The First 3 Days
by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
26 January 2014
103rd Berliner Sechstagerennen - The 2014 Edition
The winter track season would not be the same without the legendary Berliner Sechstage Rennen. With temperatures of minus 10C, the norm at this is time of year, the event annually welcomes 70,000 visitors inside the Landsberger Allee Velodrom. The Berlin public has a reputation for wanting to see cycle sport. This is a sporting / sportive public as they say on the continent that enjoy the racing and are not just here to take in the show. The sporting aspect of this historic event is what one hopes, keeps it alive but also highlights a problem. As the amount of, and quality of, riders racing the 6-day circuit these days becomes thinner and thinner the level of the racing inevitably suffers. This, in my opinion, creates the need to provide more of a sporting spectacle than an out and out race - as you have in Ghent.
The 103rd. edition probably has fewer riders the fans will be familiar with, this seems to be the case year on year. A number of the small pool of top riders who have been competitive here in recent years are not riding due to road or national commitment, or as has been the case with some, contractual issues. This list includes recent winners (Michael) Marko, Rasmussen, Howard, Meyer and Kluge as well as Iljo Keisse, Hester, Dillier, Wim Stroetinga and Marcel Katz. It is of course difficult to replace the big riders who've retired in the last 10 years such as Risi, Betschart, Martinello, Villa, Kappes, Gilmore, McGrory, Madsen, Stam, Slippens, Beikirch, Schep etc., but this dearth of riders must be a concern to those associated with the Sixes. You could point to the Madison's removal from the Olympics as the start of this rot, or certainly contributing to it, but that's a story for another day.
The first 3 days:
The guys who have started in 2014 are of course giving all they have to provide the spectacle that the sporting public expects. After 3 nights 5 teams are still in contention for the overall victory. The overwhelming favourites are Leif Lampater and Jasper De Buyst, who are reunited, having won the Ghent Six in November. They hold a decent lead on points from Kenny De Ketele and Andreas Muller. The Belgian De Ketele is one of the few top riders left in the Sixes and his partner Muller will be inspired to top his 3rd place from last year. That was the best result of the affable Berliners career, so a win would be a major achievement.
The 3rd. team looking to challenge are a 'home team' of experienced riders, Robert Bartko and Theo Reinhardt who at 23 is just in his 7th. Six. They are hanging in and will certainly challenge for the podium.
Below these teams, the surprise package are Havik and Hacecky, more than a mouthful for the ever exuberant commentators. They are on the same lap as the leaders, so the Dutch / Czech combo will be more than happy with their progress so far.
The 5th. team in the standings are, World Madison Champion Vivien Brisse and Bavarian Christian Grasmann. The Frenchman, Brisse, was due to race with his 2013 Championship partner Morgan Kneisky, but a knee operation has ruled Kneisky out of the early 2014 Sixes.
Sadly, in his last ever 6-day, Franco Marvulli is near the bottom of the standings, with Australian Luke Roberts. A winner of 32 Sixes in his career, Franco is one of the last few in the line of riders who compete at every winter and summer Six. His retirement is another signal of the changing nature of this part of cycle sport. This Six is after Zurich, his favourite, and he has always had a great rapport with the Berlin crowds. Alas his last winter season has been one of continual health problems and you can imagine this certainly wasn't the way he'd have wanted to say goodbye. I can't ever remember him ever being in such a lowly position.
Elsewhere the Spaniards Muntaner and Torres made a promising start and could have been up there on their preferred 250 metre track. However a crash on Friday night saw them neutralised and with Muntaner hurt; they've since lost 7 laps and are out of the podium battle.
Official Standings after 3 Nights:
1. Lampater (Ger) - De Buyst (Bel) 176 points
2. De Ketele (Bel) - Muller (Ger) 147
3. Bartko - Reinhardt (Ger) 120
4. Havik (Ned) - V. Hacecky (Cz) 109
5. Brisse (Fra) - Grasmann (Ger) 102
at 6 laps
6. Bommel (Ger) - Thiele (Ger) 53
at 7 laps
7. Marguet (Swi) - Beyer (Ger) 64
8. Muntaner (Spa) - Torres (Spa) 57
9. Barth (Ger) - Heslich (Ger) 26
at 10 laps
10. Wotschke (Ger) - Pirius (Ger) 38
11. J. Morkov (Den) - Ackermann (Ger) 23
at 11 laps
12. Thomel (Ger) - Schomber (Ger) 25
at 12 laps
13. Marvulli (Swi) - Roberts (Aus) 26
at 13 laps
14. East (USA) - Holloway (USA) 20
15. Blaha (Cz) - M. Hacecky (Cz) 12
at 15 laps
16. Byrgesen - Christensen (Den) 02
Stehers, Sprinters and the Ladies
The main Six Day programme is much shorter than in some other cities due to the sprint and steher (motor-paced) races. We also now have the Ladies-Cup and that reduces the programme even further.
The leading Sprinter after 3 nights is, he of the most enormous thighs in cycling, Robert Forstemann (if you think that's a weird statement look at a picture). He and fellow German sprinters Balzer, Levy and Enders are putting on a show for the fans with a Pole, Zielinski and a Czech, Kelemen - although the latter is struggling a bit in this company.
Leading the Stehers after 3 nights is Mario Birrer, who has had the best of the crowd pleasing high speed motor-paced races thus far. The Swiss is the current European Champion. This title is, nowadays, the pinnacle of this long forgotten but very specialist form of track racing.
Last but not least, the Ladies-Cup is being dominated by Stephanie Pohl in the Omnium style competition. The one Brit in the field, Hannah Walker, is struggling a bit in 13th. place, but the Stockport rider always has a smile on her face and seems to be popular around the Landsberger Allee Velodrom.
The Last 3 Days
by Steve Penny
29 January 2014
Off the track, from an organisational perspective, the 103rd Berlin Sechstage Rennen has been successful; good crowds being the yard stick here. With the whole scene in something of a crisis they'll be pleased to consolidate and have already confirmed dates for 2015.
On the track the level of racing and racers is not of the highest standard and even the traditional 'Champions Parade' before the start is a bit thin. This year the 'European Champions' out number the 'World Champions' - a few years ago you'd have had numerous World and even Olympic Champions on hand.
It had been well known that this was the last ever Six-Day for Franco Marvulli and he was honoured by the organisation and the riders with a ceremonial send off on Monday night - Monday is known locally as Berliner Night.
Another rider in his last ever Berlin Six is Robert Bartko. His retirement had been less well known, but the strong man from just down the road in Potsdam has decided to hang up his wheels at the age of 38. The Copenhagen Six will be his last ever race. He came to prominence dominating the 'Individual Pursuit' at the 1999 Worlds on this very Berlin track and then at the 2000 Olympic Games, where he also took Gold in the 'Team Pursuit'. He was in all, the 'Individual Pursuit' World Champion and a 'Team Pursuit' World Champion four times, in 1999. He joined Team Telekom after his Olympic successes and later moved onto Rabobank but he never quite hit the heights on the road and since 2004 has been a track specialist. He won 19 Six-Day races from his 80 starts and has been one of the main stays, and strongest riders, on the winter tracks over the last 10 years.
The final 3 days:
The Landsberger Allee Velodrom was packed, with standing room only available, for the 'Finale' and as always the riders did their best to put on a show for the loyal Berlin public.
Going into the 'Finale' this Six Days result appeared to have an air of inevitability surrounding it. Since the start last Thursday, Leif Lampater and Belgian sensation Jasper De Buyst had been the strongest riders on the track. But this was a Six-Days final chase where anything can happen when the pressure mounts and the temperature rises.
In his last Berlin chase Robert Bartko came out like a man possessed and for half an hour he, and local youngster, Theo Reinhardt looked ready to cause an upset, as the lead went back and forth. But with 25 laps remaining, needing to gain a full lap on Lampater / De Buyst due to a large point's deficit, Kenny De Ketele and Andreas Muller went clear. They ploughed on and on and on, making the junction with just a handful of laps remaining. The strongest team in the field, Lampater and De Buyst, had no help with their chase and just couldn't pull out enough energy in the end to close the gap.
This gave Berliner Andreas Muller a surprise first ever Six-Day win and for De Ketele, who had been the bridesmaid on a number of occasions, a first Berlin victory.
A special mention goes to Havik and Hacecky who battled all the way with Grasmann / Brisse for 4th place. They were just beaten in the final sprint as these two teams contested every point over the last 50 laps in their fight for 4th place.
There was further bad news for the Spanish rider David Muntaner on Monday, after he'd crashed on Friday night he was neutralised for the rest of that session. Following an x-ray it was discovered he has a broken jaw and understandably abandoned the race and also misses out on the next six in Copenhagen.
The American team of Guy East and Daniel Holloway finished down the field, but East was in good spirits. He is living the dream, as they say, and has enjoyed 5 starts (including Copenhagen) this winter. With the experience behind him he may be able to return stronger next winter and keep a North American presence back in the Sixes.
1. De Ketele (Bel) - Muller (Ger) 250 points
at 1 lap
2. Lampater (Ger) - De Buyst (Bel) 308
3. Bartko (Ger) - Reinhardt (Ger) 236
at 2 laps
4. Brisse (Fra) - Grasmann (Ger) 211
5. Havik (Ned) - V. Hacecky (Cz) 210
at 11 laps
6. Marguet (Swi) - Beyer (Ger) 143
7. Bommel (Ger) - Thiele (Ger) 128
at 15 laps
8. Barth (Ger) - Heslich (Ger) 72
at 18 laps
9. Marvulli (Swi) - Roberts (Aus) 63
10. J. Morkov (Den) - Ackermann (Ger) 61
at 19 laps
11. Thomel (Ger) - Schomber (Ger) 65
at 20 laps
12. Wotschke (Ger) - Pirius (Ger) 100
at 24 laps
13. East (USA) - Holloway (USA) 44
at 25 laps
14. Blaha (Cz) - M. Hacecky (Cz) 27
at 27 laps
15. Byrgesen - Christensen (Den) 10
DNF - Muntaner (Spa) - Torres (Spa)
Sprinters, Stehers and the Ladies:
The leading Sprinter after 6 nights was Robert Forstemann who held off teamates Levy and Balzer. All the sprinters will have enjoyed the appreciation of the packed houses as well as having gotten in some good work before the World Championships start on the 26 February, in Colombia.
The winner of the Stehers competition was the Swiss, Mario Birrer who dominated proceedings from Thursday to Tuesday. This event is a real crowd pleaser here in Berlin and following the demise of the Dortmund Six, and Boxing Day meeting, this has become one of the few indoor arenas to still host the big motors.
A mistake on my part as the Ladies-Cup finished after 3 days with Stephanie Pohl winning the Omnium style competition.
All photos by Mareike Engelebrecht or Arne Mill from the Official Berlin Six Website.