An Introduction to the 98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen

by Steve Penny
21 January 2009

The German capital Berlin is home to the oldest Six Day race still on the cycling calendar and the first ever Six Day on mainland Europe that took place here in 1909. So this week when the starting gun sends the riders on their way for the 98th edition of the 'Berliner Sechstagerennen' the event and loyal public will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

There have been enforced breaks during this long history most notably for 14 years before, through and after World War II (it makes me glad to know that Hitler wasn't a cycling fan). Then homelessness between 1991 and 1996 - after the 1990 demolition of long time home the Deutschland Halle, in what was then West Berlin - interrupted 41 years and 54 editions. These 54 post-war, and pre 1991 editions proved its enduring popularity, as 13 times between 1950 and 1970 two Berlin Six Day races where run in the same year. Following a 6 year gap it was resurrected in 1997 by Heinz Seesing at the then brand new Landsberger Allee Velodrome in the former Eastern district of Prenzlauer Berg. This modern luxurious facility was surely built with the Six Day race in mind because as well as being a permanent cycle track it hosts concerts and trade fairs throughout the year. The event has continued to go from strength to strength in recent years attracting near sell out crowds of 75,000 people over the six days, thus confirming its popularity into the new millennium and beyond.

Here is the full list of winners dating back to 1909

The 2009 Edition

As reported in our Ghent Six preview, cycle racing in Germany is on a downward spiral due to the ongoing doping scandals that blight the sport. The Stuttgart Six was cancelled before the winter season started due to the lack of sponsors, no doubt put off by the dark shadow of doping. The Six Day world has also been rocked with a doping scandal of its own after one of the biggest stars and part of the future of the Sixes Belgian, Iljo Keisse tested positive for banned substances after winning his home Ghent Six in November. The Berlin Six though seems to have remained unaffected by these ongoing problems, although a couple of heavy crashes in last weeks Bremen Six has depleted this year's field. The German riders Andreas Beikirch and Olaf Pollack, who would be expected to contend, sustained injuries that left them unable to start in their capital city.

Berlin Boys are Favourites

Despite the Bremen crash and doping, the Berlin Six has an added bonus this year because locally born Erik Zabel will be riding his bike in anger for the last time but also making his Berlin debut, a fitting end to a great career. Due to commitments with road teams, early season races and training camps in the past Berlin, and other Sixes, had always been off limits for Zabel. During this winter season though he has raced in Amsterdam, Dortmund, Munich, Ghent and Bremen in what has been a farewell tour. He has not taken this tour lightly though turning up to race hard at them all, winning both Dortmund and Bremen with Leif Lampater. For his last outing, Berlin Sports Director Deiter Stein has given the local public what they want by creating a Berlin 'dream team'. His partner is fellow Berlin hero Robert Bartko, who hails from Potsdam just a few kilometres down the road. This pairing will undoubtedly start the race as strong favourites and Bartko will be highly motivated himself after not riding here last year following a dispute over his contract fee.

Risi / Marvulli Reunited (on the bike at least)

Following a dominating 2007/2008 season for Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli it was assumed they would continue to be the Madison team to beat at the Manchester World Track Championship and Beijing Olympics. But after below par performances in Manchester and Beijing for the Swiss team the Six Day season also started badly when Marvulli abandoned in Dortmund. He did not start the Munich or Ghent Sixes either, a virus being the explanation. However after a brief reappearance with Risi at the small Zuidlaren Six in Holland they were not paired together for the Zurich Six, which was a big surprise. Risi favoured forming a new team with Danny Stam and they won in Zurich then made the podium in Rotterdam and Bremen. Marvulli raced to podium places with Llaneras, Lampater and Pollack respectively at those last three Sixes and it would appear all has not been well between the Swiss riders.

Fast forward to Berlin and they are once again paired together having won the 2008 edition together so it will certainly be interesting to see if personal issues, if they do exist, can be overcome and the once dynamic chemistry regained. Certainly Risi is a true professional and it may be that as both riders are having fairly poor seasons, by their own high standards, they will put everything else aside and once again turn up the heat to challenge Zabel / Bartko for first prize. It is Marvulli's favourite race and you can't count Risi out at any Six Day race he starts.

Other Contenders

After the aforementioned Bremen crash the field does look a little thin on contenders which would have given the organisers a headache when forming the teams. But on this large championship sized 250 metre track lap gains will always be much harder to come by than on the smaller tracks used at most Sixes. The field will probably separated by smaller margins at the end so there are will still be a number of teams with the chance to challenge.

Stam / Schep:

In December news broke that after 11 wins from 70 Six Day starts Danny Stams long time partner Robert Slippens had decided to retire from the sport at the age of 33. The reason for this premature end to a successful career was that Slippens has never fully recovering from injuries sustained in a heavy crash during the summer of 2006. He noted that he had continued to feel pain in the affected areas and been unable to race at the same competitive level he was at before the crash. Despite this he did win 2 Sixes this winter but Robert will know what is best for him and his long term health and so we wish him well for his future off the bike.

After racing 3 Sixes with his now preferred partner Bruno Risi the veteran Stam will team up again with fellow Dutchman Peter Schep. However the health of Stam is still unclear after he himself was involved in the Bremen crash, injuring his hip. The Stam / Schep partnership is a good one though and they've won together before, so if Stam is healthy they should be competitive. The classy Schep will be on cloud nine after winning the Rotterdam Six earlier this month, he and the retiring Juan Llaneras pipping Risi and Stam by a few points in an exciting finale. Without a real sprint between them though they won't gain a large number of points over the six days and will have to gain an extra lap on the other contenders to win this Six.

Rasmussen / Morkov:

The Danish pair Alex Rasmussen (24) and Morkov (23) had looked like becoming the next big thing on the Six Day scene for a few years, despite limiting their appearances to concentrate on the Team Pursuit with Denmark. That Danish Pursuit squad had a fantastic 2008 too winning silver at both the Worlds and Olympics behind the all conquering British quartet, going below 4 minutes on a number of occasions. But their Six Day, and general track, careers look like going on hold for a few years at least after the lure of the road saw both riders signed by Bjarne Riis for his Saxo Bank (formerly CSC) Team.

This winter the Danes won in Grenoble and went mighty close behind Zabel / Lampater in Dortmund. Their last two outings at Munich and Zurich saw them fall a little off the pace although it had been a long 2008 for them. Before they head off onto the road full time they will want to win the Copenhagen Six that follows Berlin so they may just be re-finding their track legs (both tracks are 250 metres) and improving their condition in Germany. They should still give good value though by going well in the flying laps and 1km TTs but a place on or just below the podium may be the best we can expect from this highly talented duo.

Kluge / De Ketele:

The brightest talent in German track cycling is 22 year old Roger Kluge. He won silver medals in the 2008 Olympic Points race and Worlds Madison, with Olaf Pollack. The Pollack / Kluge pairing only raced 2 Sixes this winter, as Kluge was riding the UCI World Cups, but after they took 2nd in Grenoble and a fine 3rd in Munich you'd imagine that they'd have been one of the organisers crowd pleasing pairings here. But with Pollack unavailable, after Bremen, they decided to pair Kluge with 23 year old Belgian Kenny De Ketele. This is an interesting team as neither rider is particularly experienced but both seem to be natural Six Day winners of the future. Following a decent 2007/2008 winter De Ketele has settled into the fold well this season and despite only once having a top partner he has been in the first 5 in his last 4 outings, including 3rd with Beikirch at his home Ghent Six. With national team partner Iljo Keisse due to serve a ban De Ketele may look to concentrate 100% on riding the Sixes over the next few years. At present though it may still be a bit too soon for him, and Kluge, to get such a big win but they shouldn't be too far behind the winners at the end on Tuesday.

Lampater / Roberts:

Leif Lampater is at 26 no longer a young and up coming Six Day racer he is a genuine star of the winter tracks with 4 Six day wins in the last 13 months under his belt. This winter he has not only been riding strongly with the aforementioned Erik Zabel, an experience that can only have given him confidence, but also when paired with other riders. The 2008/2009 records show that Lampater has not been off the podium in any of the 8 Sixes he has ridden this winter. He currently tops the UIV ranking for Madison riders without having ridden in any championship races in 2008 and he may have been disappointed, and unlucky, not to have got the ride with Zabel. So he enters the Berlin fray alongside Australian Team Pursuit specialist Luke Roberts.

Australian riders have a winning tradition in Berlin that dates back to 1910 and Roberts, who is also a former road pro with CSC, is undoubtedly a good rider but not one who usually rides at every Six. This is the first time (Scott McGrory in Ghent once being the exception) that he has been paired with one of the top ranked Six Day guys and he'll surely be motivated to show well. The longer 250 metre track will suit the Aussie as a pursuit rider, so they could spring a surprise by challenging for the podium or maybe even the win if anyone falters.

Elsewhere

The rest of the field will be really just forming a peloton for the big boys to chase although Alex Aeschbach and Christian Lademann where the surprise package of last year finishing 3rd. The experienced and steady Aeschbach has had a solid season being well placed with various partners at most of his starts. But one suspect's last year was the ride of a life time by Lademann who had not been at that level before and a top 5 placing would be a good result for the Swiss / German combination.

Our friend Andreas Muller was born and still lives within walking distance of the Velodrome and he will be keen to show well in his home city. His partner is Sebastian Siedler who has come back to the Sixes after a few years on the road with Team Milram who he'd joined after a steady early career with the German Team Pursuit squad. Andreas is certainly a rider who gives 100% every time he hits the track but it is unlikely this pair will be strong or good enough to do better than 6-8th place overall.

Start List:

Team 1 Angelo Ciccone (Ita) - Erik Mohs (D)
Team 2 Luke Roberts (Aus) - Leif Lampater (D)
Team 3 Erik Zabel (D) - Robert Bartko (D)
Team 4 Roger Kluge (D) - Kenny de Ketele (B)
Team 5 Bruno Risi (Swi) - Franco Marvulli (Swi)
Team 6 Henning Bommel (D) - Fabian Schaar (D)
Team 7 Danny Stam (Ned) - Peter Schep (Ned)
Team 8 Robert Bengsch (D) - Marcel Kalz (D)
Team 9 Marc Hester (Dk) - Jens-Erik Madsen (Dk)
Team 10 Alex Rasmussen (Dk) - Michael Morkov (Dk)
Team 11 Karl-ChrIstian Konig (D) - Marcel Barth (D)
Team 12 Andreas Muller (D) - Sebastian Siedler (D)
Team 13 Daniel Musiol (D) - Sebastian Frey (D)
Team 14 Christian Grasmann (D) - Tino Thomel (D)
Team 15 Milan Kadlec (Cze) - Jozef Zabka (Svk)
Team 16 Andreas Graf (Aust) - Ralf Matzka (D)
Team 17 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi) - Christian Lademann (D)
Team 18 Rafal Ratajczyk (Pol) - Petr Lazar (Cze)

2008/2009 Six Day Season:

Amsterdam Stam / Slippens (Ned)
Grenoble Rasmussen / Morkov (Den)
Dortmund Zabel / Lampater (Ger)
Milan Bettini (Ita) / Llaneras (Spa)
Munich Keisse (Bel) / Bartko (Ger)
Ghent Keisse (Bel) / Bartko (Ger)
Zuidlaren(Ned) Stam / Slippens (Ned)
Zurich Risi (Swi) / Stam (Ned)
Rotterdam Schep (Ned) / Llaneras (Spa)
Bremen Zabel / Lampater (Ger)

Stayers and Sprinters

Berlin always gives the Stayer (Steher in German or motor paced) racers and match Sprinters some well deserved spotlight and also gives the spectators a chance to enjoy every form of track racing, bar the tandem.

Stehers:

The Stehers will race for 20 minutes every night behind the big motors and this is one of just 3 Sixes that gives them a chance to shine, the others being Dortmund and Zurich. There is also a big Steher event in Dortmund on Boxing Day called the 'Grosser Weihnachtspreis' which is now considered the unofficial World Championship. Otherwise the small band of specialists and their pacers race on large outdoor tracks over the summer in Germany, Switzerland and Holland in front of small but knowledgeable crowds
(see http://www.radrennbahn-andreasried.de/).

Following the retirement of local hero Carsten Podlesch the Berlin favourite will be the 36 year old from Leipzig, Timo Scholz who won here last year, took the Boxing Day Grosser Weihnachtspreis and the Steher Cup at the Dortmund Six. Hot on his heels should be Swiss riders Guiseppe Atzeni, who won in Zurich, and Peter Jorg who has been there or there about at most big Steher events over the years.

Sprinters:

The sprinters will line up with a slight change to the usual Berlin nightly format of a Flying Lap, a Match Sprint and Keirin race as the latter has been replaced on the programme by the Team Sprint. This gives the home fans a chance to see their Olympic bronze medal winning trio of Levy, Enders and Nimke in action as well as witness this exciting discipline up close. The German team will compete against a mixed 'world' team comprised of Italian veteran Roberto Chiappa, Dutchman Tim Veldt and German Mathias John. It is still early in the year for the sprinters to be in top form as their objective will be the Track Worlds in Poland at the end of March but they will relish the chance to get on their bikes and entertain the big appreciative crowds.


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98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Day 1

by Steve Penny
22 January 2009

The first night of the 98th Berlin Six Day race saw 12,500 patrons celebrate the 100th anniversary of this historic event.

On the track opening exchanges threw up a few surprises which is fairly standard at a Six Day race. It is not normally until the 3rd night that the leaders really start to make there move. Nevertheless it will be good news for the organisation with last minute German / Belgian pairing Roger Kluge and Kenny De Ketele at the top of the standings. On the same lap in 2nd place are Lademann / Aeschbach and the German / Swiss combination have indeed started were they left off last year when they finished a surprising 3rd overall.

The opening 45 minute Madison saw a surprise when German Madison champions took the first big prize of the Six Day from the young Kluge / De Ketele team with Lademann / Aeschbach in 3rd. The main favourites were all one lap behind this trio, with some teams losing three, four and five laps. The 2nd shorter 30 minute Madison went to the Danish boys Morkov and Rasmussen. There were no lap gains on the other major players, so the 1st night ended with an interesting look to the leader board and all those racing, heading into the weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Berliner
Sechstagerennen website

Standings after Day 1:

1 Kluge / De Ketele 37 Points
2 Lademann / Aeschbach 29
At 1 lap:
3 Zabel / Bartko 54
4 Risi / Marvulli 53
5 Bengsch / Kalz 43
6 Rasmussen / Morkov 33
7 Stam / Schep 24
8 Roberts / Lampater 5
At 2 laps:
9 Ciccone / Mohs 5
At 3 laps:
10 Hester / Madsen 23
11 Muller / Siedler 12
12 Bommel / Schaar 8
13 Konig / Barth 0
At 4 laps:
14 Musiol / Frey 15
15 Grasmann / Thomel 9
16 Kadlec / Zabka 1
17 Ratajczyk / Lazar 0
At 5 laps:
18 Graf / Matzka 4

As well as such a close start to the race there was more good news for the organisation with Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli seeming to have resolved their differences. Risi was quoted by a Swiss news agency as saying:

"We have met and discussed our problems. For me, this is snow from yesterday, a forgotten issue. I am pleased with the reunion and in any case as last year's winners we want to defend the title." (First Edition Cycling News, January 23, 2009)

As reported, Erik Zabel starts in Berlin for the first time in his last ever race and said:

"I was born just two kilometers from the velodrome at the Lichtenberg clinic and this area is where I started my career in cycling" (First Edition Cycling News, January 23, 2009)

According to German news his son Rick will join him on the track on Tuesday, who is himself competing in the junior event over the weekend.

Twice Olympic gold medalist and Six Day strongman Robert Bartko appears to be relishing the task of racing with Zabel in his last race saying:

""It is an honour to be with Erik for his last race, but also an enormous responsibility as I want to give him a final victory" (First Edition Cycling News, January 23, 2009)

Let the battle commence!!!

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98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Golden Night - Day 3

by Steve Penny
24 January 2009

Saturday night at the Berlin Six is known as Golden Night as this is the biggest day of the six for the public. Every night impressive crowds of around 11-12,000 flock to the Landsberger Allee velodrome but tonight is a sell out and if you haven't got a ticket you'll be literally left out in the cold as temperatures at this time of year always drop below freezing after dark. With this being the 100th birthday of the event and Erik Zabels last ever race the local celebrities, VIPs and ex winners of the event will join the knowledgeable Berlin patrons for their annual feast of track cycling. The first sighting of the evening was Didi the 'Devil' of Tour De France fame in his customary costume and trident.

The Story So Far (Day 2 Summary)

As noted after the first night the organisers have had an unexpected bonus with the some lesser fancied teams getting a head of steam and making this into a seven team race after two nights. The biggest surprise are Robert Bengsch (25) and Marcel Kalz (21) who are the reigning German Madison champions but have only 14 and 5 Six Day starts respectively. They won the opening Madison on Thursday but slipped back a little only to roar back on Friday night and with 97 points they are also close to a bonus lap.

In 2nd., Kluge / De Ketele are fulfilling their promise and may be the more likely of these two young teams to remain in the hunt as both have ridden in pressure situations before at Olympic and World Championships, Kluge being a silver medallist in both last year.

The Danish team of Rasmussen / Morkov are less of a surprise as both are known to have big futures on the road and track and have wins and podium places at a number of Sixes. They will have the upcoming Copenhagen Six in mind but if they are still in the hunt on Tuesday will certainly look to cause an upset. Last years 3rd. podium spot went to Christian Lademann and Alex Aeschbach and this combo have again started strongly and seem to want to show last year was no fluke.

Lurking at one lap behind are the big Berlin Six and local favourites, Erik Zabel and Robert Bartko. They are separated by just one point from last years winners the reunited Swiss double World Champions and prolific Six Day winners, Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. After some apparent recent criticism from Risi about lack his lack of professionalism the now 30 year old Marvulli looks lean and hungry and will have a point to prove. Despite a good start by the current top four, one suspects the big two will be battling it out shoulder to shoulder for the final bonus lap sprints in Tuesday's final.

Also at one lap are Lampater / Roberts. They're showing well, but as expected points are proving hard to come by for the two pursuit riders. The only team that could be seen as a disappointment on paper could be Dutchmen Stam and Schep, but Stam was involved in the recent crash at Bremen and did not finish the last Madison there. That last crash left Olaf Pollack with injuries serious enough to stop him starting in Berlin, along with Andreas Beikirch who had also crashed out while leading with Bartko.

Leaders after Friday Night:

1. Bengsch / Kalz 97 points
2. Kluge / De Ketele 82
3. Rasmussen / Morkov 78
4. Lademann / Aeschach 42
At 1 Lap:
5. Zabel / Bartko 93
6. Risi / Marvulli 92
7. Roberts / Lampater 23
At 2 Laps:
8. Stam / Schep 53
At 3 Laps:
9. Hester / Madsen 32
10. Ciccone / Mohs 5
At 4 Laps:
11. Muller / Siedler 25
At 5 Laps:
12. Grasmann / Thomel 16
13. Konig / Barth 2

Golden Night Gets Under Way

Saturdays racing was preceded by the introduction to the crowd of former Berlin Six Day winner Guido Fulst, who retired after last years Six, and Olaf Ludwig, better known as a former Tour de France green jersey winner, who won the first ever edition in this velodrome in 1997. This was followed by the traditional introduction of the 2008 Olympic, World, European and National track champions and medal winners. Then of course Erik Zabel, the most successful and consistent German rider of the 90's and current millennium, was introduced to the fans, complete with a tribute song played over the PA. As the 18 teams were introduced to the crowd, the noise was almost deafening when Zabel and Bartko took their bow, although it was impressive to hear the greeting Bruno Risi received, showing how highly he is thought of by Six Day fans.

As at any Six, the first race is a leg warming points race, although here the points gained in the sprints held every three laps are added to each team's overall points total. Bengsch and Kalz took enough points to gain their bonus lap as did Zabel / Bartko, registering a change on the leader board. The relatively poor showing by Stam / Schep seems to be more than just a lacklustre performance and Schep hasn't started tonight following a fall on Friday. Also absent after a good start is Alex Aeschbach who is ill in his hotel bed, a big disappointment for the affable Swiss rider. So a new temporary team has been formed with Christian Lademann and Danny Stam.

In a change to previous Berlin programmes, the 2nd. race up is a 30 minute Madison, which coming so early doesn't give much time for the riders to find their legs and if anyone is not on the pace, crucial laps can be lost. All the top teams proved they were on there guard though, with the Danes Rasmussen / Morkov winning from Risi / Marvulli, the Swiss gaining enough points for their bonus lap. The leader board continues to be far from predictable.

The Derny races on this big track see the riders ride 30 laps each, 60 in total. The Derny paced races are a crowd pleaser anywhere, although at times it is assumed results are agreed in advance. This one showed it didn't appear to be that, as Risi took it for his team from home boy Bartko in a tight finish.

The nights Team Elimination race(Team Devil Takes the Hindmost), proved that the young pretenders really are serious about their challenge, as De Ketele / Kluge beat Bengsch / Kalz for the 20 points and a bonus lap. These two teams, along with Rasmussen / Morkov, have now built up enough points to go into the 'Show time' break a lap ahead of Zabel / Bartko and Risi / Marvulli. With a relatively short racing programme compared to Ghent, points are at a premium and a small total sees Roberts / Lampater now at two laps behind, despite taking 3rd. in the Elimination race. Danny Stam continues to ride with Lademann, although the results sheets continued indicate both of their partners are still in the race.

On Through the Night

The nights big 45 minute Madison will be a big test for the more inexperienced pairings and they will need to be attentive, although they don't need to do anything silly as even a lap loss will keep them close. As most of the crowd hoped and expected, the big two teams finally stamped there authority on this Six, eventually breaking the field. Then as the only two teams left on zero laps contested a sprint, Zabel rolled back the years by out sprinting Risi, bringing the house down.

As suggested, the other teams won't be that upset though as they traded laps with the big guns for the full 45 minutes. Rasmussen / Morkov, Kluge / De Ketele, Stam / Lademann and Bengsch / Kalz followed them home, in that order, at one lap down. The big losers were Lampater / Roberts, after the Australian suffered a crash with Dane Jens-Erik Madsen, 15 minutes from the end. After that, although Roberts was up again quickly, they just rode around in the bunch virtually taking them out of contention two laps down in this Madison and three behind overall.

The Danish pair of Rasmussen and Morkov impressed again, with Morkov, whose smooth, still effortless riding style reminds me of Bradley Wiggins, looking cool and riding within himself. Last year though, this pair looked like a good bet as leaders going into the last Madison but they didn't get involved in the action, fading away to 6th place.

There is just one time trial (TT) on the Berlin programme. It is over 1,000 metres, with each rider taking on 500 metres. Rasmussen and Morkov had the monopoly on this discipline last year and won tonight in a super fast time of 00.56.035 (64.25 kmph), with Rasmussen taking the last two laps. He really is the speedster of the team. The Swiss, Risi / Marvulli took 2nd., also breaking 57 seconds. They've shown all night that they really are back together. Any differences they had, as Risi said, looking "like yesterdays snow".

After his heavy fall, Luke Roberts got back on his bike and won a late night points race with Leif Lampater, which should restore some morale although not the lost ground.

Mostly through their Madison lap gain and points tally, Zabel / Bartko have taken control of this Six Day race with Risi / Marvulli hot on there heels. Rasmussen / Morkov and the two young teams are still hanging in there though, all still with a chance to cause that big surprise.

Leaders after Saturday Night:

1. Zabel / Bartko 146 points
2. Risi / Marvulli 141
3. Rasmussen / Morkov 137
4. Bengsch / Kalz 136
5. Kluge / De Ketele 126
At 1 Lap:
6. Lademann / Aeschach 70
At 3 Laps:
7. Stam / Schep 81
8. Roberts / Lampater 71
At 6 Laps:
9. Hester / Madsen 32
10. Ciccone / Mohs 7
At 7 Laps:
11. Muller / Siedler 28
At 9 Laps:
12. Grasmann / Thomel 33

Champions' Sprint Competition

The sprinters are always popular in Berlin, as this part of the world, the former East Germany, has a long and successful history in the various disciplines with the likes of Michael Hubner and Jens Fiedler winning numerous World and Olympic medals. In fact, Fiedler showed he is still loved by this audience when he was introduced to the crowd before the first flying lap race tonight. In recent years though, first the Australians, then the French and Dutch and now the British have taken over with the cream of the sprint talent with Chris Hoy and newcomer Jason Kenny dominating in 2008. Neither is here, but Germany does have its own young hope in the 21 year old former junior World Champion Maximillian Levy. He also has a couple of bronze medals at senior World and Olympic level under his belt, so at this Six day he will want to confirm that at least he is Germanys number one. After 3 nights, he heads the pack from his German Team Sprint colleagues, one time Kilo Time Trial specialist, Stefan Nimke (31) and fellow 21 year old Rene Enders. The competition is taken fairly seriously by the riders, but as noted in the preview, the focus will be on the World Championships in a couple of months, so the big men will just be glad to have some competitive races and a chance to display some crowd pleasing antics.

I managed to catch up with Jens Fiedler (who remains ever popular, especially with the ladies) for a few minutes to ask him about the current crop of sprinters and the ongoing British success:

"Yes the British are now the best and their results show that. I know Chris Hoy and he has worked very hard to get to the top, the current UK coach is a German, Jan Van Eijden, who I taught the art of sprinting (he laughs but he is serious)!!! But it is the whole set up with there Federation, coaches, support staff and yes of course you need money, but that will always come if great results are achieved. It is like in the old East Germany. There was a whole programme dedicated to the sport and the riders, and I am NOT talking about doping ok, I just mean that type of support network and having people working with the young riders. The British work a lot with their youngsters too. In Germany now I think we still have talent but we don't have a really strong support programme... a real team of people for our guys, and so we are falling behind"

(Esso) Steher Championship

The Stehers are always an impressive sight on what is for them a small track at 250 metres. The German champion Timo Scholz appears to be well in control of this series after he took tonight's race right on the line. Despite the close finish he looked well in control throughout, even easing back at one stage before making his charge in the final two laps. The Swiss rider Guiseppe Atzeni was in last place in the overall series at the start tonight, but he made a gallant effort in this 80 lap race, with the strain clearly showing on his face as he pushed the massive gear around. It wasn't to be for the Zurich resident though and he slipped back to 3rd. on the very last lap, although he had the crowd's sympathy and took a share of the applause for his efforts.


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98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Familientag - Day 4

by Steve Penny
25 January 2009

Family Day in Berlin

Sunday in Berlin is, as it is at all German Sixes, the traditional Family Day (Familientag). This tradition is popular with the fans but maybe not so with the riders who after a late night finish on Saturday, the riders must be back on the track at noon to race and entertain another big but somewhat younger audience. The overall standings changed hands towards the end of a hard fought Golden Night and the home favourites Zabel and Bartko held the top spot with Risi / Marvulli close behind. The 4th day of the Six should see the top teams press on, experience and endurance normally being crucial over the six days much like a stage race on the road. But this Six Day seems to be throwing up surprises, so there is no guarantee that this formula will apply.

Sunday Part I

The opening exchange in the Points Race sees most teams add a couple of points to there overnight totals. A Derny race is also early on the programme and offers a crowd pleasing win for Zabel / Bartko.

It is the 45 minute Madison, starting at 13:15, that would be foremost in the riders minds though and as you'd expect there was not much let up in the pace. The main players came to the forefront as you'd expect, but Zabel / Bartko actually lost a lap to their big rivals Risi / Marvulli and the Belgian / German pairing of De Ketele / Kluge. With about 30 laps to go Stam and the fit again Schep joined Risi / Marvulli and De Ketele / Kluge in taking a lap on the other top 8 teams. The Dutch pair didn't contest the sprint but will be happy to be back in the thick of the action and close to a bonus lap that will see then at 2 laps in arrears. So with the crowd blowing there whistles to a deafening pitch it was left to Bruno Risi, in his 177th Six Day start, to out sprint De Ketele, 16 years his junior, by less than half a wheel. These two teams now hold a clear lap lead, De Ketele is proving that in the future he should be riding at more Sixes with strong and competitive partners. Along with Zabel / Bartko at 1 lap in this Madison were Roberts / Lampater, Rasmussen / Morkov and Bengsch / Kalz, the later pair understandably starting to feel the pace a bit as they are falling behind on points. Also back in the fray after a bout of sickness was Alex Aeschbach, teamed with Christian Lademann they preserved a place in the top 6 also by finishing at 1 lap behind but are now 2 back overall.

After a short break for the days 'Show time' and the sprinters competition, the Six Day riders will be back on the track for a Team Elimination race followed by a 30 minute Madison, that could see the teams losing out here, coming straight back.

Sunday Part II

With the 2nd. Madison coming so soon after the break, the top teams let the lesser lights contest the Team Elimination. It was Henning Bommel, with Fabian Schaar, taking it from Tino Thomel, with Christian Grasmann, in an all German sprint. The 2nd. Madison is the last long hard race until the Six Day resumes on Monday Night, only a time trial (TT) and points race follows today, which gives the riders over 24 hours to get complete rest. Despite this, the main players seemed content to take a back seat, and coming into the last 20 laps, 4 teams held a 1 lap advantage. The two fallers from last night Luke Roberts, with Leif Lampater, and Jens-Erik Madsen, with Marc Hester, made the pace over the last couple of laps, but it was Leif Lampater who shot away winning with over 5 bike lengths to spare from the Danish pair. Lampater who has raced a lot this winter with Erik Zabel enjoyed his moment, despite staying close the leaders, he and Roberts have not really been able to contend in the big chases. The other two teams who finished a lap ahead were Mohs / Ciccone and Muller / Siedler. The 23 year old Erik Mohs had a decent winter season last year but has not ridden at many Sixes this year. He was pencilled in to ride with Andreas Beikirch. In that team, Mohs would have expected to be in the mix, rather than 9 laps behind with late replacement Italian Ciccone.

I spoke to Alex Aeschbach who had been absent on Saturday. He told me that many of the riders including De Ketele and Erik Zabel himself have a stomach bug. This explains why it has been a fairly low key day for the six time Tour green jersey winner. Alex himself had the bug so badly, that he was sent home to bed yesterday by the race Doctor. This as much as anything could be the reason that the race is still so close overall, as many riders will be feeling short of power in their legs.

The 'Otto Ziege' Points race was pretty much the last race on the on the program, with the big guns skipping the 1,000 metre TT, probably due to sickness. The race is in honour of Otto Ziege, the former sports director of the Berlin Six, who in his early 80's. Otto is still loved by the Berlin cycling public, having ridden (although never won the Berlin Six) many times himself after World War II. The prize was presented by the man himself, going to Bengsch / Kalz, who gained some much needed points climbing back up the table.

Leaders at the close on Sunday:

1. Risi / Marvulli 169 points
2. Kluge / De Ketele 155
At 1 lap:
3. Bengsch / Kalz 162
4. Rasmussen / Morkov 160
5. Zabel / Bartko 159
At 2 Laps:
6. Roberts / Lampater 114
7. Lademann / Aeschach 81
At 3 Laps:
8. Stam / Schep 99
At 7 laps:
9. Hester / Madsen 59
At 8 Laps:
10. Muller / Siedler 50
11. Ciccone / Mohs 29
At 11 Laps:
12. Grasmann / Thomel 68
13. Konig / Barth 41
At 12 Laps:
14. Musiol / Frey 71
15. Bommel / Schaar 66
At 15 Laps:
16. Kadlec / Zabka 22
At 16 Laps:
17. Ratajczyk / Lazar 31
At 17 Laps:
18. Graf / Matzka 31


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98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen - Day 6

by Steve Penny
27, 28 January 2009

Das Grosse Finale

The 98th Berliner Sechstagerennen reaches its climax tonight at the Landsberger Allee velodrome. Once again spectators are flocking in large numbers along the concourse outside the complex that was originally built as part of the City of Berlins bid for the 2000 Olympics that eventually went to Sydney. The Berlin Six organisation has also confirmed today that the event is safe until 2022. This announcement should ensure that at least 111 editions will go into the record books.

The action on the 250 metre track took another twist on Monday night with the Danes Alex Rasmussen and Michael Morkov taking the lead after gaining 70 points last night. Lurking ominously in 2nd place, and now over his stomach bug, is the big star of this Six, Erik Zabel, with Berlins other golden boy Robert Bartko at his side. In 3rd are the impressive Kenny De Ketele and the 'Young German cyclist of the year' Roger Kluge. Just behind this team are Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli who had a quiet Monday night. Despite Rasmussen / Morkov's presence at the top of the standing the big struggle of the Final Madison is expected to be between Zabel / Bartko and Risi / Marvulli. Last year the Danes had a similar lead on the last day but faded away, maybe this year they are a year stronger and more experienced but I always think they have the Copenhagen Six in mind, but we will see.

The big losers last night were the revelations of the event Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz but the Berlin boys slipped to 6th at 3 laps behind, following what must have been a difficult Berliner Night (Monday) for them. They will most likely lose another few laps in the final but can be content with their showing, as both are still inexperienced at this level. The Dutch pair of Stam / Schep is healthy and holding their own at 2 laps behind but are certainly out of contention as are Roberts / Lampater and Lademann / Aeschbach. The Six is going to be won by one of four teams which still make for an exciting finale.

Leaders at the end of Monday Night (Day 5):

1. Rasmussen / Morkov 230 points
2. Zabel / Bartko 206
3. Kluge / De Ketele 202
4. Risi / Marvulli 200
At 2 Laps:
5. Stam / Schep 127
At 3 Laps:
6. Bengsch / Kalz 196
At 4 Laps:
7. Roberts / Lampater 129
8. Lademann / Aeschach 98

Early Exchanges:

With none of the top 4 within reach of another bonus lap, the early races may see teams ease off a bit, although Rasmussen / Morkov have a good point's advantage and if they add to that lead rest would need to take a lap off them to win. The first race is the point's race and some points are added but this race has no winner as such, just points added to overall totals. Bengsch / Kalz take back 5th place for the time being at least by gaining a bonus lap for 200 points and Zabel / Bartko take some more points. The Team Elimination went to Kluge / De Ketele with Risi / Marvulli 3rd., so with Rasmussen / Morkov taking no points so far their lead is down from 24 to 9 points, although they should be good for 20 points later in the 1,000 metre time trial (TT). The last Derny race of the Six went to Danny Stam and Peter Schep, paced around by fellow Dutchman Bruno Walrave who at 70 is in his last season as a Derny and Steher pacer before retirement. Zabel / Bartko took another 6 points to close within 3 of the lead and what the crowd want to see, a home win.

Finale Getting Closer

The last TT had no official result after Rasmussen, who with Morkov broke 56 seconds on Monday night, had a problem with his pedals while lapping the track and didn't return to the track, so no points were given to any of the teams. Rasmussen / Morkov did win a small trophy for being the best team in the TT over the six days but did not add to there 230 points. The Otto Ziege point's race went appropriately to locals Bengsch / Kalz taking another bouquet but the likely hood is they'll lose a place or two in the final Madison.

Standings before the Final Madison:

1. Rasmussen / Morkov 230 points
2. Kluge / De Ketele 229
3. Zabel / Bartko 227
4. Risi / Marvulli 217
At 2 Laps:
5. Bengsch / Kalz 220
6. Stam / Schep 139
At 3 Laps:
7. Lademann / Aeschach 125
At 4 Laps:
8. Roberts / Lampater 154


Final of the 98th Berliner Sechstagerennen

The final Madison of the Six was run over 45 minutes plus 50 laps, with bonus sprints every 10 laps of the last 50. These races always produce excitement and this one was no exception with the result still in doubt up until the final minutes.

The first 30 minutes saw the 4 top teams left in contention taking a lap or two each, but no one really tried to break the field, although Kluge / De Ketele looked lively and at one point had a big upset in their sights. The first mistake they made though after going away, was they were joined by one of the lesser, rather than major teams, and rather than sitting up they persisted for more than a few laps before eventually being pulled back into the bunch. After a short lapse they tried again and this time gained half a lap. It was during this move that Rasmussen / Morkov lost their own chance of winning the Six as they drove at the front of the bunch for lap after lap, slowly clawing back the by now tired looking German / Belgian pairing, showing their Team Pursuit quality. While the Danes drove on Zabel / Bartko and Risi / Marvulli sat a few places back in the peloton and bided their time. As Rasmussen / Morkov finally brought back Kluge / De Ketele in his last 25 minutes of racing, Erik Zabel jumped away with Marvulli on his wheel. Bartko and Risi, with Bartko looking especially strong, drove on and within a few minutes the two favourite teams had gained the all important lap.

With 50 laps and those bonus sprints left, Zabel / Bartko and Risi / Marvulli were in the lead a clear lap ahead of Rasmussen / Morkov and Kluge / De Ketele with the Berlin 'dream team' in poll position 10 points clear of the Swiss flyers. In the first sprint it was Bartko who surprisingly went for and took it. The 2nd sprint saw Marvulli take some much needed points for his team to keep them in the hunt for victory, although Zabel and Bartko looked strong. In between the 2nd and 3rd sprint with Kluge / De Ketele now unable to make another move, Rasmussen / Morkov tried their big all or nothing attack and at first looked like they could get back on terms and possibly pick up some bonus points on the way. But Bartko again put the hammer down, with the pain showing on his face he was able to power around the 250 metre track. Like Kluge / De Ketele before them the Danes, once caught, were out of the running and faded to eventually finish 4th. The 3rd sprint then went to Risi from Zabel and the Swiss team closed to within 6 points of the overall lead. The crowd were up on their feet for the bonus sprints and there was a sense of tension, and anticipation, in the air. Although the Berlin crowd are fair minded and applaud any winner they were firmly behind Zabel / Bartko tonight.

The 4th sprint is the one that all but seals it for the Berliners. Bartko took a couple of very long turns allowing Zabel some recovery time which paid off, as Zabel beat Risi this time, meaning they only needed to place in the top 4 in the last sprint to win it. Bartko and Zabel want to finish in style though and Bartko gave Zabel another break before slinging him in to take this last sprint in his last race. With the home crowd jumping for joy, it really was a fitting end to a fine Six Day race and a great career.

The lap of honour and podium ceremonies took longer than usual as it was all about Erik Zabel. He has been saying goodbye at tracks in Amsterdam, Dortmund (twice - the Six and Boxing Day meet), Munich, Ghent and Bremen in what has perhaps been the longest retirement ever. But as it all started in Berlin, so this is where it finished and he was joined by his father, a former East German track racer, for the photo sessions. After saying a few words of thanks to the passionate crowd he slowly pedalled around the track one last time with a tear in his eye and a song playing over the PA recorded in his honour (the lyrics saying something like "there is only one Erik Zabel") he went off to hang up his wheels for the last time.

At 38 there will be no comebacks for Erik.


What They Said:

After leading into the final Madison for the 2nd year running, the always impressive Danes Alex Rasmussen & Michael Morkov ended up in 4th place. I asked Michael Morkov how they failed to get on the podium again.

"We did a really bad finale but we'll win it one day!!! We started the Six Day thinking that we could make the podium but after Monday we realised that we could win it and decided we'd go for it."

You seemed to be doing too much work chasing Kluge / De Ketele?

"Yes, we made a big mistake chasing them the whole time and after we got them back the others attacked (Zabel / Bartko & Risi / Marvull), they are experienced and know what to do in these situations. We did try to attack ourselves but after the long chase we really had nothing left for the finish. We will go back to Copenhagen for our home Six with good form as that is still a big goal for us."

What about your future racing the Six Days?

"Next year we will really have to see what happens with the programme we have from our team."

The pairing of Kenny De Ketele & Roger Kluge only came together a few days before the Six began but they finished a very good 3rd and gave everything for the win. I asked Kenny about the tactics and said that perhaps they went a bit too hard too soon and wasted energy?

"Yes you could say that, but I always say stuff silver and let's go for gold!!! I prefer to know that I tried to get away and then finish 3rd or 4th, whatever, than finish 3rd without attacking because then you think what if I had gone for it... we could have won... you know? But the big guys (Zabel / Bartko & Risi / Marvulli) where very strong tonight as we gave it everything, twice, to get away. I respect those guys a lot. Then for the last sprints Roger (Kluge) is faster than me, but I found myself having to go for a few. By then I had nothing left in the legs but we got a few points and still hung on for 3rd. overall... I'm really happy"

Roger Kluge was a silver medallist at the Worlds and Olympics as well as being young German cyclist of the year for 2008, so sadly for Six Day fans, it is no surprise to hear of his future plans:

"I hope to become a Tour de France rider in the future. For now I will race a little bit on the track with the German National team and then some smaller stage races with my road team. In the future though I want to see how far I can go as a road rider."

Final Standings:

1. Zabel / Bartko 269 points
2. Risi / Marvulli 255
At 1 Lap:
3. Kluge / De Ketele 243
4. Rasmussen / Morkov 238
At 3 Laps:
5. Stam / Schep 139
At 4 Laps:
6. Bengsch / Kalz 220
7. Lademann / Aeschach 127
At 5 Laps:
8. Roberts / Lampater 158
At 13 Laps:
9. Muller / Siedler 77
10. Hester / Madsen 66
At 15 Laps:
11. Mohs / Ciccone 33
At 16 Laps:
12. Grasmann / Thomel 82
13. Konig / Barth 63
At 17 Laps:
14. Bommel / Schaar 85
At 19 Laps:
15. Musiol / Frey 79
At 24 Laps:
16. Kadlec / Zabka 34
17. Ratajczyk / Lazar 32
At 25 Laps:
18. Graf / Matzka 37


Stehers

The Steher Cup was won by Timo Schulz who had a good week and confirmed his dominance by taking the last of the 6 races over 60 laps tonight. The runner up was Berliner Mario Vonhof who place consistently every day, rather than winning a race. The same went for 3rd placed Tim Van der Zanden from Holland who was even racing with a damaged left arm. He could be seen walking around in a sling, pre-race. The Swiss challenge from Peter Jorg and Guiseppe Atzeni never came and they finished off the pace in 4th and 6th overall ,respectively.

The Berlin crowd love to see this unusual but spectacular event so the Stehers will be back in 2010 to entertain the public once again.

Sprinters

The 21 year old Maximillian Levy took the Champions Sprint series from Stefan Nimke and Rene Enders. After Nimke ran him close in the more relaxed Six Day environment, Levy now moves on towards the more daunting World Championship stage. In Poland at the end of March, he will attempt, along with the French, to upset the dominant British pair of Chris Hoy (BBC Sports Personality of 2008) and rising star Jason Kenny.

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