An Introduction to the 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny

Watford, UK
21st November 2011

71st Six-Days of Ghent

The 71st Six-days of Flanders, Ghent (Zes-Daages Van Vlaanderen, Gent) gets underway in Het Kuipke velodrome this coming Tuesday night. Following the recent demise of the Dortmund and Munich races this classic among Six-days is now the undisputed main event of the pre-Christmas indoor calendar. Over 36,000 fans will once again create the atmosphere from the stands and track centre while the 26 cyclists embark on their race to nowhere. Ghent is never an easy race as the programme is, as it's always been, once again loaded with racing lasting around 6 hours every night.

Most of the local talk in the build up concerned 'the will he, won't he' participation of local hero Iljo Keisse. This followed the enforcement of a ban, back dated from 2008, that forbids him from racing on home soil until early 2012. In the last two years he has raced in Ghent following some legal loopholes but there was no way around the rules, so Keisse will not defend his crown on the home track this year.

The start list, Sports Director Patrick Sercu was able to announce, does not look as strong as it has in recent years though. Along with Keisse he is also without strong riders such as Morkov, Rassmussen, Kluge and Hondo. He, Sercu, admitted in the opening press conference that it hadn't been an easy task for him to select the teams. So approaching the start the field is short of obvious favourites but no matter we still can expect fast, exciting racing none the less.

Favourites

Without the aforementioned riders Kenny De Ketele probably has his best ever chance to win his home race, and paired with possibly the strongest man in the Sixes, Robert Bartko takes on the mantle of pre-race favourite. After winning the European Madison title (with Keisse) last month De Ketele should arrive in good form. Without a race since the Amsterdam Six a month ago Bartko will also be fresh and ready to go after his first win of the winter season. Although neither rider has a great sprint, there isn't a team in the race that will eat up points in the way Keisse or Alex Rasmussen and Michael Morkov have in the last couple of years. So, 'team number 4' with their motivation and experience on this track means that barring accident or illness, they are this years team to beat.

The Rest of the field

Looking at the rest of the teams, in number order below, gives a pointer to who may do what over the course of the week.

Winner with Iljo Keisse last year was Dutchman Peter Schep. He'll wear the number one, teaming this year with countryman Wim Stroetinga. On paper they are a classic Six-day pairing of endurance man (Schep) and sprinter (Stroetinga), so they should rack up points on the small 166 metre track. At this level Stroetinga hasn't yet shown he has the stamina for the up and down, non-stop nature of a Six-day race. With maturity, plenty of track experience and good condition, not to mention a good partner in Schep, this may be his time to shine. However, if like last year he returns from holiday without the required form and conditioning, the chances will be lost within the first couple of sessions.

The Frenchman Morgan Kneisky won the Grenoble Six last month, with Keisse, but this Six is a different level so he and Dane, Marc Hester will just be expected to keep the pace high in the chases and go after wins in the lesser races on the programme.

Young Belgian hope, Tosh Van Der Sande, gets his second pro Ghent Six start and teams with the experienced and classy Leif Lampater. Race director Patrick Sercu obviously rates Van Der Sande as the German, Lampater, is one of the strongest riders in this field. If all goes well this mix of youth and experience, not to mention home support, means they could yet be the 2011 surprise package.
(Photo by Karl Franke)

The Swiss rider Franco Marvulli was on fire a few years ago when racing with Bruno Risi and they won race after race, although never Ghent. Since the great Risi retired he has fallen by the wayside a little and hasn't really shown he has the form or the motivation to reach those heights with varying partners. Plus this has never been a favourite Six for Franco. He'll be partnered with Munich native Christian Grasmann who hasn't had a start in Ghent since 2006, but deserves the chance. With the thinning pool of riders available he's proved at German Sixes he can race well for six days, but the podium may be a long shot though.

There is no Michael Morkov in the race this year but his family will be represented by his brother Jesper Morkov who is trying to make the transition from the amateur / under-23 races into the pro ranks. One suspects it may be a Ghent baptism of fire for Jesper and his partner fellow rookie Benjamin Edmuller from Germany, as this an unforgiving event. But these youngsters may well benefit from the experience on their road to trying to join the Six-day circus... just don't expect too much this time though.

The same applies to the winners of last years Under-23 Ghent Six, Claudio Imhof and Silvan Dillier from Switzerland. They have had a few Six-day starts since that win last year and have competed for their country at World Cups and the European Championships. They'll have an eye on the Zurich Six (well its only four days this year) starting just a few days after Ghent. They will know it is a massive jump from the amateurs to the pros, but this pair could well be two to make the transition over the coming years, this year will be about survival and getting form for Zurich though.

The next team are the opposite to Morkov / Edmuller and Imhof / Dillier as they have all the experience you could want, but neither Alex Aeschach nor Leon Van Bon have the required speed to make a run at the win in Het Kuipke. They should prove competitive in the chases though and will be looking to finish inside the top half of the field on Sunday afternoon.

This will be the last Ghent appearance for 2004 winner Danny Stam, who after over 100 Six-day races will hang up his wheels in February. His remit this year will be to try and bring Belgian rider Tim Mertens to the next level, that being a podium finish. They may have a shot, in this depleted field, if Mertens is on form as he is quick and can pick up points. Stam has always had good endurance along with the track savy.

Ghent has always been a welcoming place for Australians and this years participants from down under are Luke Roberts and Glenn O'Shea. The latter raced here a few years ago with current World Champion Leigh Howard but hasn't been back since. The experienced Roberts has been on this track a number of times so they should make for a decent team as the Aussies are always fighters. Getting into the top half of the field will be their goal, the podium will be a big ask though.

Team number 11 has another rider, Steven De Neef, who'll be saying his goodbyes to Het Kuipke. He has ridden here every year since the late 90's, but has never been a full time track racer and has usually been paired with a young Belgian invariably struggling through in the bottom few places. For his last hurrah he is paired with Berlin born Austrian national team rider Andreas Muller. Its a slight change of roles for Muller who normally helps a young local rider around the races rather than a guy aged 40. But Muller likes this track so it may be that the experienced pair work well together, however expect them to lose 15-20 plus laps before De Neef climbs off for the last time on Sunday.

Two more Ghent debutants are Germans Robert Bengsch and Marcel Barth. This pair have some experience at German Sixes and Bengsch won in Bremen last winter with Robert Bartko so he has done well on the small track before. He's a big guy though and the tight and high curves of Het Kuipke might not be ideal for him. That said both he and Barth will be motivated after getting the call from Patrick Sercu so they should compete with the likes of Roberts / O'Shea and Kneisky / Hester for a place in the middle of the standings.

Last but not least are World Madison silver medalists Martin Blaha and Jiri Hochmann from the Czech Republic. They are a pair who go well at major championships but the Ghent Six is a different animal to a one off, one hour madison. As will all the debutants, the Czechs will probably just be looking to impress Patrick Sercu by keeping the peleton together in the chases rather than challenging for the top places.

Full start list:

1 Peter Schep - Wim Stroetinga (Ned)
2 Morgan Kneisky (Fra) - Marc Hester (Den)
3 Tosh van der Sande (Bel) - Leif Lampater (Ger)
4 Robert Bartko (Ger) - Kenny de Ketele (Bel)
5 Franco Marvulli (Swi) - Christian Grasmann (Ger)
6 Jesper Morkov (Den) - Benjamin Edmuller (Ger)
7 Claudio Imhof - Silvan Dillier (Swi)
8 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi) - Leon van Bon (Ned)
9 Danny Stam (Ned) - Tim Mertens (Bel)
10 Luke Roberts - Glenn O'Shea (Aus)
11 Steven Deneef (Bel) - Andreas Muller (Aut)
12 Robert Bengsch - Marcel Barth (Ger)
13 Martin Blaha - Jiri Hochmann (Czech)

Six-Day Season so far:

As noted without Dortmund or Munich, the Six-day season is now spread rather thinly across October and November. The only two races so far saw the following results:

Amsterdam - 17-22 Oct 2011
Winners - Keisse (Bel) / Terpstra (Ned)

Grenoble - 27 Oct - 01 Nov 2011
Winners - Keisse (Bel) / Kneisky (Fra)


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Tues/Wed Summary & Thursday - 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny

Gent, BE
25th November 2011 02:00am

71st Six-Days of Ghent

The opening two nights confirmed that the start list does not possess the strength in depth of the last couple of years with only five teams still within one lap of the lead. The overwhelming favourites Kenny De Ketele and Robert Bartko sitting in second place and by all accounts rode well within themselves during the opening two nights. The leaders are Dutchmen Peter Schep and Wim Stroetinga who have been collecting points in the time trials and staying close to the leaders in the chases. It confirms that the Dutch pair are in good form, Stroetinga has never challenged for the win at a Six Day before so it remains to be seen if he has the engine over the next few nights. The stamina of Schep is not in question as he won this event, alongside Iljo Keisse, last year and at 34 is now one of the top riders in the Sixes.
(Photo by Karl Franke)

Aside from these two teams it's difficult to predict who else may stay close enough to challenge for the winner rather than just a place on the podium. Thursdays racing will shed a little more light on who is and isn't going to contend.

Thursday Night

Without local top rider, and Six Day showmam Iljo Keisse in the field, the crowds have been down in numbers and apparently fairly low key so far this year. Tonight was the first sell out with over 2,000 VIP tickets sold, many of which spent the evening in the VIP tent. Inside the main arena the track centre was fit to burst, continuing the trend of recent years when Thursday night has proved popular with a younger crowd. Perhaps many are more interested in the beer than the bikes, but a Six Day always is more than just a bicycle race and this event is now seen locally as something of a 'winter festival'.

The Racing:

Klassement Sprint (point's race): - The evening session typically began low key, but it's important for stretching the legs. The win went to Marc Hester & Morgan Kneisky.

Team Elimination Race: - The first big scrap of the evening came here as the main contenders are always interested in the 20 points on offer. It was fast and furious and Schep - Stroetinga were not attentive enough and missed out on any points a were eliminated early. Their rivals De Ketele - Bartko did not make any mistakes though as they stayed close to the front all the way through with De Ketele out sprinting Franco Marvulli for the 20 points.

An honorary mention goes to 21 year old Swiss team Claudio Imhof - Silvan Dillier who stuck in the race taking 3rd. After winning the under-23 race last year they've stepped up this year initially finding the chases tough. They seem to have settled down though and their speed is unquestioned. That will help them pick up enough points to stay out of the bottom couple of places. A performance such as this one can only be good for morale.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - Over the opening nights Wim Stroetinga has proved to be the fastest guy in against the clock. Tonight was no exception as Peter Schep set the pace for him to fly around the 166 metre track in 8.750 seconds (68.5687 kmph) beating De Ketele - Bartko who clocked an impressive time of 8.810 (68.1017 kmph). No one else finished in a time under 9 seconds.

1st Madison (45 minutes): - The big chase of the night was over 45 minutes and tended to confirm the talk around the place that the racing hasn't been that great this year. This feeling, I believe, has a lot to do with the fact Iljo Keisse is not riding and no one else has the skills as a 'showman' that can lift the people and make the routine seem more exciting. The pace was high and the riders were still giving 100%, as there are no easy Madison wins on this most technical of tracks. The low key nature of the chase was summed up by the fact 10 teams finished on the same lap and winning with a whimper rather than a bang were Kneisky - Hester. After starting over 60 Sixes the 26 year old Hester seems to be on the up. A Danish colleague told me last year he had taken a more professional approach to racing and that seems to have been confirmed with his performance so far.

A cynic might suggest that the organisation asked De Ketele - Bartko to ease back a little to keep things close heading towards the weekend, but then again they may not be able to dominate things in the way Keisse has in the past.

Derny Racing: - Every night there is a series of four crowd pleasing Derny races spread across the programme. Tonight the first round saw a farewell victory for the retiring Steven De Neef, the second went too Peter Schep behind the ultimate showman pacer Joop Ziljaard. Going into the early hours of Friday morning Morgan Kneisky got another win for his team and former Tour de France stage winner Leon Van Bon came across the line first to complete the nights Derny racing.

Individual Elimination Race 1: - Following a good showing in the team elimination the young Swiss prospect Silvan Dillier, racing alone this time, followed up with a win from Robert Bengsch. The latter and his fellow German partner Marcel Barth are having a tough debut in Belgium and currently prop up the standings in 13th place.

500 Metre TT: - The battle for the 20 points had been won by Schep / Stroetinga on the first two nights and it was no different today, with the Dutchmen clocking 28.00 seconds dead (64.2857 kmph). Second went to the speedy Imhof - Dillier in 28.140 from De Ketele - Bartko with 28.260.

2nd Madison (30 minutes): - The second chase again saw most of the teams remaining within a lap of each other and no one is yet dominating this Six-Day. This race was won by Franco Marvulli and Christian Grasmann, the latter out sprinted Claudio Imhof to win, but it was the young Swiss team that impressed again. After a tough first night when they lost 3 laps they've gotten better and better and have not lost anymore laps in the overall standings.

Individual Elimination Race 2: - Australian Luke Roberts got a chance for a photo and a winner's bouquet by holding off Leif Lampater.

Scratch Race: - A scratch race is just a chance for a bit of audience - rider interaction at a Six day and this one was no different as Marcel Barth led the riders up and down the track to the sounds of Techno music. After all that the riders got going in the last 5 laps and Franco Marvulli got the bunch sprint win.

Supersprint: - This is an elimination race until there are just 6 teams left followed by a final sprint, the main contenders called a truce and left it too Marcel Barth and Robert Bengsch to take a much needed win after a poor start to their first Ghent Six.

After a slow start to this Six, Marvulli - Grasmann appear to have found their legs and understanding as a team. They gained over 70 points tonight and reached their second bonus lap (gained for every 100 points) of the week to take an overnight lead. This pair could yet be a factor for the win and are certainly now contenders for the podium.

Standings after 3 Nights:

1. Grasmann - Marvulli 203 points
2. Stroetinga - Schep 183
3. Bartko - De Ketele 166
4. Mertens - Stam 126
5. Lampater - Van Der Sande 124
@ 1 Lap:
6. Kneisky - Hester 174
@ 2 Laps:
7. O'Shea - Roberts 109
@ 3 Laps:
8. Dillier - Imhof 146
9. Muller - De Neef 60
@ 6 Laps:
10. Van Bon - Aeschbach 71
@ 7 Laps:
11. Hacecky - Blaha 43
12. Edmuller - Morkov 33
@ 8 Laps:
13. Barth - Bengsch 50

Around Het Huipke

As usual, this is Belgium after all, former riders of various eras are in attendance throughout the week and tonight saw Lucien Van Impe present a prize and get introduced to the crowd. Recognisable with that most 70's of hair styles, the curly perm, Van Impe was a rarity amongst Belgian cyclists in that he was almost exclusively a climbing specialist. After racing until he was 41, Van Impe hung up his wheels in 1987. During his 18 year career he won the Tour De France in 1976, won 9 stages, had 4 other podium places and won 6 polka dot jerseys. These 'King of the Mountains' wins came during an era when the polka dot jersey was won by the races best climber, not just an opportunist who clocks up the points in early breaks.

'Memorial Noel Fore' - UIV-Under 23 Race:

The Toekomst Zesdaagse (futures Six-Day) had the customary crash but the British pair of Owain Doull and Simon Yates stayed upright to win the 200 lap Madison and take the overall lead. It looks to be a close fight with Dutch team Van Zijl and Caspers on the same lap as the Brits and four others just one lap behind. If everybody avoids the inevitable crashes it could well be tight chase for the winner's bouquet on Sunday afternoon.


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Friday - 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny

Gent, BE
26th November 2011 01:20am

71st Six-Days of Ghent

Friday night at the Ghent Six has always been the day when the real cycling fans come out. As reported, Thursday was a sell out, but the crowd was predominantly corporate guests and general festival revellers. Tonight is the night for the ex-bike riders, the Flemish bike racing fans and the supporters clubs of the local racers. These supporters clubs normally turn out in the same tee shirt or colours and help create a good atmosphere inside the old building.

Five teams started the night on the same lap and after a low key first half of the Six Days, the riders will be expected to provide a more interesting spectacle for the aforementioned cycling fans.

Friday Night

Klassement Sprint (point's race): - The Swiss prospects Dillier - Imhof opened the evening session with another win. Providing fatigue doesn't set in they'll be heading home to the Zurich Six in good shape, physically and mentally.

Team Elimination Race: - The first big points of the night are always on offer in the team elimination (devil takes the hindmost). The young Belgian hope Tosh Van Der Sande outsprinted Christian Grasmann who appeared to continue where they left off last night, taking 12 points for 2nd place.

Once again Wim Stroetinga was badly positioned and eliminated early, missing out on points. It didn't prove too costly though as Bartko - De Ketele also missed out on the top places gaining just 4 points. The general consensus is that Bartko is not as strong as he has been in previous years and without Keisse in the race there is added pressure on his partner Kenny De Ketele to win as the local favourite.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - Despite his elimination race struggles, Wim Stroetinga once again proved to be the fastest in the flying lap as he stormed around the tight curves of the 166 metre track at over 69 kmph to clock the fastest time here in nearly 10 years of 8.670 seconds (69.2014 kmph). Beaten into second were De Ketele - Bartko who clocked an impressive time themselves of 8.870 (67.641 kmph).

1st Madison (45 minutes): - The first chase tonight restored the status quo to this year's Z6s Daagse as Bartko - De Ketele won by a lap and with it took a bonus lap for reaching 200 points. The emergence of Grasmann - Marvulli appears to have been short lived, as they ended the race again 2 laps down. Once again it looks like Stroetinga - Schep are the only other team that can conceivably win this race.
(Photo by Karl Franke)

Without out Iljo Keisse there is a lack of 'panache' amongst the riders, as the crowd like to see racing with style and a bit of showmanship. The need for some excitement in this race has, I think, been countered by the need to keep the race close going into the weekend, but in this 45 minute chase, De Ketele seemed to decide enough was enough by attacking late and putting on a good performance for the crowd.

Derny Racing: - The first of the four Derny races was won by Leon Van Bon, behind the man who doesn't need prompting to put on a show for the fans, Joop Ziljaard!!! The second race was another crowd pleaser, giving Tosh Van der Sande, in his second Ghent Six, the win behind former track sprinter and Six Day rider, Michel Vaarten.

Approaching 1:00am local time, De Ketele and Peter Schep brought the crowd to there feet in a ding dong last few laps before De Ketele went across the line first, sending his fan club home happy. The younger Ziljaard (Ron) paced Claudio Imhof to yet another win for the 21 year old Swiss.

Individual Elimination Race (1): - After struggling through the Madison races all week, Marcel Barth won the first individual elimination race for his team. He and Robert Bengsch can thank the fact that the Czech team are struggling more than them, thus keeping them from propping up the standings. The more experienced of the two Czechs Martin Blaha has been neutralised due to illness or injury.

500 Metre TT: - Like the flying lap, the 500 Metre TT has been won by Schep - Stroetinga every night and tonight was no exception... they even went faster in a time of 27.840 (64,655 kmph). Repeating last nights result in second were Imhof - Dillier with 28.220 (63,785 kmph) from Bartko - De Ketele, 28.250 (63,717 kmph).

2nd Madison (30 minutes): - The second chase again saw most of the teams remain within a lap, although to be fair, Bartko - De Ketele did try twice to break away in the last 5 to 10 minutes, but each time Stroetinga - Schep chased and brought them back into the stretched out bunch. In between those attacks, Hester - Kneisky and Mertens - Stam did manage to gain a lap and 39 year old Danny Stam, in his last Ghent Six, set it up for Mertens to finish off easily from Hester. The Dane with young Frenchman Kneisky continue to show well, and after the chase, sat in 3rd place overall.

Individual Elimination Race (2):
On Monday, Tosh Van Der Sande will be just 21 years old and the former World Junior Points Race Champion won another bouquet in this elimination race. He has the boyish looks and riding style to become a darling of Het Kuipke in years to come, but as ever in modern cycling, road team success and commitment will dictate whether he has a future in this historic and specialised form of racing.

After a slight blip on Thursday night, it is once again set up for Kenny De Ketele to gain his first Ghent Six win. His partner Robert Bartko is looking for his third victory in Het Kuipke, and realistically, it'll take something special or unexpected to stop them.
(Photo by Karl Franke)



Standings after 4 Nights (@ 01.20):

1. Bartko - De Ketele 232 points
@ 1 Lap:
2. Stroetinga - Schep 238
3. Kneisky - Hester 230
4. Mertens - Stam 169
@ 2 Laps:
5. Grasmann - Marvulli 259
6. Lampater - Van Der Sande 197
@ 4 Laps:
7. O'Shea - Roberts 137
@ 5 Laps:
8. Muller - De Neef 82
@ 6 Laps:
9. Dillier - Imhof 186
@ 7 Laps:
10. Van Bon - Aeschbach 108
@ 11 Laps:
11. Edmuller - Morkov 62
@ 12 Laps:
12. Barth - Bengsch 85
@ 17 Laps:
13. Hacecky - Blaha 49

'Memorial Noel Fore' - UIV-Under 23 Race:

The under-23 race saw the British pair Doull and Yates hold onto there the lead. They took a lap lead from the field to win tonight's 200 lap Madison, and that lap is also their lead overall after they failed to pick up any points in the evenings 500 metre time trial. The only potential challengers are Dutchmen, Van Zijl and Caspers, who actually have a better points total, but have work to do to gain back the lap in another dangerous edition of the 'Toekomst Zesdaagse' (futures Six-Day).


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Saturday - 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny

Gent, BE
26th November 2011  01:20a.m.

71st Six-Days of Ghent

The crowds were back in good numbers hoping to see entertaining racing as well as get a winter look at Belgian road star Philippe Gilbert (see below). After a sluggish first three days things picked up a little last night as home favourite Kenny De Ketele and Robert Bartko turned the screw in the chases and took control of this Six Day race.
(Photo by Karl Franke)

Saturday Night

Klassement Sprint (point's race): - After a torrid first four days the Czech rider Hacecky finally had something to celebrate winning the warm up points race. His partner Martin Blaha is still neutralised.

Team Elimination Race: - Franco Marvulli continued his up and down week with an up, beating the much improved Marc Hester to the line. The Swiss and his partner Christian Grasmann are closing in on 300 points and another bonus lap. They have the highest points total in the race, but haven't yet shown they'd be strong enough in the chases to go for the overall win.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - Despite having a cold, Wim Stroetinga kept his 100% record against the clock putting in a time of 8.760 seconds (68.490 kmph). Not quite hitting the heights of last night but for a man with a cold he still put in a shift. Second again, but well worth a mention, where De Ketele - Bartko who clocked another time under 9 seconds, 8.810 (68.102 kmph). This is the first year De Ketele has posted such fast times, not sure if it is his improved speed or the imposing size and strength of Robert Bartko building up the speed for him that has made the difference.

1st Madison (45 minutes): - Tonight's first chase contributed to a change in the classification as Lampater - Van Der Sande gained a lap, with Dillier - Imhof going into the late stages. Despite an attack from the Swiss, Van Der Sande was able to come past in the last few metres to grab the victory. The German / Belgian combination moved up the standings to sit alone in second place, a lap clear of 3 other teams.

Derny Races (1 & 2): - The first Derny race went to Steven De Neef in this his farewell Six Day. The second one was a real crowd pleasing winning performance from Kenny De Ketele.

Individual Elimination Race (1): - Once again Marcel Barth won the first individual elimination race. His victim tonight was the Aussie, Glenn O'Shea. Despite having lost 14 laps overall, Barth is at least earning his money with wins elsewhere on the programme.

500 Metre TT: - The Dutchmen, Stroetinga - Schep, kept their unbeaten streak against the clock intact coming around in a blistering 27.660 (65.076 kmph). In second place again over 500 metres were Imhof - Dillier in 28.030 (64.217 kmph) from Bartko - De Ketele, 28.080 (64.103 kmph).

2nd Madison (30 minutes): - The second chase again saw all the now tired teams remain within a lap and it was again unfortunately another low key affair. Near the end of the race there were spirited attempts by Franco Marvulli and Tosh Van Der Sande, respectively, to get away close to the end. Neither succeeded, setting up a sprint that Stroetinga, the undoubted fast man of this race, took from De Ketele and Marvulli.

Derny Races (3 & 4): - With the track centre crowd noticeably thinner, and those still in attendance wilting under the effects of the local brew, the Derny bikes revved up once again. This time they towed Robert Bartko and Andreas Muller, respectively, to the line first for a German double.

Individual Elimination Race (2): - Following on from his team mate Barth, who won the earlier elimination, it was the turn of Robert Bengsch to put the hard week behind him and smile for the camera and take the prize.

Supersprint: - Closing out proceedings was the 'supersprint', and winning this one with a super sprint to finish the night at 01:30a.m., was Franco Marvulli.

Rider View

Wim Stroetinga (in 2nd place with Peter Schep) has had a good Six and has shown to be stronger than in previous years. I asked him how he is feeling and about his improved strength and his plans for the rest of the winter:

"I'm coming down with a bit of a cold... it's this building I'm sure!!! In places it is really hot, then in other parts, like the cabins, we are getting a draft and that isn't helping. I'm hoping I can get through Sunday ok, but I know I'm going to be ill from Monday onwards.

I had 2 years on the road with Milram (2009 & 2010) and that really helped with my endurance, so you can see that is now better. I'm having trouble in the elimination races, they just are not my thing. That is a problem though, as I'm supposed to be riding the World Cup omniums early next year after the Rotterdam Six. I had hoped to ride in Bremen but didn't get the call!!!"

Despite the cold he stayed in contention, although losing a lap in the first chase possibly signalled the end of their chances to win overall tomorrow.

Standings after 5 Nights:

1. Bartko - De Ketele 292 points
2. Lampater - Van Der Sande 241
@ 1 Lap:
3. Grasmann - Marvulli 330
4. Stroetinga - Schep 297
5. Kneisky - Hester 278
6. Mertens - Stam 192
@ 4 Laps:
7. Dillier - Imhof 252
@ 6 Laps:
8. O'Shea - Roberts 166
9. Muller - De Neef 102
@ 8 Laps:
10. Van Bon - Aeschbach 128
@ 14 Laps:
11. Barth - Bengsch 121
@ 15 Laps:
12. Edmuller - Morkov 85
@ 22 Laps:
13. Hacecky - Blaha 67

Philippe Gilbert in the House

Despite Mark Cavendish winning the World Road Race and Cadel Evans taking the Tour de France the undoubted 'Man of the Year' on the road was Philippe Gilbert. The 29 year old from the French speaking Ardennes region of Belgium took a unique treble in his native region of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Fleche Wallonne and the Amstel Gold Race. He held his spring form into the Tour and took a stage and the yellow jersey for a day. On top of that he was national road and time trial champion and won around 18 races in 8 different countries including Quebec, Canada.

(Photo by Karl Franke)

Despite this being Flanders, he is popular across Belgium, as his easy going personality has won him friends and fans, at home and abroad. So tonight he was the star attraction at Het Kuipke, being presented to the crowd, signing copies of his book and taking the plunge by riding a 'friendly' pursuit on the track with fellow road pro Jurgen Roelandts. The winner of the pursuit was of course Gilbert, but it was all about the appearance rather than the performance and within minutes he was whisked away from the crowd by two minders.

'Memorial Noel Fore' - UIV-Under 23 Race:

Tonight the under-23 race saw the young Brits Doull and Yates hold onto the overall lead. It was not an easy ride though as a couple more teams came back to within one lap of them going into Sundays 45 minute 'finale'. They'll need to stay calm and attentive in what will no doubt be a dangerous last race.


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Sunday - 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny

Gent, BE
27th November 2011

71st Six-Days of Ghent

Prior to the start Patrick Sercu - the sports director - and Rob Discart - the event organiser - held the customary press conference to give their overview of the proceedings.

Patrick Sercu said the main reason was obvious, the absence of Iljo Keisse determined the atmosphere and turnout for this years Six. He is the undisputed crowd favourite here but also a rider who can put on a show. The rider field is not as strong as it has been, but the fact that there has been no Six Days for a month doesn't help those that are here either. He was happy with the efforts of Kenny De Ketele, who has shown improvement in the sprints, to add some spectacle without Keisse. He also commended Tosh Van Der Sander who has done well, albeit in a weaker field, and to the Swiss pairing Dillier-Imhof.

It was also noted that in this pre-Olympic year there was the unavailability of other top track riders such as Michael Morkov, Elia Viviani and Roger Kluge, and that the UCI track programme does not co-exist well with the Six Day season. He reiterated that that getting big name road riders to race here is not the answer, as they are not in top condition at this time of year and want more money than the organisation is prepared to pay.

The riders head into the final session on their race to nowhere with the podium places still up for grabs, but there is a general feeling of disappointment about this years racing.

Sunday Afternoon

Klassement Sprint (point's race): - This was yet another win for the relative surprise package of Morgan Kneisky and Marc Hester, giving their sponsors good value throughout this race.

Team Elimination Race: - Franco Marvulli showed again that he is a force in the elimination races, easily out-sprinting Tim Mertens in the last 166 metres. He'll head home for what is now a 4 day race in Zurich, full of confidence, especially as his partner will be Iljo Keisse who'll be chomping at the bit to get back into action after missing this event.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - The king against the clock is undoubtably Wim Stroetinga who again left the opposition trailing in his wake with 8.730 seconds (68.726 kmph). Another good showing from the Swiss riders Dillier-Imhof gave them the same time as Bartko - Ketele, 8.910 (67.337 kmph), to finish 2nd.

Derny Races: - The first of two Sunday afternoon Derny races saw home winners in Kenny De Ketele followed by the youngest rider in the race, Tosh Van Der Sande.

The last motor paced event of this Six took the grand title of 'Derny Finale', where Van Der Sande and De Ketele returned to the track along with a member of each of the other top six teams in the standings. Unsurprisingly it was De Ketele who won this one for the fans.

Individual Elimination Race: - One of the two Australians in this race is Glenn O'Shea, a native of Victoria, who had some early Sunday joy winning the only elimination race on today's programme.

500 Metre TT: - The Dutch team of Stroetinga - Schep made it 12 out of 12 in the Time Trials with another impressive performance in 27.790 (64.771 kmph). In second place once Dillier - Imhof with 28.160 (63.920 kmph) from Bartko - De Ketele, 28.210 (63.807 kmph).

Scratch Race: - The last race before the 'finale' was an honourary victory for the retiring Belgian Steven De Neef, who took one last bouquet before hanging up his wheels at the age of 40.

Finale - 60 minute Madison: - Once Kenny De Ketele and Robert Bartko took control of this race by getting a lap clear of the challengers on Friday night, the result of the 71st Ghent Six hasn't really been in doubt. As this is a spectacle though they did put the hammer down one last time in the last few laps and bask in a standing ovation.

After working hard all week Stroetinga - Schep nearly lost 2nd place as Kneisky and Hester made an effort to get away, but the aforementioned charge from De Ketele - Bartko put paid to that. So the Dutch hung on for 2nd with the spirited performance of Kneisky - Hester seeing them hold off the rest for final place on the podium.

Although on paper it seemed easy, De Ketele was under pressure to bring home the bacon and held his nerve and form to take a cherished first win on home soil.

The Riders View:

Marc Hester (3rd with Morgan Kneisky) - I asked about his improvement and ride here:

"It's natural that as you get older you get stronger. Also in the Madison you need to guys who can work together and are equally strong so I have had that here and yes it's a good result."

Claudio Imhof - He and partner Silvan Dillier were the revelations:

"On the first day we really struggled, but after that we just got better and better... I'm really happy. Like all riders I have ambition to do well on the road, but I think its possible to ride both the road and track so I aim to be back here next year to do even better!!!"

Alexander Aeschbach - I asked him about what appeared to be a poor showing by his normal standards:

"I had two bad crashes in the summer, one of them was bad for my knee, the other my rib cage and so I've come into this race without the form and condition I've perhaps had in the past. Then on the first day my saddle broke, and you can imagine I had some pain there. But as well as that, it is also a mental thing and motivation has been tough as I wasn't so happy with the partner they gave me for the Zurich race, a young guy in his first ever Six, so all in all not a great week for me!!!"

Andreas Muller - gave his thoughts on a less than exciting Six Day:

"This year the speed has been about 1/2 km/h slower and believe it does make a difference. Ok... Keisse is not here and he is after all 'De Kaiser' (the king) in Ghent, but I also think the teams are not as strong. They (the teams) might be more even but there are not as many strong riders here. But other than that I can't explain it, even the crowd seem less interested, although they have still come in large numbers. I still like it here and for me the track is great."

Final Standings:

1. Bartko - De Ketele 346 points
@ 1 Lap:
2. Stroetinga - Schep 352
3. Kneisky - Hester 339
4. Lampater - Van Der Sande 280
@ 2 Laps:
5. Grasmann - Marvulli 372
6. Mertens - Stam 228
@ 5 Laps:
7. Dillier - Imhof 288
@ 8 Laps:
8. O'Shea - Roberts 188
9. Muller - De Neef 119
@ 10 Laps:
10. Van Bon - Aeschbach 156
@ 19 Laps:
11. Barth - Bengsch 130
12. Edmuller - Morkov 110
@ 23 Laps:
13. Hacecky - Blaha 75

'Memorial Noel Fore' - UIV-Under 23 Race:

The final 45 minute Madison Simon Yates and Owain Doull improved their winning margin to two laps, confirming that they've been the best team here all week. Their main competition have been Dutchmen Van Zijl and Caspers, but they did not ride today, and a challenge from the French team never materialised.

The disappointing thing is that despite Britain sending good youngsters here every year, in the long term they have no interest in Six Day racing at all. The national track programme does not even enter a team in the Madison at World Cups or World Championships since it's no longer an Olympic event. It's impressive to see the production line, but the intention of the UIV-Cup is / was to blood riders for the elite Sixes, not serve as part of national training programmes.

Recent winners of the 'Ghent Toekomstezesdaagse' Dillier, Imhof and Tosh Van Der Sande are all showing well in the elite race and they are what this should be about, the future of the Sixes!!!

Final Standings:

1. Yates - Doull (GBr)
@ 2 laps:
2. Boudat - Pijoulet (Fra)
3. Harmsen - Bond (Ned)
@ 3 laps:
4. Van Zijl - Caspers (Ned)
5. Cornet - Breyne (Bel)
@ 4 laps:
6. Stahr (Ger) - Van Immerseel (Bel)
7. Bigum - Helleskov Busk (Den)
@ 7 laps:
8. Hugentobler - Suter (Swi)
@ 8 laps:
9. Hesslich - Barkschat (Ger)
@ 13 laps:
10. Venneman - Lava (Bel)
@ 14 laps:
11. Furst - Vendolsky (Czech)
@ 29 laps:
12. Coppernolle - Merlier (Bel)

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