An Introduction to the 67th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Gent

by Steve Penny
Watford, UK
15th November 2007

The 67th Zes-daages Van Vlaanderen, Gent (Six days of Flanders, Gent) begins in the Het Kuipke velodrome on Tuesday 20th November.

The second oldest existing Six Day race was marred by tragedy last year with the death of World Madison Champion, Isaac Galvez following a late Saturday night Madison crash. The tragedy could have brought an end to Six Day racing in Gent but the organization decided that the event should continue. So in honour of Isaac Galvez before the start of the 2007 race the organization will unveil a memorial stone in the velodrome. The cyclists will ride a commemorative lap as their way of honouring him before the actual start of the racing. Juan Llaneras, who was twice World Champion with Galvez and his partner at the time of the accident, has since returned to Six Day racing but will not race in Gent.

For this years race the Het Kuipke venue has made several improvements with safety in mind, these include a new operating theatre installed in the cellar, protective padding on the rails at the top of the track as well as increasing security measures to protect riders and fans alike.

The Favourites

The 2007 Gent Six appears on paper at least to be a straight fight between three or possibly four teams.

Gents own local hero, and expert on the tight 166 metre track, Iljo Keisse will once again be paired with German individual pursuit strongman Robert Bartko. The pair started the season well winning the Amsterdam Six last month. In 2005 Keisse had started to build a strong 'Belgian' partnership with Matthew Gilmore, winning his first Gent Six. But due to injuries sustained in a road race crash before the 2006/2007 Six Day season Gilmore has sadly been forced to retire from the sport. Since then Keisse and Bartko seem to have become decent partners and although Bartko is stronger on the longer tracks with Keisse's extra home town motivation they start as favourites for victory.

Second on the favourites list are the Swiss World Madison Champions Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. Since Risi's long time partner Kurt Betschart retired last year he has been on an incredible run winning eleven Six day races (ten indoor and one outdoor in Italy) as well as the 2006 European and 2007 World Madison titles. The latest win, with Marvulli, in Munich this week was the 49th of his career. Marvulli has always been a good track rider with a strong sprint but now at 29 and riding regularly with Risi he has really come into his own. They are currently far and away the hottest pairing in Six day racing and even at 39 Risi is still the Six Day boss. An interesting thing to look out for is whether or not Bruno really suits, or likes, the Gent track? In about 16 starts at Gent Risi 'only' has three wins compared with numerous victories in Germany and Zurich. But, paired for the first time at Gent with Marvulli, who should be able to pick up plenty of points in the race heavy Gent programme, the hunger for that 50th win will be there and they should give Keisse and Bartko a real run for their money.

Next on the list must be the Dutch duo Robert Slippens and Danny Stam. During the second part of the 2005/2006 winter season they won four of five Six Day races and seemed to becoming the top pair of the winter boards. However Slippens suffered serious injuries in the summer of 2006 and only rode one Six last season. The road back to form will have been long and hard for Slippens but a second and two third places so far this season suggest he is coming back strongly. The Dutchmen have always gone well on the short tracks having won twice in Bremen and once in Gent and this may be the race that completes Slippens' recovery with a return to the top step of the podium. Only time will tell us the answer though.

Brits are back

The only other team that could be considered amongst the real favourites are the British pairing of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. Wiggins has plenty of Six Day pedigree his father, the Australian Garry Wiggins, is a former Six Day rider and it was while his father was racing that Bradley was born in Gent. Bradley has a great record on the track winning numerous World and Olympic medals in the Team pursuit and Madison. He is currently the reigning Olympic and World Individual Pursuit champion. Over the last few years he has also developed into a strong road rider winning short and medium length time trials at some big events. So with his concentration being on the pursuit and road racing we have not seen him in a Six Day race since he won here with Matthew Gilmore in November 2003.

Mark Cavendish has just completed his first full year of road racing with the T-Mobile team. He is developing into one of the fastest road sprinters around and had eleven wins this year including a handful in Pro Tour events. He first came into the limelight winning the 2005 World Madison Championship as a teenager with Rob Hayles, in LA. During that winter he had a baptism of fire riding three Six Day races as World Champion with Rob Hayles. He crashed out in Dortmund then still recovering came last in Munich and Gent at a massive 43 and 34 laps behind the winners. With his road career taking off in such a big way since Cavendish has come a long way in a short space of time though, and his newly acquired road pedigree means he will be expected to ride well on his return to the winter boards. So on their return to Gent and Six Day racing expectation will be high among the many British fans that annually make the journey across the channel, but can they make the transition? This will be the first time the pair has ridden together and the idea is to get some preparation in with the 2008 Olympic Madison in mind. Wiggins recently told a UK website:

"I'll be riding Ghent with Mark (Cavendish). I've never ridden with Mark before so it will provide some important technical experience. The plan will be to stay out of trouble and get some good racing experience together"

This statement doesn't sound as if they are thinking of the win but perhaps he is playing things down a little. My thoughts are that Wiggins and Cavendish - who are a classic Six Day pursuiter / sprinter combination - are very competitive guys who will not want to just make up the numbers. Wiggins especially is very well suited to any track and will be much stronger all round than he was in 2003. If they find their track legs quickly, stay healthy and out of any possible crashes they could well challenge for the podium.

Absentees

There are a couple of notable high profile absentees that has cut the list of favourites from five to four. German Leif Lampater and Dutchman Peter Schep both won Sixes last season but neither is on the Gent start list.

Peter Schep partnered Erik Zabel to third place at Amsterdam in October after standing in well for Robert Slippens as Danny Stam's regular partner last season. They won the 2006 Amsterdam Six and had a number of other podium places. At Berlin we had suggested Schep was going to become one of the regular riders and a force in Six Day racing and he will be missed. However just today Peter informed us that the reason he is missing is because he is going to the up and coming track World Cups in Sydney and Beijing as part of his Olympic preparation. He said that he will ride at the Maastricht Six, in December, and the Rotterdam Six in early January. He also noted his participation in other Sixes this winter depend on the success of his World Cup results which go toward Olympic qualification.

At the time of writing we have no information as to why Leif Lampater will not ride but one must assume it is for the same reason as Schep. Lampater is the biggest talent on the Six day circuit and won Januarys Berlin Six, with Guido Fulst. How highly he is thought of was proved when he was given the prestigious job of partnering Erik Zabel at the recent Dortmund and Munich Sixes, finishing second on both occasions. Hopefully he will be back at the German Sixes in January and we'll be able to report on his progress in Berlin.

A Chance to Shine

The rest of the field looks interesting but no one else appears to be ready to fight for podium places however a number of teams will look to get in the top half and remain a respectable number of laps down come Sundays finish.

One such team is that of Gent born and raised Dimitri De Fauw and the Swiss Alexander Aeschbach. Last November Dimitri De Fauw was in the form of his life winning all the Time Trials (TT) and attacking the track records. He actually told us in an interview on the Saturday that he was feeling great and could in fact go well in the Madisons but his remit was to give everything for the TT and entertain the crowd. Later on Saturday night De Fauw was involved in the fatal collision with Isaac Galvez and everything else was of course forgotten. For obvious reasons the interview was never put on our website and it will be interesting to see how Dimitri comes back this year. He had a reputation in Belgium for being a bit fragile mentally and psychologically it must have been very tough for him. But with the underrated Aeschbach he recently had his best ever Six Day finish, second in Grenoble. Although Grenoble didn't have a strong field they will be familiar and confident so could be a good bet to break into the top six. There final placing though could depend on whether the organisers want De Fauw to go for the TT records or race hard in the Madisons.

Best of the Rest

Before last years ill fated race Gent Six organiser Patrick Sercu recognised the need for young riders to come through when he said:

"When composing my field for Gent I have really tried to promote young talents. The time is right for it, we need new top-names in the 6-Days and the talent is there. The only way you can develop the talent is by giving them the chance and the challenge - and by showing them, that you have confidence in them." Continuing to practice what he preaches by omitting the likes of, soon to be retired, Gerd Dorich and Andreas Kappes, Sercu has included a number of young riders in the field including more young Belgians.

First among the promising young Belgians is Kenny De Ketele back here for a third start. He gained good experience riding a few other Sixes last season and is partnered with veteran Italian Marco Villa. Villa was absent from the Munich Six line up but was still riding the track, with Paolo Bettini no less, at a four day series during the Milan Cycle Show. This youngster / veteran partnership could go well and push to be in the top six overall.

The speedy Steve Schets also gets his third Gent start with Ingmar De Poortere who rode the pro event last year though he has only ridden the Under 25 competitions at other Sixes. Gent debutants this year are Nicky Cocquyt who is riding with veteran Steve De Neef and Tim Mertens, with German Andreas Muller. One would expect the main objective of the young Belgians will be to gain experience of Six Day racing with an eye on the future of the Belgium track squad.

The Berliner Andreas Muller returns to Gent for the second time. He appears to be established now among the regular Six Day 'train' and is given the role of experienced head to guide Tim Mertens around. Muller is a friend of our website who has an interest in travelling to Canada so we will aim to get some quotes from him during the week.

The German presence is completed by another veteran / youngster pairing of Andreas (Andi) Beikirch and winner of the Under 25 race here last year Erik Mohs. If there is to be a surprise this team may well provide it after finishing fifth in Munich just two laps down on the winners Risi & Marvulli. Top five may be a real possibility in Gent too.

Australians have always provided a presence at European Six Day races and this year former team pursuiter and CSC rider Luke Roberts lines up for a rare appearance having previously ridden at Het Kuipke in 2004. Roberts took fifth albeit eight laps down in Dortmund earlier this month but didn't get a start in Munich. He is with young Danish hope Marc Hester who after being guided around a few Sixes by, then retiring, Jimmi Madsen in 2005/2006. He rode regularly last season but does not yet seem to have stepped up a level from promising newcomer.

The Start List:

Iljo Keisse (Bel) Robert Bartko (Ger)
Bruno Risi (Swi) Franco Marvulli (Swi)
Robert Slippens (Ned) Danny Stam (Ned)
Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Mark Cavendish (GBr)
Andreas Beikirch (Ger) Erik Mohs (Ger)
Dimitri De Fauw (Bel) Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)
Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Marco Villa (Ita)
Luke Roberts (Aus) Marc Hester (Den)
Wim Stroetinga (Ned) Matthe Pronk (Ned)
Steve Schets (Bel) Ingmar De Poortere (Bel)
Nicky Cocquyt (Bel) Steven De Neef (Bel)
Tim Mertens (Bel) Andreas Muller (Ger)
Petr Lazar (Cze) Alois Kankovsky (Cze)

The 2007/2008 Six Day Season (so far):

22/10 - 27/10 Amsterdam - Keisse / Bartko
25/10 - 30/10 Grenoble - Rasmussen / Morkov (Den)
01/11 - 06/11 Dortmund - Risi / Marvulli
08/11 - 13/11 Munich - Risi / Marvulli


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The Six-Day Circus Begins - Opening Night

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
21st November 2007

Bruno Risi unveils the Isaac Galvez Memorial Plaque

Under a warm (12C) rainy evening in Gent, the 67th edition of the z6sdaagse Vlaanderen Gent cycling classic commenced. The evening began with an unveiling of a plaque in the t' Kuipke foyer, in memory of Isaac Galvez a Madison World Champion from Spain, who died one year ago in a tragic bicycle crash at the Gent 6-day. Officials and riders were present and the 'patron' of the six-day riders, 39 year old Bruno Risi from Switzerland unveiled the memorial plaque. The plaque is in the same location of a bust of Tommy Simpson, a former resident of Gent, who also died tragically on Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour de France. (The bust was removed several years ago).

One rider, Dimitri De Fauw from Belgium was especially touched by the death as Galvez crashed into him and then into the metal balustrade at the top rim of the track. The balustrade has since been padded with high impact foam, as have several metal posts near the track. De Fauw has been an up and coming rider with fantastic speed, agility and enthusiasm. After the accident he became severely depressed and strongly considering quitting professional cycling. Time and therapy heals and De Fauw is back, recently coming in second place at the Six jours de Grenoble with his Swiss partner Alexander Aeschbach.

Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli

Traditionally the z6sdaagse Vlaanderen Gent starts with the introduction of each of the 13 team's and the official signing in on a large start list. The team of Bruno Risi/Franco Marvulli are wearing their World Madison Championships rainbow jerseys. The t' Kuipke is filling up to a near capacity. The Middenplein is packed and the crowd is anticipating plenty of action. The first race on the evening card is the 60 lap Points Race. This is a warm-up where the riders test their legs and their lungs. A rider form each of the thirteen teams starts and then his teammate changes after 30 laps. Keisse and Bartko win the Points Race and make it known that they are the favourites and the team to beat. The next race on the evening's line-up is the Team Elimination. The last three teams are Keisse/Bartko, Slippens/Stam and Risi/ Marvulli. Keisse and Bartko are eliminated and then it is showdown for the last two teams. In the end Risi/Marvulli win over Slippens/Stam.

The Chase: The first Madison of the night is a 40 minute plus 10 lap affair. The first teams to attack were Keisse/Bartko and Risi/Marvulli. They gained a lap in the first ten minutes. Then it was Slippens/Stam, Beikirch/Mohs chasing to gain a lap. Mertens/Muller were next and we now had five teams tied at the front. Wiggins/Cavendish are definitely flat and quickly they are four laps down. Could be a long six-day race for the British boys. The yellow and black teams of Luke Roberts and Marc Hester attack and gain a lap and now are only one lap down. Then Risi/Marvulli, Slippens/Stam, DeKetele/Villa are off the front. DeKetele/Villa join the top six at zero laps. Five minutes later Slippens/Stam get it going with Beikirch/Mohs in the chase and gain a lap. That gets Keisse/Bartko, Risi/Marvulli off the front and they quickly get the lap back. Not to be left behind Mertens/Muller try and gain a lap unsuccessfully. At 39:40 Keisse is off on a tear and with six laps to go they have 25 meters on the charging peloton. Three laps to go and Keisse/Bartko are caught by Risi/Marvulli Slippens/ Stam. The Dutch duo win at the line with Risi/Marvulli second and Keisse/ Bartko third.

Iljo Keisee and Robert Bartko

With the first Madison completed the standings are telling. To be expected the World Madison Champions and Six-Day winners in Dortmund and Munich, Risi/Marvulli are in the lead with 48 points. Keisse/Bartko are nine points behind in second and the flatlanders from the Nederland, Slippens/Stam are in third, 13 points in arrears. The German team of Beikirch/Mohs round out the top four teams.

The Pack:

DeKetele/Villa and Mertens/Muller are one lap down. Roberts/Hester at 2 laps down. The Belgian/Swiss team De Fauw/Aeschbach and the Czechs Lazar/Kankovsky are at three laps down. At the intermission the teams struggling to stay in the race include: Schets/De Poortere at nine laps, Wiggins/Cavendish at 7 laps (Wiggins is a former 6-day winner here in Gent with Matthew Gilmore in 2003) and Cocquyt/De Neef and the Dutch Team Stroetinga/Pronk at four laps.

Dernies (courtesy of official Gent website)

After the first Intermission the 1st 60 lap Derny race begins: Kenny DeKetele and derny rider Michael Vaarten take the lead. A derny is a motorized pedal bike with the gas tank in front of the handlebars. The Derny rider has to pedal at all times, but at a much slower rate. At 25 laps to go Marvulli-Dieter Durst are in the lead with Stam-Bruno Walgrave close behind. With 18 laps to go De Neef -Luc Van Uytfange try the front. Stam quickly rises to the front of the pack as the driving sound of the music gets the crowd cheering. All of a sudden with 7 laps to go Wiggins-Joop Zijlaard charges to the front and hammer. With three laps to go it is Bradley Wiggins and Danny Stam neck and neck. Kenny DeKetele and the experienced Michael Vaarten derny driver drive to the front with 1/2 lap to go and win by several bike lengths.

The single elimination starts and the first rider to be eliminated is Kankovsky, followed by Risi, Villa, Slippens, Hester, Cocquyt, Schets, and Cavendish. The final three Pronk, Aeschbach and Mohs. Pronk goes and Erik Mohs beats Aeschbach at the line.

The action continues as the Derny 2 of the evening begin with another 60 lap edition. The lead changes several times until 13 laps to go when Bartko--Vaarten challenge Beikirch--Durst and De Fauw--Zijlaard. Andreas Beikirch and his derny driver Durst Dieter sprint to the front. Robert Bartko-Michael Vaarten chase and Dimitri De Fauw-Joop Zijlaard follow in third. Bartko-Vaarten come over the top in the final corner to win at the line by a 1/2 bike length.

The Flying 166m lap:

This is a test of strength and speed and the racers go off in pairs warming and winding up for 1 1/2 laps, then usually in the final corner, the front rider hand slings his partner down the track. The rider races at a breakneck speed on the black line for the final 166 meters throwing his bike at the line. Like a time trial, the team in last place starts first and the race leaders go last. The team of Keisse/Bartko are in the lead with only Risi/Marvulli to ride. Keisse/Bartko win by fractions of a second 64.164 kph to Risi/Marvulli's 64.134 kph.

The Derny final race of the evening is in full swing with 7 laps to go Bartko-Zijlaard take off. In the final 1 1/2 laps Beikirch-Durst and win over De Ketele-Vaarten and Bartko-Zijlaard.

The Scratch race for those riders not in the Derny Final is off and running with 19 laps of action. Twenty riders in one long line ride the black line. With three laps to go Keisse charges to the front as the speeds approach 60 kph. In the final straightaway Risi comes over the top to win by 1/2 a bike length.

The final race of the evening is on the docket, the 30 minute Madison plus 10 laps. DeKetele/Villa are ahead after 7 minutes of action. Roberts/Hester join the front runners gaining a lap, then Mertens/Muller and Risi/Marvulli gain a lap. Now there are four teams at the front of the pack at zero laps. The action is non-stop as the riders gain and lose laps. Like the first Madison of the evening the Belgian pair of Schets/De Poortere and the Great Britain Team Bradley Wiggins/ Marc Cavendish are struggling to stay in the race. Risi/Marvulli are the victors with Keisse/Bartko second and the surprising German pair Beikirch/Mohs in third.

Standings after day 1:

1. Risi/Marvulli 87 points
2. Keisse/Bartko 81 points
3. Slippens/Stam 50 points
4. Beikirch/Mohs 45 points
5. De Ketele/Villa 40 points
at 1 lap
6. Roberts/Hester 20 points
7. Mertens/Muller 20 points
at 4 laps
8. De Fauw/Aeschbach 51 points
9. Lazar/Kankovsky 18 points
at 5 laps
10. Cocquyt/Deneef 7 points
at 6 laps
11. Stroetinga/Pronk 8 points
at 10 laps
12. Wiggins/Cavendish 22 points
at 12 laps 13. Schets/Depoortere 16 points


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Men of the Night - Day 2

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
21st November 2007

There is something weird and wonderful about a bike race that starts at 8:00pm and finishes at 2:00am and perhaps even more disturbing is that the racers do this for six-days in a row, at speeds over 60kph. Day 2 of this six-day extravaganza began under clear skies as today's temperatures reached fourteen degrees. Not bad as I heard the Quebec and Ontario got hit with the first snowstorm of the season.

I had a chance to speak with British Cycling Olympic Academy Manager Rod Ellingworth about the status of Wiggins/Cavendish and the harsh reality that they are in 12th place and 10 laps behind. Ellingworth noted that Wiggins is going ok but Cavendish is slowly getting back into form after a hard road season that saw him win 11 major races. 'Cav' took 2 weeks off, winding down at the end of the season and then 2 weeks off the bike all together travelling to Thailand with his girlfriend. Since the end of the professional road race season Cavendish has gained 14 pounds. Bradley Wiggens (GBR) The last two weeks he has been on the track in Manchester getting ready for the indoor track season. The present goal for him is to get his track legs by racing the Revolution 18 in Manchester, the Gent 6-day then off to Sydney for the first Track World Cup of the season, where he hopes to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. We can expect to see the team of Wiggins/Cavendish get stronger as the six-day goes along. Cavendish's goal is not a podium placing but to lay down a good base for next season. He got sick in the middle of the road season and he does not want that to occur again. Speaking to reporters today Cavendish said that he was "sorry for the poor start last night".

Austin Carroll dislocates his shoulder
Ellingworth noted that he has a batch of new riders in the under 23 academy and his teams goals for this season include the UCI Track World Cup events, the Track World Championships and the Beijing Olympics. In the UIV Talents Cup Competition (Toekomstzesdaagse), here in Gent, Ellingworth has two riders: Peter Kenaugh and Adam Blythe presently in second place. Last night they won the chase and were wearing the yellow race leader's jersey. There are also two teams from the USA: Guy East/Austin Carroll and David Wiswell/David Simes. Both teams have been running well with East/Carroll in 6th place after last evening and Wiswell/Simes in 9th. Tonight there are two UIV Toekomstzesdaagse events, the first a flying lap and the second a 200 lap Madison. East/Carroll were doing well in 7th place overall when on the back straight Carroll crashed while on the black line. It appeared that someone had jostled him and he went down hard separating his shoulder, ending his racing here in Gent. This situation may be a chance for Brian Crosby who is in the audience with a group from Minnesota. Crosby finished in second place with Garnet Abby at the London Six-Day Bicycle race in late October. Crosby raced at the Dortmund Sechstagerennen and the Trois Jour de Geneve.

The announcer introduced the "Men of the Night" as the riders tour the track. The crowd is filling the seats as the riders warm up for the first event for the evening a 60 lap Points Race. Wiggins made it known that the Brits are not going to just go through the paces as he takes second in the first sprint for points. With four laps to go in the second group Cavendish moves into second place. At the bell lap he comes in fifth behind Steve Schets, Bartko, Marvulli and Kankovsky.

The Team Elimination is always interesting as there are opportunities to win points, but there is also a chance to take a breather and fight in another race. Each team has a strategy of where they have the best chance of winning points and it is always exciting to watch the drama being played out. The final three riders are Villa, Slippens and Mohs. Villa is the next to go and Slippens battles the young Eric Mohs and wins the sprint to the line.

The Flying Lap was exciting as the slower teams go first circling the track for two laps and then the lead rider slings his partner to the black line. Legs pumping the rider sprints to the line lunging his bike towards that imaginary tape. Some fast riders are here as seven teams break 67 kph, but it is Risi/Marvulli winning in 67.950 kph over De Fauw/ Aeschbach at 67.873kph and Lazar/Kankovsky in third at 67.796 kph.

The Chase 1:


Tim Mertens (Bel)
40minutes plus 10 laps. De Ketele/Villa are the first to gain a lap. Next Roberts/Hester, Slippens/Stam and Bartko/Keisse gain a lap. This all takes place in the first six minutes. Risi/Marvulli attack with Beikirch/Mohs on their tail and gain a lap. At 9 minutes 30 seconds the attacks are hot and heavy as Keisse/Bartko, Slippens/Stam and Roberts/Hester gain back a lap. That sends De Ketele/Villa and Beikirch/Mohs on the chase. The pack is back together but not for long as Mertens/Muller are off and running with Lazar/Kankovsky behind, but then pass them. Before the two teams join the pack Keisse/Bartko and Risi/Marvulli are in the chase. At 17 minutes the action is crazy as teams are attacking and counter attacking. This must be a judge's nightmare. At 35 minutes Keisse/Bartko take a lap to the roar of the crowd.

Risi/Marvulli and Slippens/Stam join the leaders. Then Beikirch/Mohs are off in the chase and gain a lap. At 40 minutes DeKetele/Villa join the front four. Now the count down of 10 laps... all the riders are in a line saving their breath and their lungs for the final push. Bartko attacks and throws Keisse into a final dash to the line. Slippens and Marvulli are in the chase and Marvulli comes over the top to nip Keisse at the line.

The 500 Time Trial is a brutal 1+ lap warm-up and three laps at breakneck speed racing on the black line. Tonight's action did not disappoint. De Fauw/Aeschbach set the early mark at 62.981km/hr. Roberts/Hester came close at 62.696km/hr. The showdown came when the last two teams were left to ride. First Risi/Marvulli attacked the black line taking the lead at 63.313km/hr. Marvulli's head bounces like a bobble head as he races around the track but it does not appear to slow him down. Then the last riders Keisse/Bartko have been struggling to win the key races of the six-day so far. Last night they won the opening points race, and the 2nd Derny. Always in the running they ended the night 6 points behind Risi-Marvulli 87 to 81 points. Tonight they again won the second Derny Race, Keisse this time and then the 500m Time Trial.

The Derny Final was thrilling as the lead changed several during this 60 lap event. The speeds gradually increased from 50 to 65-70kph. During the last seven laps Keisse-Michel Vaarten went to the front but was passed by Risi-Dieter Durst. Marco Villa-Bruno Walrave were in the mix as was the winner of the first Derny Race Matthe Pronk-Luc Van Uytfange. The last lap Keisse again tried for the lead and going at speeds close to 80 kph they crossed the line victorious with the partisan Gent fans on their feet screaming.

Robert Slippens, who looks stronger and stronger as the six-day racing season goes on, won the Scratch Race. My guess is that he will be ready for the first Zesdaagse Zuidlaren that will be staged in the Friesland part of northern Netherlands. Steve Schets was second and Andreas Beikirch was third.

The Chase 2:

The final event of the evening is the 30 minute plus 10 laps Madison. At present Risi/Marvulli are at 139 with Keisse/Bartko in second with 135 points. Slippens/Stam have broken the 100 point mark with Slippens Scratch Race win. The Dutch duo are at 108 points and zero laps. De Ketele/Villa and Beikirch/Mohs are tied at 1 lap with 75 points. The chase is a bit different as the riders appear, understandably tired. There is a lot of marking being done by Risi/Marvulli as they keep a close eye on Bartko and Keisse. The lead changes many times. Keisse/Bartko gain a lap as does Risi/Marvulli at the end of 30 minutes and now we are in the countdown. Bartko/Keisse weave their way through the pack to be close to the front with Risi/Marvulli in tow. With three laps to go Bartko attacks and with 1 1/2 laps left he hands slings Keisse down the track. Marvulli is on Keisse's wheel and passes him but Keisse turns on the after burners and takes the race.

Standings after day 2:

1. Keisse-Bartko 150 points
2. Risi-Marvulli 149
3. Slippens-Stam 116
4. Beikirch-Mohs 2 laps 79
5. De Ketele-Villa 2 75
6. Mertens-Muller 3 59
7. Roberts-Hester 5 41
8. De Fauw-Aeschbach 8 97
9. Lazar-Kankovsky 9 40
10. Cocquyt-De Neef 14 22
11. Stroetinga-Pronk 15 23
12. Wiggins-Cavendish 19 32
13. Schets- De Poortere 30 47


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The Worlds Greatest Cycling Spectacle - Day 3

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
22nd November 2007

The Opening Act:

The Toekomstzesdaagse has begun as the cycling fans start to fill the t' Kuipke. The first event of the evening for the UIV Talents Cup is the Flying 200m. The riders in the Toekomstzesdaagse are under 25 years old and the Union International Velodrome (UIV) sponsors the race as an opportunity to develop the six-day talent. There is quite the competition to get into this event as this is where the race organizers see your abilities and mettle. If you are a strong fast rider you may have the chance to get a "contract". The competition tonight started out with a flying lap that was won by Mertens/De Winter from Belgium. The next event was a gruelling 200 lap Madison event with three intermediate sprints. The current race leaders Davy Tuytens/ Tosh Van Der Sande, a Belgian team are in the lead. In second place are the young riders from Great Britain Peter Kenaugh/Adam Blyth.

The Big Show: The professional six-day racers are introduced. The crowd roars for Iljo Keisse (Bel) and his partner Robert Bartko (Ger) and polite acknowledgement of the World Madison Champions Bruno Risi (Sui) and Franco Marvulli (Sui). The first race of the evening is the Points Race. Cavendish from Great Britain wins the first sprint and then the second before Robert Slippens (Ned). Luke Roberts (Aus) and Marc Hester win the final.

The number six team in the overall standings, Tim Mertens (Bel) and Andreas Muller (Ger) win the Team Elimination. The speedster Franco Marvulli besting the time of Iljo Keisse and Dimitri De Fauw again won the 166m Flying Lap. Risi Marvulli are now in first place with 170 points, Keisse/Bartko are in second 160 points and Slippens/Stam in third. The first three teams are at zero laps.

This being the 'student's night' at the zesdaagse the t' Kuipke is filled with young people and the clapping, singing and driving beat of the music has everyone on their feet and moving. The racers seem to be infected by the energy of the crowd as the racing has been non stop. Dimitri De Fauw and Derny driver Michael Vaarten won the first Derny Heat. Mark Cavendish won an event at this six-day for the first time, the Individual Elimination. The second Derny Heat was won by Bruno Risi-Joop Zijlaard executing a well timed come-from-behind to nip Keisse-Vaarten at the finish line. Keisse/Bartko bounced back, winning the 500m Time Trial in a time of 64.470 over Risi/Marvulli in 64.355.

Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggens (GBR)
Its 12:45am and the 40 minutes plus 10 laps Madison has concluded. Keisse/Bartko won in dramatic fashion. They now have gained 200 points and are awarded a lap that puts them in first place. Risi/Marvulli are at 1 lap, 197 points and Slippens/Stam at 1 lap 161 points. It was very nice to see Mark Cavendish, with Wiggins, back in the action gaining a lap on the crowd and picking up eight points by coming in third in the Madison. They jumped from 12th place in the standings to 10th place. The next event after a short intermission at 12:45am is a Supersprint, then a seven team Elimination and a final 10 Lap Sprint. Not sure if they've have had this event before but the action and effort is good. Risi/ Marvulli, plus Keisse/Bartko and Slippens/Stam are eliminated. The best of the rest are riding tempo at 55kms/hr. Wiggins/Cavendish and Beikirch/Mohs are out. In the end De Fauw/Aeschbach win with Roberts/Hester in second and Lazar/Kankovsky in third.

The Middenplein Crowd
At 1:15am and the Middenplein is wall to wall people. They have added two Keirin Heats, Beikirch takes the first heat and Dimitri De Fauw wins the second. Now we have two more 60 lap Derny Heats. The action begins slowly in the third Derny Heat, DeKetele-Vaarten are running well with Mohs-Huybrechts taking the lead with 18 laps left. The driving base of the sound system ignites the arena. Robert Bartko-Joop Zijlaard are neck and neck with Slippens-Walrave with 4 laps to go. DeKetele-Vaarten come from behind to win.

At 1:35am we have an Individual Elimination with a representative from each of the teams. Keisse is the first to go. Then De Fauw, Wiggins, Stam, Risi, Muller, Villa, Lazar. There are now five teams left and the pace is quickened. Cocquyt is eliminated and the Beikirch. The final three riders Luke Roberts, Ingmar De Poortere and Wim Stroetinga battle it out. De Poortere is out and the last laps are hammered by Roberts and Stroetinga, who wins at the line.

The fourth Derny Heat is now underway with Aeschbach-Durst paired, Cavendish-Walrave, De Neef-Vaarten, Kankovsky-Huybrechts, Hester-V. Uytfanghe and Pronk-Zijlaard. Aeschbach has been in the lead for the first 26 laps and then Pronk-Zijlaard take over. (Pronk set a world hour record being motor-paced by Zijlaard) 18 laps to go. The hum of the derny engines echo in the arena. DeNeef-Vaarten move into the lead. With 8 laps to go Cavendish tries to take the lead. At three laps Cavendish-Walrave try again. Pronk-Zijlaard come over the top of the track in the last turn and win at the line.

The final event of the evening is the Keirin Final. The riders in this race include Villa, Roberts, Beikirch, Keisse, De Fauw, and Lazar. Luke Roberts wins.

It was announced today that 2012 will be the last edition of the Zesdaagse Vlaanderen Gent at t' Kuipke in Citadel Park. The new arena will be Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx in the Blaarmeersen area of Gent. It will be sad to see this arena no longer part of the six-day spectacle.

Standings after day 3

1. Keisse-Bartko 0 laps 206 points
2. Risi-Marvulli 1 199
3. Stam-Slippens 1 164
4. De Ketele-Villa 2 120
5. Beikirch-Mohs 3 120
6. Mertens-Muller 7 82
7. Roberts-Hester 9 102
8. De Fauw-Aeschbach 13 150
9. Lazar-Kankovsky 16 66
10. Wiggins-Cavendish 23 76
11. Cocquyt-Deneef 24 41
12. Stroetinga-Pronk 26 47
13. Schets-Depoortere 49 67


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The Mid-Week Report

by Steve Penny
UK, Correspondent
Ghent, Belgium
23rd November 2007

After suggesting that the British pairing of World and Olympic Individual Pursuit Champion Bradley Wiggins and up and coming T-Mobile road sprinter Mark Cavendish could potentially challenge for the podium, the first two nights racing showed they hadn't found their track legs yet. With no Six Day races behind them and Cavendish just returning from three weeks holiday the Brits lost a massive 19 laps on the first two nights alone. On Thursday, in front of a boisterous and younger than usual crowd, they showed considerable improvement with Cavendish winning an Elimination race (Devil Takes the Hindmost). The news from their camp is that, as suggested, they are using Gent to get back into track racing and will go to Sydney and Beijing for the track World Cups. The objective is to gain enough points in the Madison to guarantee a place for the World Championships and most importantly the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They have T-Mobile's blessing and the pair have stated their intention to make the Games their main goal next year.

The younger less experienced Cavendish was very much out of form, which was noted by Sports Director Patrick Sercu who is apparently unhappy with the condition he arrived in at Gent, but has improved. Wiggins, although by no means a veteran at 27, appears to be fairly strong. Sercu noted "Wiggins is going OK", and he really is a classy and smooth track rider but in the Sixes both riders have to ride at 100% which clearly wasn't the case at the outset. With the win and a good showing in the second Madison, 3rd at a lap ahead of most of the field, Cavendish's morale will have improved. They should be solid from here on and pick up a few wins. They won't however be able to make the running in the chases (Madisons), the unwritten rule of Six Day racing is that the makers of the race are the teams contending overall.

After Thursdays racing Keisse / Bartko and Risi / Marvulli look like, as expected, they are going to battle it out right until the finish on Sunday afternoon. Keisse on his home track has again showed how suited he is to the 166 metre Kuipke track. The Belgian / German pair won the first fast and intense Madison, Keisse winning a two up sprint with Risi with a BMX style bunny hop across the finish line. They then went on to take the 500 metre time trial (TT) in a time of 27.92 from the Swiss (27.95). It's not all just about Keisse either, as Bartko led him out brilliantly here and looks very strong himself. The 'new' Alpine Express pairing of Risi / Marvulli (Risi and long time partner Kurt Betschart being the originals) were more than holding their own, with Marvulli setting a blistering pace in the Flying Lap TT of 8.79 taking it from Keisse (8.85) and Risi upsetting the hometown hero Keisse, with a win by inches in a Derny race. Bruno Risi really is, even at 39, class personified on the boards and although Marvulli has been hot in the flying lap, Risi looks the stronger in the crucial chases.

In 3rd place overall are Slippens / Stam and they seem to be going well but are not picking up as many points as the top two teams and may not quite have the legs to pull off the outright victory. They are however, showing well and it is good to see Robert Slippens back on the track, he always seems to be smiling and joking around off the track and his presence was missed. The only thing that seems to be missing after his year off due to injury is the sprint speed that was always his strength and this perhaps shows most in their more modest points tally.

Marco Villa and Kenny De Ketele are having a good week so far. Villa himself out sprinted Slippens to win the nights 2nd Madison, proof that Slippy is not at his quickest. De Ketele also took a Derny race and has shown he has really come along in the last year and he must be the guy taking the retired Matt Gilmores place as the Madison partner for Keisse at next years Olympics. Also hopefully, he will also add a second strong Belgium presence on the Six Day circuit although I'm not aware of his long term plans, i.e. road or track? So far, this pairing has gone better than expected and the promoters and Belgium fans must be pleased.

The German pair of experienced Andy Beikirch and new comer Erik Mohs have thus far lived up to my billing of possible surprise package following up their high placing in Munich to hold 5th in the standings. They haven't really been noticed in the surrounding events, apart from a Keirin win from Beikirch last night, but they have been close to the front in the Madison chases losing just three laps overall.

Best of the rest and probably the most surprising pair have been 2nd Gent starter Andreas Muller, from Berlin, and 21 year old Belgium and Gent debutant Tim Mertens, riding just his 2nd Six Day race. They won the evenings 2nd event, the Team Elimination (Devil), with Mertens outsprinting Stam in the two up finish. Later they held on fairly well in the chases looking solid in 6th place. One imagines that Patrick Sercu will be pleased with the showing from them both, Mertens especially.

Aussie Luke Roberts and Dane Marc Hester are safely in 7th place right in the middle of the pack and took a win in the nights opening points race. Roberts is returning to the track and like many others is looking towards the Olympics and a place in the Australian Team Pursuit squad. Next in the rankings, which may be a disappointment, are local rider Dimitri De Fauw and Swiss Alexander Aeschbach. De Fauw won every flying lap and 500 metre TT last year has been a bit off the pace in those events, getting 3rd in both last night. They have also not really challenged in the chases and they're some distance behind even 7th place. De Fauw did get a win in the Supersprint, a Keirin race and a Derny victory behind Belgium track coach Michele Vaarten but it looked as if Joop Zijlaard took his foot of the gas to allow them to come past him and Wiggins at the line. Perhaps what you'd call a hometown decision, although I could be wrong?

The Steve Schets Supporters club told me that in this his 3rd Gent Six he has had back problems and so it proved, as he was neutralised during the night. Dutch pair Pronk and Stroetinga haven't shown much, but the early hours, late night races saw them gain a Derny & Elimination race win. It may be that Stroetinga, just 22, is really just gaining experience. The same can be said for Belgian Nicky Cocquyt with veteran Steve De Neef as they struggled, especially in the chases. In one race they got half a lap and just couldn't get any further being painfully pulled back into the bunch. Last and not least are the Czech pair of Lazar and Kankovsky who sit in 9th place, just doing their job. They'll perhaps look to bag a win during a late night / early morning event over the next two days.


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Risi/Marvulli Regain the Lead - Day 4

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
23rd November 2007

At the end of Day Four Iljo Keisse the "Kaiser of the Kuipke" and Robert Bartko drop to Third Place.

After three days of rough and tough hard core racing at the t' Kuipke wooden saucer in Gent, hometown favourite Iljo Keisse and the Potsdam Flyer from Germany Robert Bartko have a slim 7 point lead over their rivals from Switzerland, the World Madison Champions Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. The new "Alpen Express" has won two key 6-day races already this season in Dortmund and Munich. Keisse/Bartko won the season opening six-day race in Amsterdam. Since then Bartko and Keisse have only ridden once together at the Munich six-day in late October where they came in fourth.

Last evening, Keisse/Bartko won their second Madison of the six-day race as well as the 500m Time Trial. At the end of the evening, the one point lead that they had after the second day is now seven points

Details of day 4:

Aeschbach-Villa-Mohs-Hester (foto z6sdaagse)
The fourth day of a six-day race is where the riders have their racing legs and a rhythm. Every race during the evening is extremely strategic. Each team has a race plan with the hopes of maximizing the possibilities to gain points and laps with the hope of a podium placing.

The life of a bike racer during the season is very strange and does take some time to adjust to. Every night the racers finish up six hours of racing at 2:00am, usually get a massage and shower at t' Kuipke and then back to the hotel where they try and get some sleep by 3am. It is difficult for most of the riders to wind down after an intensive night of extreme racing. Most of the riders will sleep through the morning and then get out of bed around noon. Breakfast or lunch, as it is, will be pasta, coffee and other high energy slow burning foodstuffs. The riders will have a low key afternoon and usually three hours before the race they will have another meal of white meat of some sort and of course, pasta. Getting the body and mind to adjust to the life style of a six-day racer is no easy task. If the riders do not make the adjustment, they will be confronted with extreme tiredness and not have a good form.

The night of racing began with the Points Race that was won by Kenny De Ketele (Bel) and the veteran Marco Villa (Ita), who has started over 141 six-day races. Bartko who was matched with Risi won the Team Elimination. Bartko took of on the second corner plunging down the track in an all out sprint. Risi tried to catch him by coming over the top on the red line but Bartko won at the line by a wheel.

The third race of the evening was another showdown of the top two teams. Lazar/Kankovsky set the early lead with a time of 8.93 seconds or 67.189 kph. Keisse/Bartko are the second to last team to go and the crowd was whipped into frenzy as the riders circled the track. Then Bartko launched Keisse who flew around the track. All eyes are on the time clock that shows the fastest time and the race that is in progress. Keisse flies to a new best time in 8.90 or 67.415 kph. Now Risi/Marvulli take to the track and warm-up. Risi slings Marvulli down the track and again with all eyes on the track the crowd awes as Marvulli sets a new best time in 8.88 second for the 166m track or 67.567 kph.

The last race before the first intermission is the 40 minute 10 lap Madison Race or the "chase". Slippens/Stam were the winners after they had picked up a lap on Risi/Marvulli who came in second and Keisse/Bartko third. Now the top three teams are Keisse Bartko 0 laps, 239 points, Risi/Marvulli 0 laps, 234 points and Slippens/Stam 0 laps, 193 points.

Patrick Sercu, Eddy Merckx, unknown official (foto z6sdaagse)
During the intermission the legendary Eddy Merckx is in the crowd on the Middenplein with a surrounding entourage. He looks fit and healthy.

After the break Dimitri De Fauw wins the Elimination in a sprint over Matthe Pronk. Two Heats of the Derny occurred with Bradley Wiggins getting the first win and Kenny De Ketele winning the second.

The 500m Time Trial is next on tonight's card and what a finish as Keisse/Bartko were winners over Risi/Marvulli 64.011 kph to 62.871 kph. Roberts/Hester were third in 62.237 kph.

It's a little after midnight and the second chase is underway. Fifteen minutes in and the racers are riding tempo at 50 kph. Cavendish is leading the pack; he peels off front up the track and Marvulli/Risi attack catching Keisse/Bartko at the back of the pack. At 26 minutes into the race Risi/Marvulli and Keisse/Bartko are up one lap and Slippens/Stam are attacking with Keisse/Bartko 15 meters behind and Risi/Marvulli at another 15 meters. It's non-stop action. The fans are dancing in the Middenplein and two fellows are carrying a huge banner with the inscription Keisse, Kaiser van het Kuipke. 33 minutes Bartko attacks. There are at least two UCI officials here with pen and paper... counting laps or noticing infractions? In the last seven minutes Wiggins and Cavendish gain a lap. Keisse and Bartko continue to attack unsuccessfully and Risi/Marvulli win with Beikirch/Mohs second and Wiggins/Cavendish third. Wiggins/Cavendish gain a bonus lap for reaching 100 points. Slippens/Stam as well gain a bonus lap and that puts them in 2nd place behind Risi/Marvulli.

The Supersprint is won by the Czechs Lazar/Kankovsky. The evening ends with two Keirin heats and a final, as well a third and fourth heat of the 60 Lap Derny Race. Points were won by the front runner teams but the standings remain the same.

Standings after Day 4:

1. Risi/Marvulli 0 laps 265 points
2. Slippens/Stam 0 laps 219 points
3. Keisse/Bartko 1 lap 268 points
4. Beikirch/Mohs 3 laps 158 points
5. De Ketele 3 laps 151 points
6. Mertens/ Muller 7 laps 105 points
7. Roberts/Hester1 4 laps 113 points
8. De Fauw/Aeschbach 16 laps 192 points
9. Lazar/Kankovsky 20 laps 91 points
10. Wiggins/Cavendish 24 laps 107 points
11. Cocquyt/DeNeef 30 laps 59 points
12. Stroetinga/Pronk 32 laps 77 points
13. Schets/De Poortere 62 laps 85 points


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Night Flying - Day 5

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
24th November 2007

Saturday night in Gent, +7 degrees and the action at the t' Kuipke started early with the UIV Toekomstzesdaagse. The boys from Great Britain Peter Kenaugh and Adam Blythe took third in the 500m Time Trial and second in the 100 lap Madison. With combined points and being able to gain a lap on the leaders Davy Tuytens and Tosh Van Der Sande, the Brits knocked them out of first place.

Some of the fans
The pre-racing entertainment tonight included a group of amateurs from Radio2, the Gent radio station. Tonight there is a festival atmosphere here at the t' Kuipke. Being Saturday night the fan clubs of the different riders are here en masse, waving flags and blowing air horns. The German, Dutch and French media are present as well as the usually Belgian media. The introductions are made as the riders are circling the track. There is a huge contingent of Anglos and they give a rousing cheer for Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. The fan favourites are Dimitri De Fauw and Iljo Keisse.

The Points Race has had a different team winning every night: Day 1, Keisse/Bartko, Day 2 Schets/De Poortere, Day3 Roberts/Hester, Day 4 De Kettle/Villa and tonight's winners were Schets/DePoortere.

The Team Elimination event has been won by four different teams: Day 1 Risi/Marvulli, Day 2 Slippens/Stam, Day 3 Keisse/Bartko, Day 4 Mertens/Muller and tonight the Dutch duo Robert Slippens and Danny Stam were again victorious Slippens edging out Risi at the finish line.

The 166 meter Flying Lap has been won by Risi/Marvulli and tonight was no exception. The track record here at the t' Kuipke track was set by Jean-Pierre Van Zyl in 8.63 seconds. Marvulli' winning times this week have been: Day 1, 8.81 seconds; Day 2, 8.83 seconds; Day 3, 8.79 seconds; Day 4, 8.88 seconds and tonight 8.82 seconds. This is 'the Chase' of the week and will potentially decide the overall championship of this six-day race. If Bruno Risi wins tonight this may lead to his 50th lifetime six-day race victory on Sunday. While he has won here before in Gent in 1993, 1996 and 2002 this victory would be especially sweet.

After losing a lap to Slippens/Stam in the first chase and to Risi/Marvulli in the second last evening, Keisse/Bartko are behind the eightball. Keisse stated that they made tactical errors last night. When we attacked Risi/Marvulli and Slippens/Stam countered each time and Beikirch/Mohs took a lap, that resulted in Keisse/Bartko being out of position and their losing a lap.

Pronk-Mertens-Deneef
Tonight's first Madison of 40 minutes and 10 laps was a hotly contested affair with Keisse/Bartko trying to animate the action and being marked closely by Slippens/Stam and Risi/Marvulli. Keisse was on the attack and Slippens appeared to drive him up the track on the back straight, but at the line it was Keisse/Bartko taking the win with Slippens/Stam second.

After the break was the first Derny Heat, won by Mark Cavendish. Next the Individual Elimination was won by a resurgent Dimitri De Fauw and a second Derny Heat won by Iljo Keisse. Franco Marvulli came in second and that gave him enough points to go over 300 and gain a bonus lap.

The 500m Time Trial: Iljo Keisse and Robert Bartko have controlled this event all week, winning the previous four 500m time trails and tonight was no exception as they powered to victory, gained bonus laps and winners points that put them back in first place at 313 points 0 laps to Risi/Marvulli at 312 points 0 laps. Ohh baby, the music announces the one point lead.

We are now into the second Madison of the night, another 40 minute 10 lap affair. Risi/Marvulli, Keisse/Bartko, Slippens/Stam, Wiggins/Cavendish and De Ketele/Villa each gain a lap on the pack. At 23 minutes into the chase, Risi/Marvulli and Slippens/Stam gain a lap and that sends Keisse/Bartko and DeKetele/Villa on the counter attack, gaining the lap back. Now Wiggins/Cavendish gain a lap. Roberts/Hester and Mertens/Muller also gain a lap. Between 34-36 minute Risi/Marvulli, Beikirch/Mohs, De Ketele/Villa and Mertens/Muller gain a lap back. Then with tree minutes left plus the 10 laps, Keisse/Bartko and Slippens/Stam join the front runners. It's a sprint to the line and Franco Marvulli edges out Iljo Keisse. That puts Risi/Marvulli back in first place with 0 laps and 327 points. Keisse/Bartko are the only other team at zero laps. They now 4 back at 323 points.

The last series of events of the early morning include a Keirin Final, 2 Derny Heats and an Individual Elimination. Risi won the 3 Derny Heat of the evening putting his team back into first place: 332 points with Keisse/Bartko at 327 points.

Its 2:00am and the last of the Derny heats is on. These racers are flying around this track. Bradley Wiggins takes off behind the derny with driver Walrave. In the last turn as they are sprinting to the line, local hero Dimitri De Fauw with his hundred or so blue shirted fan club and Michel Vaarten his driver take the win handily.

The Australian Luke Roberts, who lives in Cologne, Germany during the European winter months, wins the Keirin race, gaining 15 points.

Risi/Marvulli are in first place with a five point lead over Keisse/Bartko.

Standings after Day 5:

1 Risi Marvulli 0 laps 332 points
2 Keisse Bartko 0 327
3 Slippens Stam 1 276
4 De Ketele Villa 3 202
5 Beikirch Mohs 4 190
6 Mertens Muller 9 132
7 Roberts Hester 18 155
8 De Fauw Aeschbach 19 267
9 Lazar Kankovsky 24 123
10 Wiggins Cavendish 28 136
11 Cocquyt Deneef 37 99
12 Stroetinga Pronk 39 95
13 Schets Depoortere 71 126


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Gent Six-Day Finale - Day 6

by Arnold Devlin
Ghent, Belgium
25th November 2007

This is the finale day of the z6sdaagse Vlaanderen Gent. Being Sunday, the race commenced at 12:00 noon. Most of the riders and certainly the fans were still at t' Kuipke only 10 hours ago.

The action started fast and furious with the UIV Talent Cup Final. The Great Britain boys, Peter Kenaugh and Adam Blythe did an excellent job protecting their lead and animating the race. The second place Pavel Subrt/Marek Mixa, the Czech boys attempted to gain a lap during the last ten minutes of the Madison. The Kenaugh/Blythe team did an excellent job of riding tempo at 48-50 kph marking the Belgian duo Davy Tuytens and Tosh Van Der Sande who presented a greater danger if they gained a lap as they were only down one lap at 96 points.

Vrt Nieuws, Sporza, the Belgian National TV are here today and are broadcasting the race throughout the Flemish and French parts of Belgium and also parts of the Nederland's. Henrik Elmgreen the head of the Union International Velodromes (UIV) is in the audience.

Mertens-Slippens-Mohs-Marvulli (foto Luc Pappens)
The first event of the afternoon is the Points Race. The third and fourth teams in the standing are on the attack gaining points. Slippens/Stam and Beikirch/Mohs are 1 and 2 after the first 12 minutes. With 5 laps to go at 14 minutes the riders are starting to line up for the final push. Keisse moves to the front as does Stam. There is a charge for the line and Keisse gets the last sprint but the overall winners are Slippens/Stam. The Dutch duo now have 291 points and 1 lap and only need nine points to get 300 points and gain a bonus lap that would bring them on par in laps with Risi/Marvulli and Keisse/Bartko.

The Team Elimination (Miss and Out) is now on. The last three teams are Wiggins/Cavendish, Risi/Marvulli and Slippens/Stam. The British boys get eliminated and it is now Risi vs. Slippens and Risi comes from behind to nip Slippens by a wheel length. With this victory, Risi/Marvulli increase their lead to 12 points ahead of second place Keisse/Bartko and 46 points ahead of third place Slippens/Stam. The top three teams are at zero laps.

One important difference of this Sunday afternoons racing is that the stands are filled with children and their parents which has brought a whole different atmosphere to the stadium. Another important point here in Gent is this community's rich history of cycling because Het Volk and Gent-Wevelgem are staged from here. The spectators are very knowledgeable of cycling, track racing in particular and anticipate the attacks, so when the racers get into a 'jam' the stands erupt with cheers of encouragement.

Slippens and Marvulli charge for the line (foto Luc Pappens)
The 500m Time Trail is on and the early mark is set by Luke Roberts and Marc Hester at 62.198 kph. The Czech racers Lazar/Kankovsky set a new mark at 62.327 kph.

During the intermission people are literally dancing in the stands to the sounds of Eddy Wally, a local entertainer. At the Pre-Race Press Conference Patrick Sercu and Rob Discart, the race organizers, were very pleased with the number of cycling fans that have come out to view the elite track racers. What was especially notable was the performance of the older racers like Marco Villa from Italy and of course Bruno Risi, who turns 40 years old next year.

The UIV Talents Cup was a great success with lots of new talent learning the 6-day racing ropes. The only disappointment was Mark Cavendish, who showed up here for a big salary and underestimated the fitness required to perform at this elite level.

The racing continued with two Derny Finals. The first race was for the riders in 7th to 12th position teams and the second for the riders in the 1st to 6th position. The first group was won by Bradley Wiggins and the second by Iljo Keisse.

The Elimination final was won by Wim Stroetinga and the Keirin Finale by Alois Kankovsky. Three points separate the front runners Risi/Marvulli and local favourites Keisse/Bartko, 371 to 368, both at 0 laps.

The Supersprint is en course; this is the 80th race of the Gent six-day. Lazar-Kankovsky are the winners. In the 166m Flying Lap again the men from Czechoslovakia rip up the boards in 8.64 seconds or 68.650 kph, the fastest time of the week.

The finale of the 67th Z6sdaagse Vlaanderen Gent has commenced, a 60 minute Madison that for the Last 50 laps the riders sprint for points on the 10th lap of the countdown. The Madison's events this week have been 30 and 40 minutes and today we have the big one, sixty gruelling minutes of all out racing. At 20 minutes there have been some attacks and laps gained but the top standing are just what they were when the race began. At 21:15 Iljo Keisse and Robert Bartko attack but are unable to break away. Bartko is being marked closely by Marvulli as they are chasing Slippens/Stam and Steven DeNeef-Nicky Cocquyt. At 30 minutes all is copasetic and then Mertens/Muller, Beikirch/Mohs and De Ketele/Villa gain a lap. Slippens is off the front with Roberts/Hester in chase. Bartko/Keisse, Risi/Marvulli feel the threat and launch a counterattack. At thirty-six minutes and Bartko is off the front with Risi in tow.

Iljo Keisse with the hammer down (foto Luc Pappens)
Almost every seat in this 7,000 seat sports venue is full and the sports fans eyes are glued to the track. Jacq van Reijendam, a six-day historian and statistician has predicted that Bruno Risi will want to win his 50th six-day race here in Gent. At forty minutes the racers are riding tempo. Exchanges appear to occur every 2 1/2 laps. Keisse/Bartko exchange in 1 1/2 laps. It's 43:30, Keisse attacks and Risi is in chase. Both teams gain a lap. Wim Stroetinga/Matte Pronk are off the front with De Ketele/Villa and Beikirch/Mohs close behind and at 47:20 they gain a lap. Almost immediately Keisse/Bartko attack with Luke Roberts/Marc Hester and Risi/Marvulli chasing.

We are now into the last 20 minutes of this epic. The riders are at the point where there will be a sprint of a life time every 10 laps, counting down to 0. The first sprint was won by Marvulli with Bartko second and Villa third. The next sprint had Risi winning with Keisse 2nd and Villa 3rd. The third sprint was won by Risi again with Villa second and Keisse 3rd. This is not looking good for the local favourite. Slippens/Stam attack hoping to gain a lap, but suddenly the red team of Keisse/Bartko, sponsored by Chocolates Jacques, attack with ten laps to go.

The Podium-Marvulli/Risi, Keisse/Bartko, Stam/Slippens (foto Luc Claessen)
Bartko is screaming around the black line. Gritting his teeth, his face red from exertion, Keisse is driving like a man possessed. unbelievably they gain the lap. At the finish line Keisse/Bartko win the madison and the 67th Z6sdaagse Vlaanderen Gent.


Final Standings:

1 Keisse Bartko 402
at 1 lap
2 Risi Marvulli 407
3 Slippens Stam 317
at 8 laps
4 De Ketele Villa 244
5 Beikirch Mohs 216
at 15 laps
6 Mertens Muller 136
at 24 laps
7 Roberts Hester 203
at 26 laps
8 De Fauw Aeschbach 285
at 33 laps
9 Lazar Kankovsky 178
at 39 laps
10 Wiggins Cavendish 172
at 46 laps
11 Cocquyt Deneef 109
at 48 laps
12 Stroetinga Pronk 136
at 82 laps
13 Schets Depoortere 140


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The 67th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Gent - Review

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent for TBCC's 6-Day Site
Watford, UK
29th November 2007

Robert Bartko Post Race Interview
The 67th Gent Six finished in the Kuipke on Sunday and as reported what a finish it was. The attack by Robert Bartko, with just 17 laps of the 166.66 metre track remaining, was un-answerable. His partner and local hero, Iljo Keisse, then pressed home their advantage by giving absolutely everything he had. The overall victory was clinched with just 9 laps remaining and the team who had looked the likely winners, Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, had nothing left and had to settle for 2nd place. The irony was that in the later years of Risi's successful partnership with now retired Kurt Betschart, they had made the last gasp attack a trademark by winning numerous Sixes with an extra lap but lower points total than the opposition.

Iljo Keisse
Throughout the final three days the two top pairings had looked as though they would take it too the wire as never more than a handful of points separated them. Franco Marvulli won all the flying lap time trails (TT's), Keisse likewise took the 500 metre TT's and they had split many of the Madison events too.

In 3rd place, also just one lap behind, were Robert Slippens and Danny Stam. The Dutchmen had a good week overall, although as previously noted, Slippens has lost a lot of his sprinting speed following a long lay off due to an injury. That sprinting speed probably cost them the chance to be in at the finish as their points total was some 100 less than the top pair, the equivalent of some TT wins and another Madison perhaps. They didn't give up easily though and constantly tried to get an advantage in Sundays Finale by attacking, initially being the most aggressive of the top 3 teams. Every time they attacked it seemed as if it was Risi who went after them, later followed by Keisse and Bartko. Perhaps the latter thought they could take the bonus sprints in the last 50 laps. Although they didn't win the sprints Keisse / Bartko proved they had that little bit more left in the legs and lungs. Perhaps their combined age of 57 versus 68 also helped? So after chasing Slippens and Stam over and over, the 39 year old Risi found it one chase too manyand will have to look to get that historic 50th victory in the upcoming Dutch Sixes.

The missing top team

Robert Slippens
When Sports Director Patrick Sercu put together the line up for this 25th Gent Six, the inclusion of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish looked interesting and received a lot of the media attention. The British pair even wore the jersey of one of the main sponsors and would have been expected to at least make the top 5 overall rather than finish 10th at nearly 40 laps down.

Bradley Wiggens
As previously reported Cavendish arrived out of form but Wiggins seemed to be as strong as you'd expect. As the week went on they got better, both winning Derny races over the weekend and staying reasonably competitive in the Madisons, although it was noticeable that Cavendish missed a few turns from time to time. I managed to get a word with Bradley Wiggins over the weekend to hear how it was going in Gent and what the plans are for 2008: "We've got better and yes Mark did struggle at first but I think we had decent nights Friday and Saturday. We are going to both Track World Cups in Sydney and Beijing, continuing to ride together and get qualification for the Olympic Madison. My new team T-Mobile is fully behind me for the Olympics, which was a big reason I signed with them. But 2008 is a year that could make or break me actually, but even with the extra media coverage the Olympics get, in the UK I'm OK with the pressure. The Tour Prologue and the atmosphere in London was the big highlight of 2007, but the Tour is not on my programme next season, although we may go to the Giro".

I noted that the Australians seemed like they are trying to put the 2004 Team Pursuit Squad back together again but Bradley stated, "Maybe, but the Great Britain squad has gone up a level from our Silver medal performance in Athens. It should be a good fight!!!"

One can't underestimate the pressure the Olympics bring to a British sports person as it is the only time that a cyclist or rower will really be in the mainstream spotlight. Bradley had noted this British media attitude to a Gent newspaper during the Six saying that, "Winning an Olympic Gold makes you a star, winning Paris Roubaix means nothing"

So I think that maybe fans and promoters may have been disappointed, but for Wiggins and Cavendish, Gent was just a part of the long road to Beijing and their Olympic dreams.

Final analysis of the teams & riders

The top 3 teams are of course all established and will continue to hunt for wins throughout the rest of the winter's Six Day season. Risi / Marvulli will want to focus on Zurich and Slippens / Stam will want to get off the mark in Rotterdam. One would think that Robert Bartko will insist on having Keisse alongside him at his home race in Berlin after missing out since he last won there with Guido Fulst in 2004.

Kenny De Ketele
The last of the big name Italian Six Day riders Marco Villa did well, even at nearly 39. He and his partner 22 year old Gent racer Kenny De Ketele finished a creditable 4th. De Ketele had a large fan club in attendance on Friday Night and took some crowd pleasing Derny and Madison races over the six days. He will surely take confidence from his performance this week as he goes onto the World and Olympic Madison's as Iljo Keisses partner for Belgium. We can only hope that in the future De Ketele will continue to progress and become one of the established riders on the winter circuit getting a chance to ride in the big but more parochial German races like Bremen and Munich.

The only other Six Day veteran on the start list was Andreas Beikirch and he and 21 year old fellow German Erik Mohs finished 5th on the same laps as Villa / De Ketele. It will be interesting to see if this is the start of a new regular partnership having also ridden Munich together. The only sticking point may be that they are very similar, short and punchy. They were solid in Gent without excelling in any particular discipline.

Tim Mertens
Probably the revelations of the week, Tim Mertens and Andreas Muller finished in 6th place, a position they held for most of the week. Muller is now establishing himself as part of the Six Day train by riding Belgian and Dutch Sixes as well as those in Germany.

Tim Mertens a 21 year old from north of Brussels was riding only his 2nd professional Six and told us, "Everybody has been telling me how well I've done and I am really happy. From now on this season I am concentrating on riding with the (Belgian) National Track team and don't think I'll ride any more Sixes"

I asked him about riding the other Belgian Six in Hasselt, but Tim noted, "Only if it fits in with the programme I'm given but next season I will be back here in Gent and would like to ride at more Six Day races"

The 7th placed team of Dane and now Six day regular Marc Hester, with Australian Luke Roberts did ok winning a few late night events and some points races during the week. Roberts will be going back to the track for the Olympic year and looked the stronger of the two. Although it would be nice to see an Australian regularly riding the winter season it's unlikely that Luke will ever be more than an occasional Six Day racer.

Alexander Aeschbach
A disappointing 8th place for Gent local Dimitri De Fauw and Switzerland's Alexander Aeschbach perhaps doesn't tell the full story. De Fauw stormed around the track winning every TT last year before his well documented collision with Isaac Galvez. This year De Fauw was looking to ride better in the Madison races too but his soignier told me that in his attempt to be as "skinny as possible" he actually didn't eat enough whilst 'over training' in the 3 weeks before Gent. So he arrived 'very thin' but short of the necessary power in his legs, much like a boxer who tries to lose weight too quickly before a fight.

A relative veteran with 59 Six Day races behind him, Aeschbach seemed to be going well and especially when you consider the safety aspects of having too many inexperienced riders is surprisingly not getting contracts at every Six this season.

He spoke to me on Saturday afternoon about Gent:

"I was not going so well on the first night myself, after I didn't get a ride in Munich. The riders coming from Munich already had good legs and form".

So what then of the rest of the Six day season?

"The German promoters want more German riders and I didn't get a call for Munich. I will of course go to Zurich but for Bremen and Berlin I have no contract yet and my sponsor who is based in Stuttgart is trying. The top 6 or 8 riders will always get a decent contract but the promoters want the rest of the riders for very little money. I hope to be riding at all Sixes but just don't know".

Next on the list in 9th were Czech pairing of World Omnium Champion Alois Kankovsky and his partner to a World Madison bronze earlier this year Petr Lazar. They had a fairly quiet but solid first 5 days and on Sunday seemed to be getting better. They took the Supersprint together, Kankovsky took a Keirin and then set up by Lazar he posted the best time of the week for the flying lap TT in a magnificent 8.74, to shock the winner of every other flying lap Franco Marvulli and the 6,000 plus Gent crowd. The organiser Patrick Sercu must have been pleased with that as they didn't just sit back and ride around, they kept going and it paid off. Petr Lazar told me that they are, as are a lot of the riders, going to ride World Cups, World Championships and Olympics but will also ride the Rotterdam and Berlin Sixes.

The last 3 teams on the classification on the whole struggled through, although their placing's were not altogether unexpected. In 11th place, Belgium pair of debutant Nicky Cocquyt and Steven De Neef tried hard to show in the chases but generally struggled throughout. In 12th Dutchmen Wim Stroetinga and Matthe Pronk picked up a few wins during the week but the last placed pair Belgians Steve Schets and Ingmar De Poortere suffered horribly. Steve Schets though was certainly not at 100% due to back problems but has done reasonably well for a youngster in Gent and at other Sixes, so maybe it's that De Poortere was the one really out of his depth.

Into the Future

After the death of Isaac Galvez last year one would imagine that the riders, organisation and spectators would have been a little nervous returning to the Kuipke. Watching the racing my feeling was that riders were being very careful, perhaps not taking the same risks they would have taken before, especially those not in the fight for the win. Certainly Bruno Risi was constantly calling out to riders during the chases and I imagine he was doing his best to keep things as safe as possible. Risi himself was involved in a crash here in 2005 that took him out of the race. I heard a rumour, although unconfirmed, that even prior to the Galvez tragedy last year he hadn't been happy, as there had been a number of crashes. He himself was neutralised at the time of the fatal accident for reasons unknown.

So with the safety issue being dealt with from a commercial aspect the Gent Six flourished with approx 42,000 spectators visiting during the course of the event. The same kind of commercial success has been noted at the Six Days in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Munich, Bremen and Berlin. Without overlap there are now at least 12 winter Sixes (13 if you include Grenoble that overlaps Dortmund) on the calendar for the top riders to race where just a few years ago it was down to 7. However, despite the increase in races, the majority of the top riders are 35 and over, only Franco Marvulli (29) and Iljo Keisse (25 next month) are in there 20's. Robert Bartko and Robert Slippens at 32 are still relatively young but Bruno Risi (39), Marco Villa (38), Andreas Beikirch (37) and Danny Stam (35) are all veterans now. Erik Zabel, at 37, usually rides and wins a Six every winter, but finding potential winners for the big Six Days outside this group is difficult.

We saw good performances from De Ketele, Mertens and Mohs in Gent but it's too early to know if they will all continue as full-time Six Day racers. I asked Patrick Sercu about the up and coming young Belgians, "You have to find were your strengths and qualities lie and with these guys it's not the Tour De France. So yes, we have some good youngsters who can concentrate on the track and just use the road for training and getting good condition. I am very pleased with De Ketele and Mertens".

Praise from the King of the Sixes is nice but even he will know that finding riders that are able to get contracts, have the commitment or even the stamina to do 10+ Sixes a year (as Risi, Marvulli, Keisse, Stam, Bartko, etc. do) may not be easy.

Leif Lampater (24), who did not ride due to commitments with the German Track squad and Peter Schep (30), who was away with the Dutch squad, are the only obvious contenders who missed Gent. With event specialism on the increase, very good track riders such as Danes Morkov and Rasmussen, who won at Grenoble, will only ride 4 or 5 sixes every winter and continue to focus more on the World Cups and World Championships. This trend has been even more noticeable this winter with the Olympic Games and their increasing importance on the horizon. Before 1996 the Olympics were strictly for amateur cyclists so the games were never an objective for professional Six Day men. Also a good rider in a Championship Madison or Points race does not always make a good rider over Six Days. The Championships are all about just focusing on 1 hour of racing and so much more open to surprise. This is why the promoters should recognise that Six Day specialists like Alex Aeschbach and Andreas Muller are worth a place at every Six, more so than a World Championship Points race medallist. They have proved that they can cope with the demands of the late night racing and can ride consistently and safely for six days.

Bringing riders through is the aim of the UIV Cup (for Under 25s) and the competition is meant to act as a stepping stone to the main events. The intentions of the competition organiser is honourable but looking at the past winners of the Gent Toekomstzesdaagse (UIV Cup or futures Six Day) from the last 8-10 editions no one has gone on to become a regular rider. Only De Ketele and Schets are getting established and many others have just disappeared. Of the actual UIV Cup season long competition winners a number have broken through, the obvious one being Iljo Keisse. Also Dimitri de Fauw, Marc Hester and Michael Morkov have had a presence and two of the last winners Erik Mohs and Tim Mertens (who won last winter) have stepped in this year. Further down the ranking lists, no one has made the step up and the few, who have tried, really struggled.

Finding good consistent riders is a dilemma that is not affecting the current races but in say 5 years time we'll need regular competitive riders to come through. This is important so that the Six Day race's place in cycle sport is assured rather than having them become purely entertainment and commercial events.

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