Introduction to the 72nd Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Gent - The 2012 Edition

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Watford, UK
18 November 2012

Once again the wheels will whirr, the crowds will flock and the beer will flow at the 72nd Six-days of Flanders, Ghent (Zes-Daages Van Vlaanderen, Gent) starting in the legendary Het Kuipke on Tuesday.

With the big German sixes in Dortmund and Munich consigned to the history books 'Ghent's Classic' status is now undisputed and is the main event of the pre-Christmas European track calendar. An estimated 36,000 plus fans will create the atmosphere from the seated stands, and in something unique to Ghent, the standing room only track centre. On the old 166 metre boards the 26 cyclists will embark on their race to nowhere. That journey is never easy, as the programme is loaded with racing that by the weekend lasts for 6 hours each night.

The start list which Sports Director Patrick Sercu announced last week, does like last year, lack big names. However, the return of local hero Iljo Keisse to that list should be enough to keep the knowledgeable local fans happy. This is Flanders after all and a bike race is still a bike race, but this Six like any other needs a star attraction. Being born and bred in Ghent, Keisse is undoubtedly that. So despite a below par event, by the usual high standards last year, I will be heading out to Ghent for the 17th consecutive year hoping to see fast and furious racing.

Here is a look at the starting field:

The Favourites

The aforementioned Iljo Keisse starts as the favourite, although his 2012 partner Glenn O'Shea, is not exactly a Six-day veteran and has no victories in his palmares. That said, Australians have a long history of success in Ghent and his pursuit strength and Keisses' speed on his home track seem like a good match. After 130 days of racing this year, Keisse said he isn't sure how well he'll be going, but is aiming for his 6th win in Het Kuipke. If they gel, stopping them may be tough, as long as the rest of the field doesn't throw up an obvious winning pair.

Other Podium Contenders

Kenny De Ketele fulfilled his dream and conquered the Kuipke in his 7th start last November alongside Robert Bartko. The affable 27 year old from Oudenaarde has had a great year. He and partner Gijs Van Hoecke became the first Belgian World Madison Champions since six-day legends Etienne De Wilde & Matt Gilmore in 1998. They will race Ghent in the rainbow stripes and will in fact be the first Belgian team to ever wear the rainbow stripes as Madison Champs in Het Kuipke. Following a serious crash, Gilmore was unable to race with De Wilde in the 1998 edition. They are being touted as being among the favourites based on De Keteles pedigree in Het Kuipke, but Van Hoecke is an unknown quantity in Six-day racing. The rainbow stripes are no guarantee of six-day success, as the Worlds are won in one full on hour, not six tactically hard nights/days. That said, the jerseys alone should provide the extra motivation to get them close to the podium

Keisse described the big German, Robert Bartko, at the press conference as 'strong like a V8 engine'. The native of Potsdam has three career wins in Ghent to his name, and despite being a big man he copes very well on the short straights and tight bends. His partner Silvan Dillier from Switzerland, at 22, is only in his second year racing with seniors, but has track speed. So, with the experience of Bartko, not to mention that V8 engine, they remain close come Sunday afternoon.

The runners up last year were Dutchman Peter Schep, who was a winner in 2010, and Wim Stroetinga. On paper they are a classic Six-day pairing of endurance man, (Schep) and sprinter (Stroetinga), so they will rack up points and post fast times in the time trials (TTs) on the 166 metre track. Stroetinga does have a self professed dislike of the important elimination races, so he will need to do better in the chase for points. Last year he was sick during the race but maintained his speed, if not his stamina, for the first time at this level showing he can now last in the up and down, none stop nature of a Six-day race. With his extra strength and maturity alongside Scheps engine and track experience, this team may well be the leading challengers to Keisse and O'Shea.

Young Belgian hope Tosh Van Der Sande, once again teams with the experienced and classy Leif Lampater. This pairing came in 4th, just a lap behind the winners last year. Another year older and stronger after a season on the road with the Lotto team, Van Der Sande and perennial contender Lampater, are poised to make a run at the top step of the podium this time out.

The Rest of the field

Looking at the rest of the teams in number order below, gives a pointer (although only based on my knowledge), as to who may do what over the course of the week.

The Frenchman Morgan Kneisky took a fine 3rd place last year, with Marc Hester, showing himself as a very good Madison rider. This year he teams with countryman Vivien Brisse, someone I know little about. The best French team on paper would probably have been Kneisky and Bryan Coquard, but the latter is not here. It could be a tough week for the French.

As mentioned, Marc Hester was 3rd last year and had his first ever Six-day win at home in Copenhagen to finish his best ever season in February. The word was, the 27 year old Hester has matured and become a lot more serious about his racing after just being part of the peleton for a number of seasons. Challenging won't be on the agenda this year though, as he teams with fellow Dane Lasse Norman Hansen, the winner of the Omnium gold medal at the London Olympics. At 20, despite the gold medal, he is very much untried at this level of Six-day racing and how he'll perform is difficult to predict. With the foundations for Omnium gold being laid against the clock in those Olympics, perhaps doing well in the crowd pleasing TT's will be the goal?

This is one of a few Sixes that Franco Marvulli never won during his magical couple of seasons racing with Bruno Risi, something I'm sure he'd love to put right. It's unlikely that it'll be this year though, as he sets out on his first season racing with Swiss hope Tristan Marguet, especially as he (Marvulli) was ill earlier in the season, having to abandon in Amsterdam. With Zurich only a week away there lies another reason he is never been able to leave it all on the track in Ghent. But, although no longer the young gun at 34, Franco is still a talent, and if he and Marguet can gel well over the winter it maybe that he can play the veteran of the partnership and challenge for that elusive 'classic' win next year.

Munich native Christian Grasmann gets a second successive start in Ghent having been previously overlooked since 2006. With the pool of strong Six-day riders being thin, he's proved he can hold his place in the bunch for six 'full on' days. He'll partner South African novice Nolan Hoffman, who is making a run at being the first black rider to break into the Sixes since Brit, Maurice Burton in the late 1970's. He is another rider I know little about, apart from the fact he won a scratch race silver medal at the 2012 World Championships. He finished a whopping 23 laps back in Amsterdam, despite having a good partner. (Marc Hester) That said, the field is thin, so it may not be as bad for him, lap loss wise, as it might have been 5 to 10 years ago.

The Belgians

There are 10 Belgian riders on this years start list, something that reflects the trend amongst Six-day organisers for filling up the fields with local, and cheap riders. Of those 10, only Keisse, De Ketele, Van Hoecke and Van Der Sande have any chance of finishing near the top of the tree on Sunday. The rest face a hard six days.

Team 10 are Jasper De Buyst and Tim Mertens, the latter having raced here with reasonable success over the last 5 years or so.This year Mertens is cast into the role of looking after a young debutant. That rookie being De Buyst, another rider I know little about. There is not even a amateur placing to comment on.

Next up are Jonathan Breyne and Steve Schets. The debutant of this pair, Breyne, did ride the amateur Six last year, but wasn't even close to a win then. His partner, Schets made his Ghent debut back in 2005 when he and Kenny De Ketele were themselves the young hopefuls. Their careers have taken differing paths, as De Ketele has gone from strength to strength, Schets didn't even start last year, a reflection of some torrid times in Het Kuipke. In 2007 he suffered humilation losing over 80 laps with Ingmaar De Poortere. That performance meant neither man got a start in 2008. He returned in 2009 to lose 48 laps and despite a Worlds bronze in 2010, his last Ghent Six was another disaster finishing in last place with a 44 lap deficit. He did have back problems in the past, so if those are resolved he'll want to prove that the real Steve Schets was the promising rider seen in 2005 and 2006. However, with a novice partner it could be another long and painful five nights for Schets before Sunday afternoons finish.

Like Steve Schets, Nicky Coquyt had a tough few starts between 2007-2009 and with no improvement made, he seemed to have disappeared off the radar. But in these times of austerity he makes a return looking after another Belgian rookie, Moreno De Pauw, headed for a baptism of fire.

Unlucky 13?

Team number 13 is an all German affair, featuring rookie Max Stahr and Berlin born (Austrian national team rider) Andreas Muller. The young Stahr had some decent results in the UIV Cup last winter but this is a different proposition. The likeable Muller takes the role of taxi driver. His morale is always high and it'll need to be as they'll no doubt be losing laps night after night. The motivation will be to avoid the wooden spoon. He'll celebrate his 33rd birthday on Sunday and if 'Mulli' is in good condition they'll aim to finish ahead of a couple of the Belgian teams, avoiding not only being Team 13, but finishing 13th in the standings!!!

Full start list:

1 Kenny de Ketele - Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel)
2 Peter Schep - Wim Stroetinga (Ned)
3 Morgan Kneisky - Vivien Brisse (Fra)
4 Tosh van der Sande (Bel) - Leif Lampater (Ger)
5 Lasse Norman Hansen - Marc Hester (Den)
6 Iljo Keisse (Bel) - Glenn O'Shea (Aus)
7 Franco Marvulli - Tristan Marguet (Swi)
8 Christian Grasmann (Ger) - Nolan Hoffman (RSA)
9 Robert Bartko (Ger) - Silvan Dillier (Swi)
10 Jasper De Buyst - Tim Mertens (Bel)
11 Jonathan Breyne - Steve Schets (Bel)
12 Nicky Coquyt - Moreno De Pauw (Bel)
13 Max Stahr (Ger) - Andreas Muller (Aut)

The Six-day season so far:

The only two races so far saw the following results:
Amsterdam: Winners - Morkov (Den) / Lighart (Ned)
Grenoble (4 Day): Winners - Keisse (Bel) / Keisse (Bel)


Thursday Report

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Gent, BEL
22 November 2012

Thursday Night

The crowds filed into Het Kuipke in the thousands to meet friends, drink a beer or two and watch the 72nd Ghent Six as it approached the all important weekend.
Before the racing started it was announced that Wim Stroetinga was out of the race - for now - with a stomach problem. This would explain why he and partner Peter Schep had not been scoring many points over the first two nights.

Team Elimination:

The programme started with the Team Elimination (or Devil as old school English speakers call it). The 20 points on offer went to Iljo Keiise / Glenn O'Shea, the local hero (Keisse) out sprinting Gijs Van Hoecke. The World Madison Champions, Van Hoecke and Kenny De Ketele, have made a good start and are going toe to toe with Keisse / O'Shea in what appears to be a two horse race this year.

Points Race:

After taking 2nd in the first race, the Belgian World Madison Champions Van Hoecke / De Ketele got back to winning ways in the points race.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT):

Wednesday saw Tristan Marguet break the track record posting a stunning 8.57 seconds. Tonight normality was restored when Iljo Keisse won in 8.74, although not a time to be scoffed at. The Swiss had Franco Marvulli on the last lap and the time, 8.80, shows he is going well but it wasn't enough to beat Keisse. Meanwhile it was interesting to see that each night 7 of the 13 teams has gone under 9 seconds. Not something I recall happening before, and if Stroetinga was healthy you could almost certainly make that 8 teams.

1st Madison (45 minutes):

The first Madison wasn't the most exciting you'll see, but was as ever, fast and furious. Four teams went a lap clear of the field with Keisse / O'Shea taking it from Dillier / Bartko and Van Hoecke / De Ketele. The Kaiser of Het Kuipke, Iljo Keisse, won the sprint with a trade mark bunny hop across the finish line.

He and a strong Glenn O'Shea really look like they are the clear favourites to be the Champions in 2012.

Derny Races:

Every night there are a series of 4 Derny races on the programme. They are traditionally crowd pleasing affairs and don't affect the standings too much. That said, they are still a feat, as the riders hold onto their pace maker at around 50-60 kmph. The wins tonight went too Jaspar De Buyste - acquitting himself best of the young Belgians, Kenny De Ketele, Gijs Van Hoecke and last but not least Tim Mertens - making it a Belgian sweep.

The story this week though, is the last appearance of the legendary showman Derny pacer, Joop Zijlaard. Described in the programme as a 'monument', the Rotterdam native has been pace making since 1970. He bids farewell to Ghent where he is best remembered (by me anyway) for his antics pacing the local legend Etienne De Wilde, to win after crowd pleasing win, in this very building. His final appearance will be, fittingly, in January's Rotterdam Six, when the family Derny baton passes onto his son Ron, who himself is now a pace maker.

Individual Elimination Race 1:

The big boys took their foot off the gas here and allowed some of the other riders a piece of the limelight, this one going to Andreas Muller. He will have enjoyed a morale boosting win as his partner Max Stahr is having a baptism of fire in his first ever pro Six.

500 Metre TT:

The reason Tristan Marguet let Franco race the flying lap became apparent when he broke the 500 metre track record with 27.03 (66.59 kmph). Together they broke a record held for 10 years by Marty Nothstein and Jimmi Madsen. The 25 year old Marguet now holds both the Six-day Time Trial records on this track. Can he better them before the finish on Sunday? Watch this space.

2nd Madison (30 minutes):

This chase was one were the leading teams Keisse / O'Shea and Van Hoecke / De Ketele let 5 teams take a lap and scrap for the bouquet. The 3 time Ghent Six winner, Robert Bartko, won the sprint for his partner Silvan Dillier. During the victory lap, Bartko seemed to be giving Dillier, 15 years his junior, a bit of advice, no doubt wise words from a double Olympic and 4 time World Champion... not too mention 19 Six-day race victories.

Individual Elimination Race 2:

This was a race the leaders once again left to the riders from the middle to bottom end of the standings. The winner on this occasion was Steve Schets, who unfortunately has followed up my preview notes by again propping up the standings on his return, a huge 25 laps in arrears.

Super Sprint:

Rounding off the programme were sprints. Looking for a rest, the big boys again sat up during the eliminations and left for an early shower, if 01:40am is early? The winner was Team 11 Schets / Breyne giving them a 2nd bit of cheer in the last few races, after an otherwise miserable few nights.

Summary after 3 Days:

At the end of the night, as expected, the two favourites topped the standings and will fight it out all the way to the finish. The half-term report looks favourably on Hansen / Hester going well in 3rd and Bartko / Dillier will also be pleased, but neither team has built up enough points and would need to gain laps to be victorious. Marvulli / Marguet have broken 2 track records and are getting into form for Zurich, no surprise there. Schep / Stroetinga are not a factor due to illness, a disappointment as they would have been seen as the main challengers.

The organization would probably award B grades to De Buyst / Mertens and Kneisky / Brisse, who are holding there own, albeit 4 laps down. The team earning below average marks are, notably, Van der Sande / Lampater who are 9 laps down after starting the week looking for a podium finish; perhaps one is ill. More news tomorrow.

The rest are teams made up of some experience and novices, so their results so far not altogether unexpected, although losing 8 laps a night is pretty poor.

Standings after 3 Days:

1. Keisse (Bel) - O'Shea (Aus) 232 points
2. De Ketele - Van Hoecke (Bel) 226
3. Hansen - Hester (Den) 154
4. Bartko (Ger) - Dillier (Swi) 124
At 3 Lap:
5. Marvulli - Marguet (Swi) 167
6. Kneisky - Brisse (Fra) 102
7. Schep - Stroetinga (Ned) 84
At 4 Laps
8. De Buyst - Mertens (Bel) 130
At 9 Laps:
9. Van der Sande (Bel) - Lampater (Ger) 72
At 13 Laps:
10. Grasmann (Ger) - Hoffman (RSA) 47
At 14 Laps:
11. Coquyt - De Pauw (Bel) 50
At 20 Laps:
12. Stahr (Ger) - Muller (Aut) 38
At 25 Laps:
13. Breyne - Schets (Bel) 68

Around Het Kuipke:

The track centre was bulging at the seams with the first sell out crowd of the week. Thursday night seems to be the busiest in the track centre, going back about 10 years. I'm not sure they are all cycling fans, like they are on a Friday for example, but they certainly spent money on beer and make themselves heard. Being from the Liverpool area, it was touching to once again hear them sing our local football anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' word for word in the early hours of Friday morning.

World Madison Champion Kenny De Ketele is sporting a very 1970s looking moustache. Kenny is perhaps paying homage to Urs Freuler or even Danny Clark, although he has a way to go to match the Tasmanian devils soup strainer!!! . Joking aside it would appear that as in the UK, people are getting sponsored to grow a moustache for charity, 'Movember' we all seem to call it.

The Sport Directors of the Berlin (Dieter Stein) and Bremen (Erik Weispfennig) Sixes where in attendance tonight, no doubt running the rule over riders for their own events. Its interesting too, as the German Six-days being part racing, part show are very different events, but have had trouble with ticket sales in the last few years. This is a trend in Germany that saw the Stuttgart, Dortmund and Munich Sixes lost to the calendar over the last 4-5 years. With no pomp or show, Ghent is able to stay successful based on the racing alone, but then again this is Belgium, home of bike racing.

The most unusual sight of the night, and of my 17 years coming here, was of two streakers running around the track in between a race. With no security on hand, it's not an event that normally requires bouncer type security, they had a free reign to cheers from boozed up track centre revellers, but looks of disgust from the organizers, last seen with mobile phones in hand calling that elusive security maybe?

A special mention is reserved for a guy I met tonight - Ray Rogers from Novato, California (40 miles north of San Francisco). Ray has travelled here for the 4th time, a 16 hour journey. It's good to see that despite little or no mainstream cycling media coverage, people who know about the sport and its history, know and still come to the Ghent Six. This is a 'classic' event in its own right and one that started 90 years ago in 1922, no less.

Meeting a North American enthusiast brought back memories of my late reporting mentor, Arnold Devlin. We miss him and his zeal and knowledge of all things Six-Day and cycle racing.


Friday Report

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Gent, BEL
23 November 2012

Friday Night

Here in Ghent, Friday night has always been the big night of the Six. Its not just about the beer, it's about the cycling, and fans of all ages bring the wife or girlfriend to what is for all concerned, a big night out. A number of the revellers are ex-riders, many of whom no doubt spend the night reminiscing on their time pedalling around the hollowed boards of Het Kuipke.

Team Elimination:

The programme again started with the Team Elimination (or Devil). For as long as I can remember since coming here, this is a race the leaders always go for. Tonight the 20 points were snapped up by the improving Silvan Dillier (with Robert Bartko), in a 2 up sprint with Iljo Keisse. The Swiss / German pairing are starting to make a run at the podium. In 3rd were De Ketele / Van Hoecke. Wim Stroetinga came back into the race recovering from stomach problems, but his self confessed dislike of the Elimination race meant this one offered no pointers to his condition.

Points Race:

After taking 2nd in the first race, Keisse and Glenn O'Shea got back to their winning ways, taking the team point's race.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT):

On Wednesday Tristan Marguet broke the track record posting 8.57 seconds. Tonight he again flew around the track at 70kmph and lowered the record further with a new time of 8.56 (70.09kmph). Suffice to say, he and Franco Marvulli deservedly milked the applause. It was also good to see the ear to ear grin return to the face of Marvulli, something that's been missing for a few years here. The fast rising Dillier / Bartko took 2nd in 8.76.

1st Madison (45 minutes):

The first chase was nip and tuck all the way, before Dillier and Bartko snuck away with 2 laps remaining to win it. Despite taking 2nd, O'Shea looked like he lost a bit of power towards the end, unless he was just holding something back. At this stage of the night, O'Shea / Keisse appeared to be gaining the edge points wise on Van Hoecke / De Ketele, but that changed again as the night progressed.

This was a good return to the chases for Schep / Stroetinga who didn't lose any laps. Also continuing to show well were Hester / Hansen and Mertens / De Buyst. At the other end of the scale, South African Tristan Hoffman looks tired, and the bottom 3 teams in the standings took another pasting, finishing between 5 and 7 laps behind in a 45 minute race.

Derny Races:

As reported last night, the story this week is of the last Ghent appearance for veteran pacer, Joop Zijlaard. Tonight the 4 Derny races on the programme went too Leif Lampater, Gijs Van Hoecke, Iljo Keisse (in a real crowd pleaser) behind the aforementioned Ziljaard and Peter Schep.

Individual Elimination Race 1:

After losing 7 laps in the Madison, Nicky Cocquyt finally found some cheer taking this one from Morgan Kneisky.

500 Metre TT:

No record in this one tonight, but another win for Marguet and Marvulli in a time of 27.220 from Dillier / Bartko (27.640). The Swiss will head home for the 'Zurich Six-day Nights' as it's now called (it's a 4 day race, sadly no longer a Six), with good form and morale.

2nd Madison (30 minutes):

The 2nd chase saw the rivalry between Keisse / O'Shea and De Ketele / Van Hoecke intensify. After they gained a lap on the field, it appeared Keisse wasn't happy at being out sprinted by De Ketele, but gained enough points for a bonus lap passing 300 for the week so far.

Individual Elimination Race 2:

A couple of the leading teams went in search of points in this one, Van Hoecke beating Dillier in the sprint where both teams gained points for a bonus lap - De Ketele / Van Hoecke passing 300 and Dillier / Bartko surpassing 200.

Scratch Race:

This one was just a straight A-B Scratch race won by Morgan Kneisky. The main excitement being the riders getting the crowd involved as they revved up for the sprint to the sound of 'The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)'.

Super Sprint:

Rounding off the programme, the big boys again opted for an early shower during the 6 eliminations, leaving the rest to it, the winners being the French team of Kneisky / Brisse taking 2 in a row.

Standings after 4 Days:

1. Keisse (Bel) - O'Shea (Aus) 308 points
2. De Ketele - Van Hoecke (Bel) 305
At 1 Lap:
3. Bartko (Ger) - Dillier (Swi) 205
At 2 Laps:
4. Hansen - Hester (Den) 179
At 4 Laps:
5. Schep - Stroetinga (Ned) 109
At 5 Laps:
6. Marvulli - Marguet (Swi) 202
At 6 Laps:
7. De Buyst - Mertens (Bel) 180
At 7 Laps
8. Kneisky - Brisse (Fra) 148
At 12 Laps:
9. Van der Sande (Bel) - Lampater (Ger) 108
At 21 Laps:
10. Grasmann (Ger) - Hoffman (RSA) 67
At 26 Laps:
11. Coquyt - De Pauw (Bel) 92
At 28 Laps:
12. Stahr (Ger) - Muller (Aut) 50
At 34 Laps:
13. Breyne - Schets (Bel) 87

Around Het Kuipke:

Amongst the sell out Friday crowd was the Kenny De Ketele 'supporters club'. About 150 people wearing rainbow banded cycling caps, resplendent with an image of a steaming kettle (De Ketele translates as 'the kettle'), cheered on their man, and his 'Movember' moustache, from the back straight. The supporter's clubs having long been a feature of Belgian cycling, no matter how well known the rider is. The club may just consist of family, friends and neighbours, but no matter how big or small, it must be nice to have a group people cheering just for you.

Keeping a low profile (in the house tonight) was Freddy Maertens, the two time World Road Champion. During his often controversial career he also won 3 Green jerseys and 16 stages at the Tour De France. His greatest period of success was whilst wearing the rainbow jersey in 1977, when he won the Vuelta (overall) and 13 stages. The Vuelta was run in late April / May (pre 1995) and he went from Spain to the Giro to win 7 stages before he sustained a broken wrist, following a crash, and had to abandon.

A familiar face in Het Kuipke is Etienne De Wilde, known as the 'blond arrow', winning here 9 times between 1983 and 1997. He was 'the guy' locals came out to cheer on, until he finished his Ghent Six career with a 3rd place in 2001, at the age of 43.

Tonight the Sport Directors from the Copenhagen Six, Jimmi Madsen and Michael Sandstod were in attendance. The quiet Dane won here with Scott McGrory in 1999 and was 6 times on the podium despite never really having a regular partner after Jens Veggerby retired in 1998. Last night, Madsen and Marty Nothsteins track record for the 500 metre TT was broken.


Saturday Report

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Gent, BEL
24 November 2012

Saturday Night

There are tired legs in the bunch, but on a wet and windy Saturday night in Ghent all roads again led to Het Kuipke for another sell out beer and bike racing fest.

Points Race:

A team point's race opened the programme tonight, the winners being Tosh Van Der Sande and Leif Lampater who have had a disappointing Six after finishing 4th last year, just 1 lap down.

Team Elimination:

The race for the 20 points was on again here as the top 4 teams battled it out. They finished in the current GC order with Keisse / O'Shea beating Van Hoecke / De Ketele with Dillier / Bartko 3rd.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT):

No track record today, but another great time from Tristan Marguet after he was paced up to speed by Franco 'marvelous' Marvulli to post 8.63 seconds. Once again 7 teams went under 9 seconds with Keisse / O'Shea, 2nd in 8.70, a winning team most years here. The speeds in the flying lap have been this year's highlight.

1st Madison (40 minutes):

The chase was as ever on in the night's long Madison and the result was familiar, Keisse / O'Shea battling it out with Van Hoecke / De Ketele, the Belgian / Australian combination winning out in the sprint. The final chase, tomorrow, will show which pair have enough left in the tank to win this Six.

Derny Races:

Tonight there were 3 races on the programme, the high speed crowd pleasers tonight being Kenny De Ketele (twice) and Iljo Keisse - the top guys raced twice in an unusual change from the norm.

Individual Elimination Race 1:

The top boys left this one to the mid-low ranking team riders, the win going to Tosh Van Der Sande from Steve Schets.

500 Metre TT:

Yet another win for the fastest man in the building... Tristan Marguet and his partner Franco Marvulli. The time tonight was 27.280 seconds.

Scratch Race:

The Frenchman, Morgan Kneisky appears to enjoy this one, as he gratefully received the bouquet for the 2nd successive night.

Super Sprint:

Despite a bad week in the chases Schets / Breyne have picked up some late night wins, tonight it was during this event.

2nd Madison:

Saturday night finished with the 2nd chase, a break in tradition, especially as it was announced as being as an unknown length; another first!!! Tired legs starting a chase at 01.15am wasn't ideal, but the winners Hester / Hansen, followed by Bartko / Dillier won't complain. These teams took back a lap from the leaders. The result meant 4 teams where on the same lap, but the Keisse / O'Shea and De Ketele Van Hoecke go into the final, ready to contest the win. Only a full lap gain can give the win to anyone else.

Ghent Debutant - Nolan Hoffman

Riding for the first time here in Ghent is South African, Nolan Hoffman. He is, to my knowledge, the first black cyclist to race in the pro Six since Brit, Maurice Burton in the 70's and 80's. The 27 year old from near Cape Town, also rode in Amsterdam and Grenoble. After a trip home, he'll be back in Europe after Christmas to ride in Rotterdam.

As for his first time in Ghent, he admitted to me that at times he has struggled in the Madison's, they are all what he described as being 'full on chases' and 'like the World Championships every night'. He acknowledged that his partner, Christian Grasmann, is a strong Madison rider, who had bailed him out a number of times this week. Back in South Africa there isn't the depth to have a strong field racing the Madison, he thinks there are only maybe 5 or 6 guys who can race at anywhere near this level.

He was looking to do well in some of the races on the programme though, but noted that the big guys have been going after those too. There has been no let up. Nolan was disappointed to not have been able to do as well in the Time Trials as he'd expected, for that he sights two reasons. Firstly the track, being the first time he has ever ridden on this 166 track he noted it takes real technique and that just staying upright is a feat in itself, high up on the banking. That is where the speed is built up for the flying lap. The second reason is the quality of the guys against the clock. As noted on Thursday, it is rare to have so many teams go under 9.00 seconds.

Despite a lack of points and the unforgiving programme that allows for little rest between events, he was in good spirits and believes he is heading home stronger than ever. He takes comfort from the advice of Patrick Sercu (six-day king and sports director here), who'd told him 'no one ever has it easy in their first Six-day season, especially in their first Ghent'. If he can get the contracts, he hopes to be back next year with more experience and looking to go better.

Standings after 5 Days:

1. Keisse (Bel) - O'Shea (Aus) 383 points
2. De Ketele - Van Hoecke (Bel) 379
3. Bartko (Ger) - Dillier (Swi) 266
4. Hansen - Hester (Den) 230
At 5 Laps:
5. Schep - Stroetinga (Ned) 116
At 6 Laps:
6. Marvulli - Marguet (Swi) 252
7. De Buyst - Mertens (Bel) 221
At 10 Laps
8. Kneisky - Brisse (Fra) 180
At 11 Laps:
9. Van der Sande (Bel) - Lampater (Ger) 154
At 27 Laps:
10. Grasmann (Ger) - Hoffman (RSA) 82
At 31 Laps:
11. Coquyt - De Pauw (Bel) 100
At 35 Laps:
12. Stahr (Ger) - Muller (Aut) 52
At 38 Laps:
13. Breyne - Schets (Bel) 120

Around Het Kuipke:

Tonight was the first time since I've been coming, that Saturday had a slightly reduced programme. Normally Thursday, Friday and Saturday all have identical race programmes. On paper there was 45 minutes less racing, and they finished with a Madison. A break from tradition, that realistically is a sensible move, due to the early start on Sunday afternoon, but a Madison to finish the night didn't work for me.

Tonight there was a new feature here in Ghent; a Womens Omnium event consisting of Scratch, Points and 500 TT races. The winner for the record was Jolien D'Hoore. I'm not sure it really caught the crowd's imagination tonight, but it could yet become part of the future here.

Thursday nights 'streakers' seem to have gained a lot of coverage - some sites gave that more words than the rest of the Six-days put together. The one thing I missed was the unsavoury side, one of them head butted a steward who tried to stop them getting onto the track.


Sunday Report

by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
Gent, BEL
25 November 2012

Sunday Afternoon

The final day of the Ghent Six promised a big tussle between the Belgian World Madison Champions De Ketele / Van Hoecke and local hero Iljo Keisse with Glenn O'Shea. They didn't disappoint.

Points Race:

That fight started in the very first race with Keisse getting the edge over Van Hoecke in the final sprint. Perhaps a pointer to what lies ahead in the big final when sprints are held every 10 laps over the last 50.

Team Elimination:

It was once again 'on' between Keisse / O'Shea and De Ketele / Van Hoecke and it was again Keisse who won the sprint. At this time the points where building up in their favour.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT):

After breaking the track record twice this week 8.67 almost felt like an anti-climax for Tristan Marguet. It wasn't of course. Again 8 teams went under 9 seconds and that, along with the track records, completed a remarkable Six in the popular flying lap.

Derny Races x 3:

Retiring motor pacer, Joop Zijlaard got a big formal send off from the crowd, organization and riders before the first heat. Following that, it was no surprise when he led Iljo Keisse home for a win in the first race. The 2nd and 3rd heats went to Kenny De Ketele wrapping up the Derny racing at the 72nd Ghent Six.

Individual Elimination Race 1:

Young Gijs Van Hoecke was able to claw a few points back in this one beating Glenn O'Shea, continuing the Belgian monopoly of the Sunday programme to this point.

500 Metre TT:

Yet another TT victory for Marguet and Marvulli in 27.30, again ahead of Dillier / Bartko (27.87). The Swiss rider Marguet was brought here to entertain against the clock, he certainly did that going back home for the 'Zurich Six-Day Nights', with both Kuipke track records.

Scratch Race:

This one was just keeping the legs turning over before the final, but provided Nolan Hoffman his first win of the week. The South African has enjoyed his time here describing it as 'his own Tour De France'; compliments indeed.

Ghent Six Final - 60 Minute Madison:

The Belgian press had been hyping the rivalry between Iljo Keisse, Kenny De Ketele and Gijs Van Hoecke all week, even calling it the 'Battle of Ghent'.

The battle did have a dramatic conclusion, but for the first 30 minutes it looked as if Robert Bartko and Silvan Dillier might throw a spanner in the works and take a surprise win. They led for the first half as De Ketele / Van Hoecke covered moves made by the more attacking riding of Keisse / O'Shea. The Danish team of Hansen / Hester had been close to the lead all week, but lost a few laps early and were never in contention for the final podium.

Once the sprints started, it was clear Bartko / Dillier wouldn't be able to go the lap clear, as they'd need to, and it was all about the top 2, the bonus and the 5th and final sprints. Starting the chase 12 points behind, De Ketele / Van Hoecke took the initiative and won the first 2 sprints to get within 4 points of the lead. But O'Shea came back and won the 3rd, and even though De Ketele took the 4th, he and Van Hoecke where still behind and needing to win the last sprint. With just under 3 laps to go disaster struck, as Van Hoecke fell on the back straight as he was being thrown into the chase by De Ketele. Someone said there may have been water, but it looked to me as if he just lost control a little and he fell onto the carpet above the rider's cabins, not onto the track itself. That meant De Ketele had to stay in the chase alone, and of course with no break before the final sprint, he wasn't able to contest it. All that was left was for Keisse to roll across the finish line alone with his arms aloft to take the applause from his adoring public.

What they said:

Iljo Keisse (Winner):
"This one has been a little different as the press has been calling it the 'Battle of Ghent' as me, Kenny and Gijs are all from the Ghent area. So this was more than just the fight for the Six Days, they went full gas from the first to the very last minute. It feels good to be back and yes it feels good to win at home, but this was a warning for me, that with Gijs and Kenny over the coming years it's going to be hard to stay on top. But the fight was only on the bike, we all respect each other and I showed that on the podium as I tipped my cap to them showing my appreciation for the way they went full gas all week. I have a big respect for the way they raced. Normally off the bike we get on really well with each other, but this week the press made it a little more intense with the hype."

Glenn O'Shea (Winner - talks about joining the great Aussie Six Day riders as a winner here):
"Before today I looked at the programme at the past winners and I thought about what it'd mean and how exciting it'd be to be on the same list as those guys. So it feels great to now be on that list with guys like Danny Clark, Graeme Gilmore and Matt Gilmore - although he is half Belgian (laughs) - etc. Australia has always had at least one rider in the Six Days. Our national coach is Matt Gilmore so he is of course interested in the Sixes and the national programme promoted me coming over here in the past as it's good hard racing."

Kenny De Ketele (2nd with Van Hoecke):
"This week it has been intense with all the press and of course you try to avoid the pressure, but eventually it does get to you. The longer the race went on it got better, but as the race was evolving that the pressure level went up and up. But I think we created a great battle for the public. Of course I would rather have won myself, but things happen in sport and I know that the result was an honest one and in sport we should be honest about what happens."

On his partnership with Van Hoecke he said:
"As its always been difficult to get me and Iljo together in Ghent so it really was like a gift from heaven when I met Gijs on the national team as we raced together and fulfilled the dream of becoming World Champions. We race really well together so if all is ok we will be back again next year... racing together."

Lasse Norman Hansen (4th - The 20 year old Olympic Omnium Champion acquitted himself well in his first ever ride on this track):
"When I arrived I couldn't believe the size of the track, I was a bit shocked, but once I did an hours training on it then it felt bigger than it looked!!! During the week I've gotten better and better, as has my technique riding this track. The racing has been action packed, up and down. There were a few crashes, but like I said, it has been action packed. Overall it has been a positive and really fun experience for me. After this I'm doing Zurich and the Copenhagen Six which is of course a big objective for me early next year."

Tim Mertens (6th with De Buyst):
"It was the first time my partner (De Buyst) ever rode here and I think if we rode again he'd know the track and how to ride and be even better. We'd be able to compete even more with the other guys. So I hope next year to be up there even closer, but it was a good Six for us... we both rode well."

Jaspar De Buyst (6th with Mertens)
"It was a big experience for me as I didn't expect these results one week ago. I'm normally a road rider, but I know I can also do something on the track in the future, if it works with my road racing. But I'll be back here next year and during my career I hope I can win or at least get a podium place."

Tristan Marguet (7th broke both track records riding here with Marvulli):
"I didn't just come for the Time Trials, but I knew I was fast and my form was good, I'd won the World Cup Scratch race in Glasgow last week. It's been nice taking the track records of course and this has been good keeping the form going, as Zurich in a few days is the big objective. It's our home race!!!"

Leif Lampater (9th with a disappointing Tosh Van Der Sande):
"The first 4 days it was really hard. Tosh was disappointed himself that he didn't have the form of last year, but it was great in the last 2 days to see him getting much better. He had a long hard road season, so it's difficult to stay in top condition as he has gone sometime without any racing, which is hard. But I believe he is going to be a really good rider. I have good form and condition myself to take to Zurich, so as always it's a new race, with new luck and a new opportunity for me."

Final Standings:

1. Keisse (Bel) - O'Shea (Aus) 484 points
2. De Ketele - Van Hoecke (Bel) 472
3. Bartko (Ger) - Dillier (Swi) 335
At 4 Laps:
4. Hansen - Hester (Den) 247
At 5 Laps:
5. Schep - Stroetinga (Ned) 136
At 10 Laps:
6. De Buyst - Mertens (Bel) 239
At 11 Laps:
7. Marvulli - Marguet (Ski) 282
At 13 Laps
8. Kneisky - Brisse (Fra) 202
9. Van der Sande (Bel) - Lampater (Ger) 160
At 37 Laps:
10. Grasmann (Ger) - Hoffman (RSA) 95
At 41 Laps:
11. Coquyt - De Pauw (Bel) 113
At 43 Laps:
12. Stahr (Ger) - Muller (Aut) 60
At 45 Laps:
13. Breyne - Schets (Bel) 135

Around Het Kuipke:

The organizations annual review confirmed that the turn out from the public was more than favourable; 5 sell outs is testament to that. Despite the decline of other Sixes, this one stands alone as being a success on all fronts.

Sporting wise, Patrick Sercu (Sports Director), was happy with most of the riders and the intensity of the racing. He was excited by the performances of young Belgian debutants Jasper De Buyst and Gijs Van Hoecke. The latter confirming, in his first Ghent Six, that he has a great engine, but Sercu noted that he has a good future with the road teams, so hopes they allow him to continue to ride the track as well. The Danes, Hansen / Hester have impressed, as has Silvan Dillier who followed up on his strong debut last year to contend with Robert Bartko. Obviously the track records for Marguet / Marvulli are plus points too. The illness of Stroetinga cost the Dutch team a chance to contend and the lack of a few more strong 'international' riders was the only disappointment for Sercu. Reasons for that are well known, it was an Olympic year, plus the commitment to road teams for many. Sercu noted that with no Sixes before Ghent, it is becoming difficult for riders to continue directly from the road season to the track, as in the past.

The only negative point raised by a colleague was feedback about the DJ (the 4th in 5 years). He was not in sync with the racing and therefore the crowd... plus it was very loud. Comments had been made that this had at times killed the atmosphere. The music should work with the spectacle, not over ride it.

The 'Wiggo' craze was in evidence in Het Kuipke too as a group of guys arrived, Belgians, wearing their Wiggins masks. Franco Marvulli rode up to the start line of a Derny race wearing one, much to everybody's amusement, he certainly seems like the old Franco this year. Talking of Wiggins, I personally first met him in 1998 when he was just returning from winning the World Junior Pursuit Championships and was sitting reading 'Cycling Weekly' in (London) Euston railway station, far from public property at that time. It is well known Bradley was born in Ghent and he made his professional debut right here back in 1999. Over the years I watched him race the Ghent, Munich and Dortmund Sixes. Although when he won this Six in 2003, with Matt Gilmore, no one would have predicted that 9 years later he'd be a Tour winner, one of the faces of 2012 in the UK with numerous books about him on the shelves and a TV special celebrating his success.

UIV-Under 23 - Memorial Noel Fore

As always the main race is preceded by the UIV Under-23 Cup race, this was formerly better known as the Amateur Six (Toekomstzesdaagse in Flemish). This week saw the usual nightly crash, although fortunately it was just bumps and bruises rather than broken bones. The winning team where the Czechs Jan Kraus and Denis Rugovac, they proved to be the strongest guys in the chases as they held the lead for much of the week on laps rather than points. In 5th was Jacob Morkov, youngest brother of Michael.

Final Standings:

1. Jan Kraus - Denis Rugovac (Cz) 40 points
2. Nico Hesslich - Samuel Horstmann (Ger) 17
At 1 Lap:
3. Jonas Rickaert - Otto Vergaerde (Bel) 88
4. Arne Van Snick - Gert-Jan Van Immerseel (Bel) 53
At 2 Laps:
5. Jacob Morkov - Bigum (Den) 64
At 3 Laps:
6. Thomas Boudat - Clement Barbeau (Fra) 100
7. Sebastian Wotschke - Hans Pirius (Ger) 53
8. Melvin Van Zijl - Didier Caspers (Ned) 48
At 12 Laps:
9. Chris Latham - Sam Lowe (GB) 33
At 15 Laps:
10. Ken De Fauw - Kevin Rasschaert (Bel) 8
At 17 Laps:
11. Niels Vanderaerden - Joris Cornet (Bel) 57
At 21 Laps:
12. Alex Maes (Bel) - Kevin Feiereisen (Lux) 8