Friday - 69th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent
by Steve Penny
With almost constant rain falling during the last week the organisation will be glad that they invested their €300,000+ to fix the leaking roof that has caused racing to stop a number of times during the last few years. So without potential for weather intervention it'll be all systems go inside 'Het Kuipke' again on Friday night.
Tonight, at the Ghent Six, is traditionally the 'big' night for fans and local VIPs. It's the when many local cyclists and cycling fans alike will dress up in their best jacket and tie to take their wife or girlfriend out for a long night at the races. Among the dressed up members of crowd will be many ex-professionals and leading players from the Flanders bike race scene. This is after all typical hard nosed Flanders racing albeit indoor style. Whilst the Sixes in Germany and now Holland offer riders the relative comfort of shorter race programmes, spacious cabins and good changing facilities with showers. Here in Ghent it's another story. The riders used to change in temporary small gazebo tents although this year they've been upgraded to a large partitioned portacabin (as used on building sites)!!! It's still behind the track and actually outside the main building though. Just a small partition separates them from a large truck storage hanger, and although it is covered the rain can still be heard pounding against the hangers iron roof. There are no frills for the riders and the facilities and brutal race programme make this the Six Day equivalent of the wind, rain and cobbles of the Belgian road classics and semi-classics. So despite the lack of creature comforts the Six Day riders' will covert a win in this 'classic' as much as road riders covert the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem or Het Volk.
The goods news is that Peter Schep is ok and is riding tonight with the 21 year old surprise package of this Six Day Jeff Vermeulen. Unfortunately after Scheps neutralisation last night they are now a number of laps behind but Vermeulen has at least managed to make a good impression. Sports Director Patrick Sercu no doubt knew of his talent all along as he had in fact signed a contract to race here during the Amsterdam Six and was not a last minute replacement despite having no entry in the official programme!!!
On my way to the track tonight I passed an already busy 'De Karper café / bar' that is home to Iljo Keisses father and his fan club. The fans will certainly be happy with the way he has returned to racing as it seems to be business as usual, for him, showing his customary determination and form. However one can't underestimate the man alongside him, Roger Kluge. The 23 year old German has quietly been getting on with the job in hand and appears to be in good form on his first start here. They are now ahead in this Six Day but will need to maintain their form and concentration to hold off the ever ready Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, not to mention World Madison Champions, Rasmussen and Morkov. Talking of Risi, his fan club arrived tonight with two very large cow bells that had already started to reverberate around the building before racing began, bringing a piece of Switzerland to the lowlands of Flanders. The Kenny De Ketele 'supporters club' was also in attendance, although they had a much shorter journey, a sure source of motivation for the Belgian none the less.
Standings at the start of Fridays racing:
Keisse - Kluge 223 points Risi - Marvulli 201 @ 1 Lap Rasmussen - Morkov 210 De Ketele - Bartko 124 @ 2 Laps Stam - Lampater 137 @ 5 Laps Vermeulen - Schep 80 @ 9 Laps O'Shea - Howard 110 @ 10 Laps Van Bon - Muller 64 @ 11 Laps Aeschbach - Marguet 69 @ 19 Laps Jonkman - Hester 60 @ 25 Laps Depoortere - Cocquyt 36 @ 35 Laps De Neef - Schets 58
The opening race on any Six day programme is a point's race which more of a leg stretcher than anything, was won by De Ketele-Bartko, a team that needs points. The first serious race of the evening is the team elimination. This being one of the 3 events each night that give 20 points to the winners, the others are the Madison and 500 metre time trial. With good points on offer the top guns are on there metal and Leif Lampater beats Bruno Risi in the 2 up shoot out sprint taking maximum points. Risi-Marvulli took 12 points though to close the gap on Keisse-Kluge.
Tonight's flying lap is yet another showdown between Alex Rasmussen and Franco Marvulli. The Swiss betters his time of last night with 8.78 (68.337 kmph) but the Dane matches his in 08.76 (68.493kmph) to take the honours. No slouch in 3rd is Iljo Keisse with 8.95 (67,039 kmph).
The first Madison saw Robert Bartko neutralised so De Ketele was joined by the recovered Peter Schep, and it appears that Vermeulen is now unwell. A shame for De Ketele who before Munich must have thought that with Bartko he had a real shot at his first win in 'Het Kuipke'. The 40 minute race produced the usual backward and forwards of a chase but eventually Rasmussen-Morkov and Stam-Lampater broke the elastic and went a lap clear with a couple of minutes left. All that was left was for Rasmussen to easily out sprint Lampater for another win that took them back to the top of the classification at the first break.
The second part of the programme got under way with the Derny motor paced races. The first four riders placing 7th-12th was won by Marc Hester behind one time World Track Champion and now Belgian Track coach Michelle Vaarten. The second round for the teams from 1st-6th once again saw the decibel levels rise and rise until the roof was almost raised as Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele clear of the field battled it out, with De Ketele eventually taking it. Despite these races having an air of show biz to them it is still not an easy task maintaining such high speeds behind the pacer on the tight 166 metre track and these are the races that the Ghent crowds seem to enjoy the most.
The individual elimination race was won by Andreas Muller the Berlin born rider who this year won a bronze medal in the Worlds Scratch race representing Austria!!!
The 500 metre Time Trial was last night won by Keisse-Kluge from Rasmussen-Morkov. Tonight some of the teams switched there lead man and it paid off for Risi-Marvulli with Risi bringing them home in 27.89 (64.539) from Keisse-Kluge in 27.99 (64.309 kmph). In 3rd were Rasmussen-Morkov clocking 28.20 (63.830 kmph), Morkov taking the last leg duties tonight.
The 2nd Madison of the night started with 3 teams on the same lap and just 16 points separating Keisse-Kluge in 1st and Risi-Marvulli in 3rd with Rasmussen-Morkov sandwiched in-between. Bartko started the chase but was soon replaced by Schep so young Vermeulen is now down. Early in the chase with his team on the attack Marvulli had a puncture. On the track of course it takes a lap or two to slow down to a halt so Marvulli wasn't happy when his back up took to long to get his new wheel ready and in, hand gestures told the story. The temporary team of De Ketele-Schep worked well and actually won the Madison a lap ahead of the field. Maybe Schep is fresh but whatever the case the 24 year old De Ketele is back in the hunt. Also despite my pessimism yesterday Stam-Lampater battled back and they're only 1 lap behind, for now. They tried hard in this last chase but Leif Lampater looking the more tired of the two, noticeably faded in the last 5 minutes.
With just a couple of lesser races left on the nights programme Rasmussen-Morkov now lead Keisse-Kluge by a handful of points with Risi-Marvulli still in there too with a lot of points, and a few laps, still to be won and lost.
Whilst the race to nowhere went on, the bumper crowd partied on and on. A particular highlight was the locals singing along to the Liverpool football (soccer) anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (originally from the movie Carousel). Being originally from the Liverpool area that song never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and it seems that's the case in 'Het Kuipke' too!!!
The Berliner Andreas Muller is having a decent Six despite getting his contract late. His partner, former Tour of France and Spain stage winner Leon Van Bon, has recovered from his stomach problem and is getting stronger. Andreas always seems to have good morale and despite tired legs is thinking about doing 'Route 66' on his bike sometime in the future!!!