Introduction to the Z6s-daagse Vlaanderen-Gent 2004

November 23-28
Het Kuipke / Gent
by A. Devlin

One of the most exciting cycling events of the winter season in Europe is the 6-day racing circuit. The season begins in October and finishes in February/March. The 6-day format is based on the tradition of the early 20th century racing where a team of two riders would race for 144 hours around a wooden track in an indoor arena with thousands of spectators cheering them on. One rider of the two-man team had to be on the track at all times. Nowadays the 6-day racers will ride 6 to 8 hours every evening for six days in a row or 36 to 48 hours of intense fast-paced riding.

The racing includes flying laps, fastest time over 500metres, miss-n-outs (elimination), points races, derny races and the backbone of the 6-day racing; the Madison or l'american as the French refer to it. This is where for 30 to 60minutes the team of two riders will ride hard with one racer at the bottom of the track hammering in the pack while his partner is at the top of the track resting and catching his breath. After a couple of laps the rider circling the balustrade will come off the steep sides of the track usually at a high rate of speed and he will coordinate this move with his partner racing at the red line near the bottom of the track. As the riders come together the racer at the bottom will hand-sling his partner into the race. When executed with precision and finesse the hand sling of the Madison is a movement rivaling the modern dance maneuvers of a Cirque du Soleil performer. When the coordination of this move is well timed and executed the rider joining the racing is flung into the pack of riders and he hammers the pedals, attempting to break away from the pack and race to gain a lap. The average speed of the racing during the Madison is well over 50km per hour.

The queen of the 6-day races is the Belgian Gent 6-day or the Flemish z6s-daagse Vlaanderen-Gent. In the history of 6-day racing only two cities have staged more 6-day races than Gent. Berlin has staged 93 events beginning in 1909. In New York City there have been 70 6-day races between 1899 and 1961. The Canadian, William "Torchy" Peden had a special love for the Madison Square Garden track and won four 6-day races there between 1932 and 1939.

Third on the top cities list is Gent with 64 races. The first 6-day race was staged in Gent in 1922. Over the years some of the most prominent 6-day cyclists and road cyclists have raced in Gent: Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel), Patrick Sercu (Bel), Tom Simpson (UK), Danny Clark (Aus), Tony Doyle (UK), and Eddy Merckx (Bel). At the entrance to the Kuipke is a statue of Tom Simpson, one of the first Anglos to settle in the Gent area and immerse himself in the European cycling scene.

The track for the 6-day race in Gent is located at Citadel Park and is known as Het Kuipke. A literal translation of Kuipke is the tub or barrel. When you first see the Kuipke track you are immediately impressed with how they have managed to squeeze this wooden track into this old arena. The track is only 166 meters long with steep 48% banks in the corners. Many of the riders have stated that banks are over 50%. In one way the Kuipke track resembles the slats of a wooden barrel, hence the name. For the 6-day riders this small track means a difficult technical ride, very different from the German and Dutch 6-day tracks that are a long and expansive 250m to 333m in length. For the 6-day racer the Kuipke track means short straight-aways and tight quick corners. The centrifugal force of racing the corners will literally whip the rider through the corner and then catapult him out down the straightaway. This especially occurs if you ride high on the corner and plunges off the bank into the straight.

The majority of the European 6-day races take place in Germany with five 6-day events during the 2004-2005 season (Dortmund, Munich, Bremen, Stuttgart and Berlin). The German races are known for they're off-track spectacles during the 6-day such as restaurants, variety shows, music and dancing. On the other hand the z6s-daagse Vlaanderen-Gent is known for spectators who are knowledgeable of 6-day racing, a rowdy robust crowd that loves Belgian beer, a place where Anglophones from the UK, USA and Canada can feel at home, and 6-day racing that is challenging and demanding for the racers.

The 64th edition of Gent 6-day got underway with a sold-out crowd of over 7000 spectators. The 13 teams were introduced and included the top riders on the circuit.

The 2004 Amsterdam 6-day winners Robert Slippens and Danny Stam were present. Slippens and Stam were in good form having won on the previous weekend the Netherlandse Kampioenschappen 2004 Koppelkoers (Netherlands Madison Championship) at the Amsterdam velodrome. The Swiss duo of Alexander Aeschbach and Franco Marvulli, who were recently victorious in the 2004 Six Jours de Grenoble, were primed to go. The 2004 Dortmund 6-Tage-Rennen winner Scott McGrory from Australia was scheduled to team up with his Australian teammate Luke Roberts. As well, McGrory and his partner Gilmore had recently won at the Munich 6-Tage-Rennen. But McGrory has been ill with a 40-degree fever and unable to ride. Luke Roberts is to team up with the German Lars Teutenberg.

Matthew Gilmore (32), who was born in Australia is now a Belgian citizen is a fan favorite in Gent. Gilmore was originally paired to ride with the popular Belgian 'bad boy' Frank Vandenbroucke but alas marital difficulties, mental health issues and a court case on doping charges have preoccupied Frank as of late. Instead Matthew Gilmore is paired with the Potsdam flyer Robert Bartko (29). Bartko has won three Olympic track medals from the Sydney and Athens games. Also present are "The Alpen Express" Bruno Risi (36) and Kurt Betschart (36). This Swiss duo has the record for most 6-day wins of any active 6-day racers with 35 and 34 wins respectively. Other notables riders were the veterans: Italian Marco Villa (35) with 111 6-day competitions, Gerd Dorich (36)(Ger) with 133 6-day competitions, Andreas Kappes(39) (Ger) with 100 6-day competitions and the Danish rider Jimmi Madsen (35) (DK) with 107 6-day races (see 6-day racer chart).

At the start of each evening of the 6-day race there is a special competition organized by the Union International de Velodromes (UIV) of young up and coming riders of the future. This competition, called the UIV Cup is an opportunity for the young riders to experience 6-day racing. The racing takes place early in the evening and the riders participate in one or two of the 6-day sprint or Madison competitions each night. After the amateur competition the professionals were ready to go.

Opening ceremonies included a four-piece band and the introductions of the 6-day teams. Each of the teams had to sign-in on a large board similar to the for the professional road races. Tonight's dignitaries included a trim looking Eddy Merckx, Patrick Sercu (the event organizer and winner of over 88 6-day races, including 11 wins in Gent), Ms Belgian Beauty 2005 and the Premier of Belgium Verhofstadt.

This was a special evening for Patrick Sercu as he recently turned sixty years old. Tonight there is a launch of a new book detailing his spectacular career as a cyclist both on the track and the road. Portret van een Puzzel (Portrait of a Puzzle) is a beautiful large format book with 184 pages and 175 photos of Sercu. Not to be out done the vendors were also selling a large format calendar celebrating the cycling career of Eddy Merckx. Merckx and Sercu partnered in 28 6-day races winning 15 times.


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Day 1

November 23, 2004

The first night of the 6-day racing is crucial night of racing as the top teams race to position themselves for overall victory. Tonight was no exception as the teams jockeyed for position. Gilmore/Bartko looked good as they won the point's race. Marvulli/Aeschbach won the team elimination with the fastest time 63.447km/hr. Slippens/Stam won the 1st Madison of the evening gaining a lap of their key rivals of Risi/Betschart and Gilmore/Bartko. The first derny race of the evening was won by Gilmore and his seasoned derny driver Joop Zijlaard (the father of Dutch female cycling star Leontien Van Moorsel). The second derny race was won by the Danish veteran Jimmi Madsen. The derny racing is divided into three heats with only six riders and derny bikes on the track at any one time. The derny bike is a pedal bike with a small engine. The derny rider pedals along as well as pushing the gas pedal. The goal is to go as fast as you can with the 6-day rider drafting behind you and crossing the finish line first. The 6-day riders end up pedaling close to speeds of 80km per hour. There is a lot of jockeying for position and saving your sprint for the last few laps.

Slippens/Stam won the fastest lap in 67.643 km/hr. Gilmore/Bartko won the supersprint. In the second Madison of the evening the young Gentenaar Iljo Keisse (21) and his German partner Andreas Beikirch (34) won. This was a hotly contested race as Gilmore/Bartko and the "Alpen express" Risi/Betschart tried to gain a lap. The spectators cheered the young star Iljo Keisse as he demonstrated finesse and daring racing hard and making use of the steep corners, increasing his speed to get around the slower racers. Gilmore (Zijlaard) won the last derny race of the evening but not before young Keisse attempted to sprint away with his Belgian derny driver Luc Uytfange. It was well after one o'clock in the morning but the spectators cheered for both Keisse for his boldness and the panache of Matthew Gilmore and his derny driver Joop Zijlaard as they timed their comeback to nip his young rival, Iljo Keisse at the line.

The results after the first day were:

Top six teams

  1. Marco Villa (Ita) and Franz Stocher (Aut) 30 points.
  2. Franco Marvulli (Swi) and Alexander Aeschbach 73 points, 1 lap
  3. Matthew Gilmore (Bel) and Robert Bartko (Ger) 72 points, 1 lap
  4. Robert Slippens (Hol) and Danny Stam (Hol) 58 points, 1 lap
  5. Iljo Keisse (Bel) and Andreas Beikirch (Ger) 51 points, 1 lap
  6. Bruno Risi (Swi) and Kurt Betschart (Swi) 37 points, 1 lap

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Day 2

November 24, 2004

Mathew Gilmore has been victorious four times at the Gent 6-day event. He considers the Kuipke to be his home track. Gilmore has been preparing for the Gent 6-day by staying at the home of Eddy and Rita Verbust in De Pinte, a village just south of Gent. Gilmore has two young boys Zachery five years old and Liam three years old. The boys are very excited about their dads' racing. Matthew decided that it would be good for his mental preparation and relaxation to stay at the Verbust home. Eddy Verbust is a member of the Friends of Matthew Gilmore, a local cycle touring club and is a 6-day collector of memorabilia. Eddy has a diverse collection of 6-day programmes, posters, trophies, photos, jerseys and newspaper clippings. With all that cycling history we can imagine that Gilmore is inspired by the spirits of the past. A selection of the posters and photos from past Gent 6-days is presently being displayed at the VIP Lounge at the Kuipke.

The first event of the evening was the Puntenkoers or the Points Race. The race started with one rider from each the team on the track. They raced for 30 laps and then were replaced by their teammate. Gilmore looked very tired and only managed one point. Franco Marvulli (26) Swiss rider won garnering 10 points. The Union Internationale des Velodromes (UIV) keeps a ranking of the top track racers in the world. At present Marvulli is number one with 620points 150 points ahead of his nearest rival.

The second event on tonight's programme was the Ploegafvalling or Team Elimination. Both riders are on the track and every five laps one of the teams is eliminated. The young speedster Iljo Keisse, who will be 22 years old in December, sprinted off the corner to edge out Robert Slippens by half a bike length to the thunderous cheers of the crowd.

Next on the programme was the one lap sprint and Danny Stam lead out with Robert Slippens on his wheel. Stam launched Slippens with a well-executed hand-sling winning at 67.720km/hr.

The second night of the z6s-daagse is starting to shape up with Marvulli and Aeschbach in second place with 95 points and only 1 lap behind first day leaders Marco Villa and Franz Stocher, who are in the lead but only have 38 points.

The first Ploegkoers-Madison of the evening is 30 minutes plus 10 laps. Pronk/Van Mechlen and Slippens/Stam launched a sprint to try and gain a lap at six minutes. Three and a half minutes later they had gained a lap. At 11:50 Robert Bartko sprinted off the front with the Danish rider Jimmi Madsen on his wheel. Tight hand-slings going into the corners were the most exciting to watch with major speed generated. Gilmore/Bartko and Madsen/Hayles gained a lap. Midway through the race Teutenberg/Roberts and Risi/Betschart gained a lap. At 25 minutes Gilmore and Bartko sprinted off the front with the German team Dorich/Kappes in tow, both teams gaining a lap. At 28 minutes the Slovenian team of Martin Liska (28) and Jozef Zabka (29) attacked but to no avail as they were swallowed up the fast chasing train of riders. With 10 laps to go Gilmore/Bartko began a fierce sprint. They hammered away beating Risi/Betschart.

Andres Kappes of the German team Dorich/Kappes won first derny rounds of 60 laps.

In the Afvalling-Elimination race Risi won over Villa. In a sign of sportsmanship the rider who is eliminated will hand-sling the last rider into the fray.Iljo Keisse won the second Derny Race with Joop Zijlaard being the derny rider.

In the next event the Tijdrit 500m or 500m Sprint, after 9 teams had gone, Slippens and Stam were off. They looked strong and powerful coming in at 28.89 seconds or 63.305 km/hr. To the sounds of the driving rhythms of the bongos, bugle call and the whirl of the siren the green jersey team of Gilmore/Bartko came in at 62.005km/hr. Finally the Swiss tornados Marvulli/Aeschbach won in 28.40 seconds 4 hundredths of a second faster than Slippens/Stam. The Swiss duo led out their victory lap to the sounds of a clanging Swiss cowbell.

The supersprint was won Dorich/Kappes and then the main event of the evening the 2nd Ploegkoers-Madison. This Madison is for 40 minutes plus 10 laps. An impressive intense ride commenced with constant attacking as the main contenders tried to gain a lap and maintain their position and the rest of the field tried not too lose laps. There was a flurry of attacking with Risi/Betschart and Keisse/Beikirch looking strong and gaining a lap early on. Then Bartko/Gilmore and Slippens/Stam were off and gained a lap. No sooner was the pack back together than Teutenberg/Roberts launched an attack with Madsen/Hayles chasing. Suddenly the field exploded as several teams were off the front attacking. Then, just as dramatically, the racers quieted down saving their strength for the final push. The pack of riders was spinning around the track alternating with their partners using the hand-sling. At 34 minutes the action heated up again with Risi/Betschart and Keisse/Beikirch off gaining a lap. At 36:30 Gilmore was off sprinting. The field stayed with Gilmore/Bartko until Risi/Betschart were off the front. They were caught with ten laps to go and the action intensified with Slippens/Stam leading for a few laps. In the end it was the Belgian track hope Iljo Keisse winning in the final sprint over Betschart at the finish line. The points won for coming in third for Gilmore/Bartko put them over 100 points and they were awarded a bonus lap. With the extra lap they moved into first place in the overall standings.

The 2nd Afvalling/Elimination was won by Teutenberg/Roberts and the final Derny was won by Keisse (Zijlaard)

The results after the second day were:

  1. Gilmore-Bartko 112 points
  2. Keisse-Beikirch 101 points
  3. Risi-Betschart 98 points
  4. Marvulli-Aeschbach 132 points, 1 lap
  5. Slippens-Stam 107 points, 1 lap
  6. Dorich-Kappes 78 points, 2 laps
  7. Villa-Stocher 57 points, 2 laps
  8. Teutenberg-Roberts 62 points, 4 laps
  9. Madsen-Hayles 28 points, 5 laps
  10. Pronk-Van Mechelen 68 points, 6 laps
  11. Liska-Zabka 39 points, 9 laps
  12. Van Zyl-De Neef 56 points, 11 laps
  13. Downing-Downing 4 points, 14 laps



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Day 3

November 25, 2004

The Puntenkoers/Points Race opened up the racing for the professional riders this evening. This event is 60 laps (10km) long with a sprint for points every 10 laps. Marvulli won at 50laps, Bartko at 40 laps and Pronk at 30 laps. The teams switched riders for the last thirty laps. Aeschbach won at 20 laps, Risi at 10 laps and Aeschbach nipped Beikirch at the finish line. Risi/Betschart passed the 100-point mark and gained a lap on the competition.

The next event is the Ploegafvalling /Team Elimination. The team Elimination is always an exciting ride. The final five teams were Gilmore-Bartko, Risi-Betschart, Dorich-Kappes, Marvulli-Aeschbach and Keisse-Beikirch. Dorich-Kappes were the first to go. Then Risi-Betschart and Keisse-Beikirch followed. Now it was the Swiss duo of Marvulli-Aeschbach and Gilmore-Bartko to decide who has a run for the winner's circle. Gilmore sprinted off the front on the last corner edging Marvulli at the line to the cheers of the crowd. On his victory lap Gilmore looked a little peaked and was coughing heavily.

The next event was the Tijdrit 1 Lap/ Fastest Lap. This event starts with the team ranked last starting off first. The team of riders will ride two laps gradually building speed. Just before the start of the final lap your partner will hand-sling you

down the track and the final rider hammers for the finish line. The Dutch duo Slippens and Stam came in first at 66.815 km/hr with Risi-Betschart in second and Liska-Zabka in third. Gilmore-Bartko came in seventh scoring no points for this event.

The next event was the Ploegkoers/Madison 40 minutes plus 10 laps. Two minutes into the race the sixth place team in the overall standings Dorich-Kappes were off the front attacking with Gilmore-Bartko on their wheel. The two teams gained a lap. Before they were back into the pack Slippens-Stam, Liska-Zabka gained a lap. Then the Dutch rider Matthe Pronk (30) and his Belgian teammate Wouter Van Mechelen (23) gained a lap. Pronk recently set a world record for the fastest kilometer. The young Van Mechelen has a unique disability, he is colour blind. He states that he has to make some adjustments to the Kuipke Track but after the first evening he is ok.

At twelve minutes into the Madison the action picks up with the Risi, Marvulli, Liska and Pronk teams off the front in a locomotive express. At the halfway mark the teams of Keisse, Dorich and Marvulli gained a lap. At 26 minutes Slippens-Stam and Dorich-Kappes hammered away. At 28 minutes it was Gilmore-Bartko and Risi-Betschart flying off the front of the pack and gaining a lap. For the next twelve minutes the attacks were fast and furious with no less than eight teams sprinting hard and gaining a lap. In the last ten laps Gilmore and Bartko moved to the front along with the Slippens and Stam. In the last lap Gilmore showed the crowd he could dig deep and came away with the victory.

During the Intermission the cycling icon Roger de Vlaeminck was introduced with five young cyclists from Zimbabwe. De Vlaeminck is the coach of this African team as they prepare for the World Amateur Cyclo-Cross championships that are being held in January.

A spinning demonstration with a driving techno beat was also part of the intermission show. But after the intermission the track circus began again with Matthe Pronk winning the 1st Derny competition with Joop Zijlaard driving.

Van Mechelen won the Afvalling/Elimination, Risi (Vaarten) won the second Derny, the Tijdrit 500m/Fastest 500m was won by Swiss duo Marvulli-Aeschbach and the supersprint was won by Teutenberg-Roberts which led into the second Ploegkoers/Madison of the evening, another 40 minutes plus 10 laps.

The Madison begins with the riders taking a few warm-up laps and the gun signals that the race has begun. The first few minutes were business like with no attacks. Then 2 minutes into the race Gilmore is off with Slippens-Stam chasing and Madsen-Hayles and Villa-Stocker in hot pursuit. Gilmore-Bartko gain a lap. At 30 minutes the attacks begin in earnest with Risi-Betschart hammering off the front and gaining a lap. At 32 minutes Gilmore and Bartko attack again. With ten laps to go Slippens-Stam and Marvulli-Aeschbach are off and running. The action is very fast with speeds approaching 60 kms/hr. The hand-slings are tight and powerful. The temperature in the Kuipke is rising.

Slippens-Stam take the Madison with Marvulli-Aeschbach in second.

Keisse-Beikirch are third with Risi-Betschart fourth and Gilmore-Bartko fifth.

Do the 6-day riders drink during the Madison? The answer is yes! On some laps instead of resting by circling the top of the track the rider will drop down to the wide blue band at the bottom of the track (Cote d' Azur). Here the rider will pick-up a bottle from his attendant, drink quickly and then return to the balustrade awaiting his turn to be hand-slung into the race.

Iljo Keisse and Joop Zijlaard win the third Derny of the evening and Jimmi Madsen the Afvalling/Elimination Race. In the last event of the night/early morning the Fourth Derny was won by Van Mechelen and derny gangmakers (pace-maker) Michael Vaarten (Belgium). As Marvulli-Aeschbach go over 200 points they gain a lap and are in first place with Slippens-Stam 175 points , Gilmore-Bartko 173 points and Risi-Betschart 152 points. All four teams are at the same lap.

Results after the Third Day are:

  1. Marvulli-Aeschbach 201 points
  2. Slippens-Stam 175 points
  3. Gilmore-Bartko 173 points
  4. Risi-Betschart 152 points
  5. Keisse-Beikirch 146 points, 1 lap
  6. Dorich-Kappes 110 points
  7. Villa-Stocher 75 points, 3 laps
  8. Pronk-Van Mechelen 125 points, 7 laps
  9. Teutenberg-Roberts 91 points, 7 laps
  10. Madsen-Hayles 60 points, 11 laps
  11. Liska-Zabka 75 points, 15 laps
  12. Van Zyl-De Neef 81 points, 20 laps
  13. Downing-Downing 9 points, 29 laps.

Dean (29) and Russell (26) Downing from Great Britain are in last place after three nights of tough racing. This is their first professional 6-day race. They have won the UK Madison Championships but this is the first time on the Gent track. They are struggling and stated that they can't believe how fast and hard the racing is. The Kuipke track requires not only incredible speed but also the riders need to have excellent bike handling technique and split second decision-making. "Its pretty crowded out there and some riders are getting cut off". My guess is that the Downings will want a long rest after Sunday.


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Day 4

November 26, 2004

During the Toekomst (amateur) Zesdaagse event, a British rider crashed sliding along the bottom of the track on the first corner. This is where a large door opens up and swings down so vehicles with equipment and supplies can drive into the middenplein. You can hear a little bump as the riders go over the seam. The rider is up and is attended to by his mechanic. In one minute he is back on the track none the worse for wear.

The fourth night program started with Puntenkoers/Points race of 60 laps. After every 10 laps the riders will sprint for the line to win points. Tonight's winners were Matthew Gilmore and the Potsdam flyer Robert Bartko.

The team elimination (ploegafalling) was won by Slippens/Stam as well as the next event the Baanronde (fastest lap) in 68.965 km/hr. The Dutch duo gained a lap as they passed 200 points with the victory and now lead the overall with 213 points with one lap up on the other teams.

The Madison (Ploegkoers) this evening appears to be the critical juncture of this 6-day event. Gilmore/Bartko are at 190 points and are just ten points from 200 and gaining a lap.

The Madison race is an event of beauty, as precision timing is the key to success. The rider circling the top of the track drops down to the sprinters line (red) latching on to his teammates cocked arm and then is launched/flung into the race. When well executed the momentum of the rider being flung into the race will literally shoot the rider down the straightaway. In the first 15 minutes of tonight's Madison Gilmore/Bartko attacked and went up a lap. Risi-Betschart, the "Alpen Express" from Switzerland gained a lap and took the lead. The Slippens-Stam and Dorich-Kappes took off from the pack. Keisse-Beikirch joined in the attack and they all gained a lap. Between the 25-30 minute mark the riders were going tempo and then Gilmore-Bartko launched an attack with Risi-Betschart and Teutenberg-Roberts in the chase. At 35 minutes Slippens-Stam tried a break but were marked by Bartko-Gilmore and the Alpen Express. In the last ten laps the music was pumping out "Put your hands in the Air" and Gilmore-Bartko looked strong with Slippens-Stam and Risi-Betschart charging. The "Alpen Express" won at the wire. Halfway through tonight's racing, the top three teams are Slippens-Stam at 215 points followed by Gilmore-Bartko at 200 points and Risi-Betschart.

The first Derny Round was won by Iljo Keisse and the derny driver Joop Zijlaard from the Netherlands. The individual elimination race came next and the final five riders were: Stam, Gilmore, Teutenberg, Pronk and Deneef. It was a Netherlands-Belgium final as Steven De Neef (Bel) won over Matthe Pronk as the bell chimed.

The second Derny Round had Roberts, Villa, Liska, Van Mechlen, Madsen and Van Zyl riding. The veteran Jimmi Madsen from Denmark won. He was awarded his flowers and greeted by Patrick Lefevere, the Quick-Step Cycling Team, Director Sportif.

The Tijdrit 500m/Fastest 1/2 Kilometer was won by Gilmore-Bartko in 28.53 seconds or 63.091 km/hr. Pronk Van Mechlen won the supersprint.

The final Madison of the evening was won by Keisse-Beikirch. This is their third Madison victory of the Gent 6-day. The crowd was ecstatic as the young Gent rider won easily over his rivals Matthew Gilmore and Robert Slippens.

Gilmore won the third Derny of the evening. Keisse kept on with his winning ways taking the Afvalling/Elimination and the final event of the evening the 4th Derny race was won by Steven De Neef with Vaarten the derny driver.

Results after the Fourth Day are:

  1. Slippens-Stam 242 points
  2. Gilmore-Bartko 240 points
  3. Risi-Betschart 202 points
  4. Keisse-Beikirch 208 points, 1 lap
  5. Dorich-Kappes 139 points, 3 laps
  6. Marvulli-Aeschbach 240 points, 4 laps
  7. Villa-Stocher 102 points, 4 laps
  8. Pronk-Van Mechlen 197 points, 10 laps
  9. Teutenberg-Roberts 128 points, 10 laps
  10. Madsen-Hayles 75 points, 16 laps
  11. Liska-Zabka 80 points, 22 laps
  12. Van Zyl-De Neef 135 points, 28 laps
  13. Downing-Downing 22 points, 46 laps

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Day 5

November 27, 2004

The introductions of the riders tonight included only 12 teams. Robert Hayles, who had to pull out of the racing last night because of severe saddle sores was back. Franco Marvulli was sidelined with food poisoning. Marvullis' partner, Alexander Aeschbach initially paired up with Jimmi Madsen when Hayles was out. The 'Alpen Express' got derailed when Kurt Betschart had to pull out because of an injury. When Hayles started riding again with Madsen, Alexander Aeschbach linked up with fellow Swiss rider Bruno Risi. When a rider's partner is sidelined for illness or injury he becomes neutralized according to UIC rules. In other words he does not win or lose any points or laps. This status can only last for 36 hours.

With the strain of the 6-day racing starting to show on the riders' faces the spectators were loud and noisy during the introductions. During the 20 lap plus warm-up you could feel the tension building. The first event of the evening was the 60 lap Puntenkoers/Points Race with one rider from each team going for 30 laps and their teammate finishing for the last 30 laps. After each 10 laps the riders sprint to get points. Keisse-Beikirch won at 30 laps and the finish and Dorich-Kappes came in second, winning points at 50 and 20 laps. Third was the team of Van Zyl-Kappes.

Event #2 for the evening the Ploegafvalling/Team Elimination was hotly contested. After the first 10 laps one team is eliminated, then every five laps thereafter. The 6 final teams were Slippens-Stam, Teutenberg-Roberts, Gilmore-Bartko, Dorich-Kappes, Villa-Stocher and Keisse-Beikirch. As the speed built up to a feverish pace the first to go were Lars Teutenberg and Luke Roberts. Next to go were the veterans Marco Villa and Franz Stocher, then Keisse-Beikirch. Dorich-Kappes tried hard to make it in the last two but were nipped at the line. While this event is not the most colourful of the 6-day races you could sense that this was pivotal in deciding who would be the overall winner. It was Gilmore-Bartko vs. the Dutch duo of Slippens-Stam. Both teams were neck and neck going into the last lap and the all out sprinting began with Matthew Gilmore head to head with Robert Slippens. Gilmore edged Slippens at the line to a thunderous cheer of the crowd.

The tension amongst the spectators was electric as the Baanronde/Flying Lap commenced. As previously mentioned, the riders at the bottom of the standings start first and the team at the top goes last. Van Zyl/ De Neef set the early mark at 65.934 km/hr. Pronk/Van Mechlen nipped that mark at 66.152 km/hr. They were the leaders until the last two teams were ready to go. Gilmore/Bartko set the new mark at 66.666 km/hr to the roar of the crowd. Next Slippens-Stam began their turn, the spectators were quiet as the Dutch duo started their sprint. The Amsterdam sprinters won with a mark of 67.643 km/hr to a nice round of applause.

The first Ploegkoers/Madison of the night is now under way. The first team to jump off the front was Keisse-Beikirch gaining a lap, but Slippens-Stam, Risi-Aeschbach, Gilmore-Bartko took chase and the Keisse-Beikirch lap was neutralized. The top four teams are marking each other ensuring at this stage that no team gains an advantage. Risi is now teamed with Marvulli as Aeschbach and Hayles are sick or injured. Risi and Marvulli have teamed up before to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games and at World Cup Track events. Laps are traded with the four top teams showing no change. Slippens-Stam attack and hammer away to gain a lap to the cheers of their supporters. After 30 minutes Keisse-Beikirch were in the lead by one lap. But not for long as Risi-Marvulli took-off with Slippens-Stam and Villa-Stocher in tow pushing hard. Gilmore-Bartko, Dorich-Kappes were quick to follow. With 10 laps to go the pack is riding tempo. At five laps to go Risi, Stam, Dorich and Beikirch are jamming. In the end it was the orange jersey team of Slippens-Stam nipping Gilmore-Bartko at the line.

There are a lot of Dutch 6-day fans in the crowd this evening. As this is Saturday night the Kuipke is packed to the rafters with another sell-out crowd. The reverie and singing is keeping the fans keyed-up. The Dutch fans are here in numbers standing up and waving their arms as Slippens and Stam take their victory lap.

The first Derny round was won by Van Mechelen (Vaarten), The Afvalling/Elimination was won by Roberts, the second Derny by Risi (Vaarten) and the supersprint by Pronk-Van Mechelen.

At 11:55pm the 2nd Madison of the evening began with Gilmore-Bartko holding a 3-point lead over Slippens-Stam 297-294. The teams are rested and ready. Forty minutes plus 10 laps. The gun sounds and they are off. Pronk-Van Mechelen are the first to break with Gilmore-Bartko on their tail. The Downing brothers are sitting this one out. There are 54 laps behind and are exhausted. You can sense that the other riders are relieved, as it will give them more room to maneuver. The orange haired British fans dressed in kilts and purple hats are disappointed. At 9 minutes Bartko sprints off the front. Andreas Beikirch and Iljo Keisse are the next to go with Dorich-Kappes marking them closely. Slippens attacks at the front with Marco Villa on his wheel. Lars Teutenberg joins them in the break.

The song "Faded Love" ends and Iljo Keisse takes off. This 21-year-old sprinter is in his first season of professional 6-day racing and is very much a phenomenon. He won a medal at the Athens Olympics in the Madison with Matthew Gilmore. He came in third at Grenoble with Wouter Van Mechelen of Belgium and 2nd at the Fiorenzuola 6-day with Franco Marvulli. Iljo's father Ron Keisse, a former track racer owns De Karper, a café on Ijerlaan at Kortrijkse Poort. Track bikes and cycling jerseys adorn the windows and walls of this unique café a few blocks from the Kuipke. Former racers, local dignitaries, cycling fans and students share the ambiance.

At 26:40 into the Madison, Iljo attacks, and is off again jamming, looking for a top three spot. Iljo and Andreas Beikirch, Slippens-Stam are away with Gord Dorich and Andres Kappes in tow. At 33:45 Gilmore-Bartko are off with Slippens-Stam marking them. At 36:45 we are all even with the top four teams. Keisse-Beikirch are at it again with the thundering applause of the Gentois and 6-day fans. With three laps to go Stam, Gilmore, Roberts and Keisse are sprinting all out. Keisse wins powering past Bartko at the line. Keisse and Beikirch receive a standing ovation of appreciation.

Results after the fifth Day:

  1. Gilmore-Bartko 317 points
  2. Slippens-Stam 303 points
  3. Keisse-Beikirch 270 points, 1 lap
  4. Risi-Betschart 214 points, 1 lap
  5. Dorich-Kappes 188 points, 3 laps
  6. Villa-Stocher 127 points, 6 laps
  7. Pronk-Van Mechelen 272 points, 12 laps
  8. Teutenberg-Roberts 198 points, 12 laps
  9. Madsen-Hayles 91 points, 24 laps
  10. Liska-Zabka 105 points, 29 laps
  11. Van Zyl-De Neef 182 points, 38 laps
  12. Downing-Downing 26 points, 60 laps

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Day 6

November 28, 2004

The final day of the Gent 6-day has arrived. A little over 14 hours ago, day five racing was finishing and people were going home to their beds. Now we are back at Het Kuipke its 3:30 pm and we are getting ready for the final four hours of racing. Gilmore-Bartko look in good shape 14 points ahead of their archrivals, Slippens-Stam from Holland. I had a chance to talk with one of the Derny drivers Michael Vaarten from Belgium. He stated that Gilmore is very strong and well rested. Robert Bartko has helped but he has never raced in Gent before so he is learning the Kuipke track and the Gent crowd. Vaarten mentioned that the Kuipke track is very special with its tight corners and short straight away, very different from the other European tracks of 200 m to 333 m. "There is one other track in Paris that is similar but not as rider-spectator friendly".

During the introductions of the riders the music is intensive and anticipatory. The music is turned down as the announcer introduces each team summarizing their palmares and recent performances. Slippens/Stam were introduced to warm applause. A group of Dutch spectators have the Netherlands flag with the names of Slippens and Stam written in large black letters. The first event of the afternoon is the Puntenkoers/ Points Race, 60 laps. The first twelve riders of each team are on the track. At 50 laps Slippens is the winner, 40 and 30 laps Hayles. The riders switch and their teammates are on for the last 30 laps. Kappes takes it at 20 laps, Madsen at 10 laps and Kappes comes in first at the finish. Dorich/Kappes come in first and get 15 points, Keisse/Beikirch 2nd 9 points and Slippens/Stam 3rd with 7 points.

The second event of the afternoon is the Ploegafvalling/Team Elimination. The winning team of this event gets 15 points, very important! As only 8 points separate Gilmore/Bartko and Slippens/Stam. The Downing brothers are the first to go. Then Madsen/Hayles, Teutenberg/Roberts, De Neef/Van Zyl. There are five team still in the running. Next to be eliminated are Liska/Zabka, Pronk/Van Mechlen and Villa/Stocher. The sellout crowd is hushed as the final three teams zip around the track. Iljo Keisse/Andreas Beikirch are out and the final two teams Slippens/Stam and Gilmore/Bartko square off. The final lap bell sounds and during the race to the finish line, Slippens wins over Bartko and they gain a five-point advantage.

The Kuipke is packed to the rafters, the spectators are singing to the oom pah pah band as Slippens/Stam take their victory lap. The air raid siren signals the next event the Baanronde/ Fastest Lap. Slippens/Stam win in a time of 8.86 seconds or 67.720 km/hr, 2nd Pronk/Van Mechelen 66.592 km/hr, 3rd Teutenberg/Roberts 66.445 km/hr. With the victory Slippens/Stam have a 10-point lead over Gilmore/Bartko in the overall standings.

The twice World Road Race Champion Freddy Maertens shoots the starting gun for the start of the 1st Derny Round. Jimmi Madsen (Walrave) are the winners. Andreas Beikirch wins the Afvalling/Elimination. The action is coming to a final climax as Slippens/Stam have 340 points, Gilmore/Bartko 330 points and Keisse/Beikirch 306 points. Derny Round #2 has Marco Villa (Uytfange),Iljo Keisse (Walrave), Matthew Gilmore (Zijlaard), Bruno Risi (Vaarten) and Andreas Kappes (Durst) riding. With 16 laps to go Risi and Keisse are in front. Matthew Gilmore joins the front leaders and suddenly he drops out. With five laps to go Iljo Keisse (Walrave) is driving at the front and wins over Risi (Vaarten). But the big story is where is Matthew Gilmore? Gilmore appears to be hurt as Patrick Sercu signals for the medics to go to Gilmore's cabaña. A Belgian sports journalist states that the curtains are pulled in the cabana and Gilmore's soignieur/mechanic said that there was a problem with a tire tube. Minutes are ticking away and still no Gilmore. Bartko had been riding around the track but now he to is not on the track. What is happening?

The Tijdrit 500m/Fastest 500m is the next event. Riders are warming-up riding by and looking down at Gilmore's cabaña. The drama continues as Gilmore/Bartko turn is coming up. It looks like Alexander Aeschbach will ride with Bartko. Teutenberg/Roberts steal the show and the points covering the 500 m in 28.79 with a speed of 62.522 km/hr.

The Scratch event is won by the South African Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, second Robert Bartko and third Robert Slippens. Gilmore/Bartko have clawed back two points and now Slippens/Stam lead by only 8 points.

The whole Gent 6-day victory is coming down to the last event, Ploegkoers/Madison. The added drama is will Gilmore ride or not? This Madison is a little different than the other in the sense that the last 50 laps will have the bonus of additional points every ten laps. 1st will get 10 points, 2nd 6 points, 3rd 4 points and 4th 2 points. Looks like we will need a calculator to keep track of the points.

Gilmore is up and warming-up, the Kuipke fans cheer his return. Five minutes to the big showdown.

The gun starts the final event. After about sixteen minutes into the ride Gilmore has retired again. Three minutes later he is back on the track and did not lose any laps. Gilmore looks tired and hot. The zipper of his jersey is open trying to cool himself off. After one hang sling of Bartko into the fray Gilmore is riding at the balustrade huffing and puffing. Thirty minutes into the race it appears that Slippens/Stam have their chance at victory. Gilmore has dropped out again. His face was ashen as he rode by the Press Box. Now it is up to Iljo Keisse the young Belgian racer from Gent and his German partner Andreas Beikirch to try and pull out victory.

At 33 minutes Keisse attacks off the front with Kurt Betschart. At the same time Keisse/Beikirch latch on to the pack, Slippens/Stam are off on the front of the train with Villa/Stocher and Dorich/Kappes in tow. At 40 minutes Slippens/Stam are 2 laps up on Keisse/Beikirch. Iljo and Andreas are still in this Madison competition with 20 minutes to go. Slippens/Stam win the first 10 bonus points with 50 laps to go. Slippens/Stam are attacking every chance they can. It appears that Keisse and Beikirch are going to lose. Sprint #4 is won by Slippens/Stam and they get another 10 points and have two laps on Keisse/Beikirch. The Kuipke crowd appears to be accepting the result and gave a loud ovation to the Dutch duo Robert Slippens and Danny Stam as they cross the line winning the 64th z6s-daagse Vlaanderen Gent.

Final Results z6s-daagse Vlaanderen Gent

  1. Slippens-Stam 396 points
  2. Keisse-Beikirch 335 points, 2 laps
  3. Dorich-Kappes 240 points, 4 laps
  4. Risi-Aeschbach 226 points, 4 laps
  5. Villa-Stocher 143 points, 10 laps
  6. Teutenberg-Roberts 241 points, 14 laps
  7. Pronk-Van Mechelen 324 points, 15 laps
  8. Madsen-Hayles 109 points, 30 laps
  9. Liska-Zabka 110 points, 37 laps
  10. Van Zyl-Deneef 216 points, 46 laps
  11. Downing-Downing 30 points, 73 laps

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