the leader board.

Andreas Muller and Christian Grasmann took the team elimination race from Marcel Kalz and his partner, late substitute, Slovakian Jozef Zabka. The German pair might have hoped to do a little better in the overall standings than their 8th place but they've won races throughout the week so have at least contributed.

Peter Schep started the race with fellow Dutchman Jens Mouris but after Mouris dropped out he was paired with former German Team Pursuit rider Christian Bach. At the start of the evenings Derny race one wouldn't have tipped them to come through but come through Bach did taking it from Lampater (with Fulst) and Beikirch (with Mohs). Bach was clearly delighted and understandably as to my memory racing in Berlin Sixes since 2002 he had never before taken a race here.

The 1,000 metre Time Trail saw Rasmussen / Morkov take another win in a fantastic time of 56.562 from the Poles, Ratajczyk / Wiesiak who had taken the race for the last 2 days. This increased the Danes overall lead. The last race on the programme before the big Madison showdown was a Team Points Race and it was a welcome win for Belgian Kenny De Ketele and Denmark's Marc Hester. With the Copenhagen Six beginning on Thursday it's been a good night so far for the young Danish riders.

The Final Madison

So, going into the final Madison the standings had a surprising look about them with Rasmussen / Morkov on top from Fulst / Lampater, Beikirch / Mohs and Stam / Villa. World Champions and perennial favourites Risi / Marvulli were in 5th together with the surprise pairing of Aeschbach / Lademann in 6th both at 1 lap behind.

The Danes will have been happy to be showing such good form with their home Six just 2 days away but being out in front was unfamiliar territory for them at this level and the pressure told almost from the off. The other top teams all gained a lap within 5 minutes and although the Danes one back within 10 minutes, that was their last lap gain, they never really looked like they could hold off the field for another 50 minutes of hard and fast racing. Over the next 20-30 minutes Beikirch / Mohs try to get away and take the lead outright but where brought back by Fulst / Lampater.

With just the final 50 laps of the 250 metre track remaining the Danes had lost their lead and are now at 1 lap behind Fulst / Lampater, Beikirch / Mohs and Stam / Villa. The sprints that take place every 10 laps for the last 50 start with maximum points for Villa / Stam but they are still too many points behind to win and really need a lap gain. The Swiss favourites Risi / Marvulli certainly need a lap although they already have a large point's total.

After the 2nd. sprint with 30 laps to go Alexander Aeschbach and Christian Lademann make a brave attack. They are 1 lap behind but a lap gain and some points in the bonus sprints could catapult them from 6th place to the podium. For 5 or 6 laps they seem to be hanging at about 100 metres clear of the bunch. With 24 laps to go Marvulli then makes a scorching attack and immediately opens a gap. Risi is slung in and they quickly get up to Aeschbach / Lademann. The arrival of the top guys seems to inspire Berliner Lademann and with Aeschbach looking strong he digs deep to work with his Swiss mates and the lead increases. Lampater / Fulst try and come across but quickly realise they can't and sit up to wait for the sprints. With the crowd roaring them on Bruno 'the legend' Risi, as the announcer calls him, takes control and the brave foursome get the lap back with 16 to go. So close to the end there are 5 teams now on the same lap, Rasmussen / Morkov have gone from 1st to 6th and are now out of it.

There is just 1 point between Risi / Marvulli and Fulst / Lampater with 2 sprints left, including the final. Marvulli is flying now and takes the 2nd last sprint meaning Fulst / Lampater must win the final sprint on the final lap of the 97th Berlin Six to win again. Aeschbach / Lademann are now in 3rd and with the points gained during there time off the front they are secure but too far behind to get 2nd or 1st. With 2 laps to go Risi turns up the heat and the crowd rise to their feet to roar the racers around the track. Risi slings in Marvulli and Fulst slings in Lampater with 200 metres left and they come around the last bend neck and neck. Moving along the finishing straight Marvulli moves clear and has enough time to raise both arms before he crosses the line, he just knew he had it. As Franco told us in Gent, the Berlin Six is the Six he really wanted.

A fantastic final Madison and it could almost be forgotten that just one hour before Rasmussen / Morkov where in pole position and Aeschbach / Lademann where looking on paper to be happy in 6th. Fulst / Lampater will be disappointed as it was Fulsts last ever Berlin Six, but in truth they never really looked like they had the legs to repeat last years victory; Guido especially didn't look as good as he had in recent years. Their 2nd place finish was down to their showing in the middle couple of days, over the final 2 nights Villa / Stam had looked stronger but didn't have enough points on the board. In the end though, no one had an answer to the ultimate Six Day racer Bruno Risi and the ultimate Six Day crowd pleaser Franco Marvulli.

Final Standings:

1. Risi / Marvulli 215 Pts
2. Fulst / Lampater 206
3. Lademann / Aeschbach 189
4. Beikirch / Mohs 173
5. Villa / Stam 149
+1 lap:
6. Rasmussen / Morkov 210
+2 laps:
7. Pollack / Kluge 186
+5 laps:
8. Grasmann / Muller 157
9. De Ketele / Hester 91
10. Schep / Bach 74


Sprinters

The 'International Sprinters Cup' came down to a 2 up match sprint between Maximilian Levy and Matthias John. Earlier in the evening Levy had put down his marker by clocking 13.068 in the flying lap although he'd consistently finished ahead of John in this discipline throughout the week but was mastered by John in the sprints.

But in the final match sprint it proved to be the former 'Junior World Sprint Champion' Levy's night, and week, when he exploded past 'German Sprint Champion' John in the home straight to take the race, the Cup and the knowledgeable crowd's adulation.

Final Standings:

1. Maximilian Levy (Cottbus) 71 Pts
2. Matthias John (Erfurt) 69
3. Robert Forstemann (Gera) 64
4. Rene Enders (Erfurt) 63
5. Damian Zielinski (Poland) 43
6. Kasper Jessen (Denmark) 26

Stehers

The Stehers Championship didn't finish in the way it may have been scripted as Carsten Podlesch could only finish 3rd after momentarily losing contact with his pacer a couple of laps from home, whilst coming on strongly. This moment's lapse was enough for him to lose momentum and reigning European Champion Timo Scholz taking the night's race and the Stehers trophy. The fact that Podlesch was beaten on his home track after winning here 10 times, from 11 attempts, proved that there is nothing fixed about these races. The Steher riders don't have many chances to race in front of over 12,000 people and the 6 nights in Berlin are as hard fought as any races they'll ride all year.

Despite Podlesch's retirement this most specialised of cycling disciplines has strong life here in Berlin with Scholz, Schwarzer, Guiseppe Atzeni (returning to fitness) and young Berliner Florian Fernow all due to be around for a good few years yet.

Final Standings:

1. Scholz (Leipzig) pacer Bauerlein
2. Podlesch (Berlin) pacer Baur
3. Schwarzer (Koln) pacer Dippel
4. Jorg (Switz) pacer Aebi
5. Fernow (Berlin) pacer Podlesch (K)
6. Atzeni (Switz) pacer Walrave
7. Vonhof (Rottal) pacer Durst


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97th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Review

by Steve Penny
31 January 2008

A special thank you to...

Herr Ruttkuss, Herr Lee and the ladies in the Press Centre for their kindness and hospitality.

Top Teams

The 97th Berliner Sechstagerennen saw Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli win their 5th Six Day race of the winter (although one of them was the non UIV and low profile Noorden Six in Holland) and go on towards the World Championships in Manchester and the Olympics in Beijing as favourites for the Madison titles. This win was far from straight forward though and the Swiss pair showed their grit and determination by digging very deep in the last 25 laps of the race. The overall standings although with no real surprise in the top 2 places were much closer than any of the other big Sixes this winter. No fewer than 6 teams had a chance for victory with 30 minutes of racing remaining. No where else have we seen 5 teams finish on the same number of laps either. Perhaps the fact that the top riders such as Risi, Marvulli, Stam and Lampater had been racing for over 30 days, with just 4 days rest in between Sixes, evened things out and it's probably true that many of the others were very tired as well.

The team that probably capitalised on this most were the surprise pairing of Christian Lademann and Alexander Aeschbach who put in a great performance in the Finale to take 3rd place. Their attack with 30 laps remaining was a great effort and Marvulli and Risi where the only pair who could respond. They celebrated their podium place which shows that they too were surprised, although it was a testament to the effort they'd put in during the Finale and the six days. Aeschbach arrived here in good form after riding with Risi and Marvulli in the 3 man team Stuttgart Six, but elsewhere this winter, Zurich apart, he has been with non contending partners. Perhaps this showing will have been noted by promoters, as in the small pool of strong riders he is somebody that should get more of a chance to shine. Lademann on the other hand was a complete surprise and he has never ridden at this level before in a big Six Day race. Being based in Berlin one assumes that he worked specifically towards Berlin as an objective and although we congratulate him, it may be that this is as good as it gets for him.

Elsewhere, Guido Fulst bowed out in front of his home fans in 2nd place just a few points behind the winners. In reality he and Leif Lampater had not looked that strong in the Finale Madison, and before Risi and Marvulli went for the equalling lap, they had probably been hoping to hang in to take the win on points. In 4th place, Andreas Beikirch and Erik Mohs had also led overall at various times during the Six, but again didn't look as if they had the legs to stretch the field in the Finale, although they did try on a few occasions to their credit. Marco Villa and Danny Stam started the week slowly and were playing catch up although they went into the final Madison close to the lead, but with an inferior points gain. They were actually looking the strongest team at one point in the Finale, but they too could not answer to Risi, Marvulli, Aeschbach and Lademann and ended up 5th.

The team who finished most disappointed though, will be Denmark's Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen. The young Danes had started the last Madison with a 20 point lead and were on the same laps as the more fancied Fulst / Lampater, Mohs / Beikirch and Villa / Stam. As noted in the report, they never really looked like they would take the victory though. We'll never know if they were just not strong enough or if they were looking to save energy for the Copenhagen Six that was starting 48 hours later. With Jacob Piil having retired, the pair were to be the main Danish hopes at home and had been given the prestigious number 7 in the start list. This may have played on their minds. Either way, they will surely have learnt a lot from this Berlin performance, although their final placing of 6th was something of an anti climax.

The Rest

Of the other, teams there was a good showing from roadman and occasional Six Day rider, Olaf Pollack and youngster Roger Kluge, in 7th. place. They were always around 2 laps down and were never in the overall hunt, but took plenty of races during the week. Pollack's priorities lie elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Kluge will become a Six Day regular or tries, as most do these days, for a career on the road. Local rider Andreas Muller was riding with his preferred partner Christian Grasmann and in normal circumstances they'd probably be happy to have finished just 5 laps behind Risi / Marvulli after 6 days. However, this Six Day was not a normal early season or even early in the year Six, it was wide open and with tired riders the lap gains, standings and points spread were a lot closer than usual. Therefore there 8th place at 5 laps down may be a little disappointing, although they did show in the results regularly, the highlight being a Madison victory on Sunday afternoon. The only Belgian in the field, Kenny De Ketele, rode well with Dane Marc Hester and his objective will be the Hasselt Six, Worlds and Olympic Madison's where he'll race with Berlin absentee Iljo Kiesse. Dutchman Peter Schep has had a limited Six Day programme this winter, concentrating on Olympic preparation. When his Dutch National team mate partner Jens Mouris abandoned, he was just keeping in shape, although he and new partner took a surprising win behind the Dernys on Tuesday. The Polish pairing of Ratajczyk / Wiesiak were off the pace in the Madison's but did well taking 1,000 metre Time Trials throughout the week. The Czechs Kankovsky and Lazar didn't show much but they are perhaps one of the teams that are not fully suited to the up and down, stop and start nature of a Six Day race but can still cause a surprise at the major championships as their Madison bronze in 2007 proves.

The retiring Andreas Kappes was pretty much anonymous, although he got an official retirement send off from the Berlin public, along with Guido Fulst, Carsten Podlesch(Steher) and Gerd Dorich, on Monday night. Gerd Dorich's last ever German Six was probably even more disappointing as his partner abandoned on Sunday and his participation was limited for the final 2 days.

Around the Berlin Six

On UIV President - Henrik Elmgreen
The major Six Days are all run by the Union of International Velodromes (UIV) and the organization is doing a good job keeping the tradition of the Six Days going in the light of the increasing focus on road racing from teams, riders, sponsors and especially the cycling media. The President of the UIV since 1994 is Dane Henrik Elmgreen and he is also the organiser of the Copenhagen Six.

I was able to have a chat with Mr Elmgreen on Sunday afternoon in Berlin and the first thing we spoke about was, appropriately, the Berlin Six.

What does Henrik think of this Six?
"The Berlin Six days really is a showcase for track cycling. The racing here covers every track discipline -- Madisons, Points, Match Sprints, Keirin etc. and the motor paced (Stehers) races. Apart from the Keirin races in Japan this is perhaps one of the few places outside of Major Championships that the sprint races are watched by so many people."

With the young Danes (Morkov / Rasmussen) going so well, I also wanted to find out what Henrik thought of their performance here.

"I am happy with how they are riding here. They started slowly as they'd just come from the World Cup in Los Angeles. They had some problems with the flights and also had to attend a Press Conference for the upcoming Copenhagen Six too. Also, they had been racing in the Team Pursuit, riding very big gears... it is not that easy to go from the big gears of a pursuit to the smaller gears needed at a Six. It's ok going from the small gears to the big, but more difficult going the other way. They have some pressure on them, for Copenhagen with the retirement of Jakob Piil, they are the number one guys. It will also be important for the promotion of the Copenhagen Six if they do well here, so the public has a Danish team they can believe in."

Mr. Elmgreen was the person who started the UIV Cup for Under 25 teams some 5-6 years ago. I said, although not a criticism, I wasn't sure that riders were coming through. Henrik was quick to set me straight here.

"Well, some of the races haven't always been the best, but I believe that overall the series has been a success. Iljo Kiesse won the series in the first year and look at him now. Also Morkov and Hester won and are both accomplished Six Day riders. Some of the young German riders too, came through via the UIV Cup. That was the idea, to give young riders a chance to get used to riding Madison's internationally and we've done that, in fact it is the only place that young riders can race Madison's. I've tried, when possible, to get riders from Australia, Canada and the USA to come and it's not always easy, but we always have an open invitation for them. I know since McGrory and Gilmore have retired, we now have no Australians regularly riding the pro Sixes. I hope we can get them back. The same with North America, I'd like to have at least one guy racing. The British pair, Bellis and Kennaugh (the winners of the UIV Cup 4 day here), have been very much the strongest team and I hope the UIV Cup will have helped them improve to get this kind of racing experience."

I asked him about the increasing specialism and if that was affecting the quality of riders available.

"Sadly the Pro teams are not interested in the track, but since the introduction of 'Open racing' we do always have riders available. In the past, the Professional and Amateur rules where strict and once a rider raced in a Pro Six he could no longer race in Amateur events. If, for example, a team dropped out of the Copenhagen Six at the last minute, I could draft in a team from the UIV Cup. Perhaps only Bellis and Kennaugh could make the transition, in fact, I'm confident they could."

I noted that even within the Sixes, certain riders have strengths and not everyone will go well in the Madison's.

"Of course riders will have strengths and weaknesses. A Six Day race is like a stage race and even within the track racing world some riders have the stamina for six full days, others don't. You could say its likehow some riders, on the road, concentrate on one day racing while others on stage races. That is why World Cups and World Championship Madison's are very different, the racing is a lot more tactical and it's not always the strongest or best that get on the podium."

"When I first went to a Six Day in Copenhagen, many years ago, the Madison's where 3 hours long and I thought it was exciting, but nowadays that format would not work. The public would not respond to that. You need riders to entertain the crowd in the Time Trails (TT's), for example. When Marty Nothstein first came into the Sixes he was breaking track records all over the place. He thought he could do well in the Madison's too and lost a lot of weight. In the end he was not the fastest in the TT's either and did not have the engine for the Madison's, so really it was a waste... he lost the chance to entertain the crowd."

And with the start of the Copenhagen Six just a few days away, what are you hoping for there?

"I had some difficulty getting a strong field together. I've lost Slippens who hasn't recovered from his problems and it was not possible to get Bartko, as he is not doing any more Sixes this winter. I have put Iljo Keisse with Danny Stam and they will be a strong pair. Morkov and Rasmussen, as I said, I'm hoping will do well and of course I have Risi / Marvulli."

Finally, I asked about 'the talked about' Six Day in London and the success of the UIV website.

"Firstly, I don't know about London. Surely they need a track first. Our website gets a lot of hits from Australia, North America and the UK, not so many from Germany, although maybe they have their own German language sites. Our site is in English and I think that it is still the one place that people can always find the results from every UIV Six Day race."

What the riders said...

During the Six I tried to speak to a few riders and although got no interviews was able to get the following from a few riders:

Erik Mohs finished 4th with Andy Beikirch and they were in with a chance of the overall win during the finale. Erik rode a number of Sixes this winter with Beikirch placing 5th in Munich, Gent and Bremen. He got 3rd with Beikirch and Dorich in Stuttgart and 6th with Iljo Keisse in Dortmund a promising start in his first full Six day season so will he become a full time rider on the Six day circuit?

"This year I want to concentrate on road racing with the aim being to get a contract from a Pro Tour team. This winter has been good for me but 5 or 6 Six day races was probably too much, next year I won't ride so many. It wouldn't be good for me to do a full summer on the road and then come inside all winter. I am still very young and don't want to burn out."

Marco Villa told me of his plans for the Major Championships are this year:

"I told the Italian track coach 2 years ago that I was available for selection to help the young riders with my experience. At the moment I don't know what the Italian Madison team will be but if selected I am motivated, I don't want to go to Beijing just for a holiday. For 2 years now I haven't ridden the road during the summer so need time to get to 100% so I hope to find out before or soon after the World Championships (in Manchester) so I can start to train for the Olympics."

Kenny De Ketele was the only Belgian in Berlin:

"The Berlin Six is not so important for me, it's a great event but I am just here preparing for Hasselt then the Worlds and the big objective Beijing. I am riding all of them with Iljo Keisse. I'm also going to Copenhagen this week to race with Tim Mertens. Next year will be a different season as there are no Olympics to prepare for, so I may race more Six Days."

Alexander Aeschbach had told me in Gent how he was having trouble getting contracts and seemed a little disillusioned. Fast forward to the end of the Berlin Six and on his way to the podium placers Press Conference, he was in altogether different mood as he shook my hand:

"At Gent things weren't so good, but now this is great. I am really happy, it couldn't have been better."

He was then in demand as was Lademann, enjoying there bit of time in the spotlight.

Franco Marvulli also on his way to the Press Conference:

"Hi, thanks for the nice interview in Gent, I told you I loved Berlin!!!"

He was also on the move, at that same Press Conference. It was all in German, of course. I think that Bruno Risi noted how Franco Marvulli motivates him which was also something Franco told us in our interview!!!

London Six Day

Henrik Elmgreen was quick to play down the possibility of a Six day Race in London (UK), but I was told by another source that the promoter was in Berlin and discussions are very much in progress to have the Six in either September or in late February next year. Here's hoping...

Until Next year

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