98th Edition of the Berliner Sechstagerennen – Golden Night - Day 3
by Steve Penny
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:
(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.