by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
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 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)
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.