Sunday - 69th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent
by Steve Penny
The final session of the Ghent Six is held during the afternoon so all concerned are back at the track just 10 hours after last nights programme finished. For the riders of course this is an especially gruelling schedule.
The eventual outcome of the 69th Six Days of Flanders, Ghent (to give its full title) is far from clear which will be pleasing to the organisation who'd put together what they considered there best field in years.
The World Madison Champions Morkov and Rasmussen have stayed at or close to the front all week. They did so in Munich too, but where beaten in the 'finale' by Risi-Marvulli. Other big names have come here on big contracts and really struggled in this most demanding of Sixes, but the Danes have justified there place amongst the favourites and no doubt the higher earners.
Before the racing today I asked Michael Morkov how they'd found the track and how it was going generally:
And what of winning here and the rest of the Six Day season?
In attendance analysing for local TV was former favourite of 'Het Kuipke' crowd Constant Tourne. 'Stan' as he was known won here twice with Etienne De Wilde during a long and distinguished career as a track and Six Day specialist. I asked him what he thought might happen today:
Keisse is very strong and has the perfect style and qualities for this track and his partner Kluge is going well too. The Danes and Keisse will try and get a bonus lap before the final and then wait for the sprints in the last 50 laps.
Risi-Marvulli of course are looking good in first place for now but if the others get that bonus lap will have to go on the attack. Risi of course knows how to be tactical but I am not sure about Marvulli on this track. He is strong but I watched him yesterday and he does not always position himself correctly on this tight track and this could cause a problem. But it will be like a game of poker for them all, do they go on the attack or wait for the points?
Anyone of these 3 teams could still win even Stam-Lampater are still close and could try and go for the lap to win but I've watched Lampater and he does not look to be so strong, Stam is good though."
I also asked Stan about Kenny De Ketele:
The Danes did as Morkov suggested and went after points in the programmes 'Point's Race' pushing them within 37 points of that all important bonus lap.
The team elimination gives 20 points for first place and the battle for the points was on here. As noted Morkov-Rasmussen need them as do Keisse-Kluge and these couples battled it out for the prize with Rasmussen getting the better of Kluge. Both teams are closing in.
In a switch from the usual evening programme the time trial order is swapped and the riders do the 500 metres first. That being the other event that offers 20 points to the winner and once again we had showdown between the top 3 teams. Although times were down on yesterday Keisse-Kluge won in 27.79 (64.772 kmph) from Risi-Marvulli 28.10 (64.057 kmph) and the Danes 28.31 (63.582).
The Derny races give one last chance at crowd to the riders and pacers alike. One man who takes this role literally is the favourite pacer of the Ghent crowd, the rotund Joop Zijlaard. He earned his stripes here pacing the local legend Etienne De Wilde on many an occasion. Today he took fellow Dutchman Danny Stam to victory in the first race. The second had the Belgians Keisse and De Ketele lapping the field before Michel Vaarten brought De Ketele around Zijlaard-Keisse in the last metres. As I said before, the Dernys have an air of show business to them, but it is no easy feat racing side by side at 60 kmph on this tight track.
Keisse-Kluge now have their bonus lap.
The individual elimination race was low key and the battle for points eased as the main teams went out early. Winning this one was by 20 year old Aussie World Omnium Champion Leigh Howard. He has had a tough Six with an injury but clearly has bags of talent.
The final flying lap time trial was another close run thing with Marvulli 8.71 (68.886 kmph) besting Rasmussen 8.76 (68.493 kmph) and Kluge 8.77 (68.415 kmph).
Rasmussen-Morkov also had there bonus lap.
There was a break in racing when Bruno Risi said his farewell to the Ghent public after 19 rides here. His wife and parents joined him for an emotional farewell where he said:
Without doubt he'd love to say goodbye with a 4th win here.
Leading standings at the start of Sundays 'Finale': Keisse - Kluge 415 points Rasmussen - Morkov 410 Risi - Marvulli 392 Stam - Lampater 244 @ 2 Laps De Ketele - Schep 229
The 'finale' of this 69th Ghent Six was as exciting as one would expect with the standings so close. For a long time it was very much like a prize fight with the big guys going blow for blow or lap for lap as the case may be. But like many prize fights this one was eventually settled on points but without any controversy. In his last Ghent Six Bruno Risi did try for a fairytale ending, but it wasn't to be. His and Marvulli's do or die attack came just after the 2nd sprint. Morkov had taken the first sprint and Keisse the second. They tried for 10 laps even taking the third sprint but never got more than half a lap and were caught soon after that third sprint.
The Danish pair of Rasmussen-Morkov showed they could stay the course and Morkov took the fourth sprint to set up a grandstand finish between Iljo Keisse and Alex Rasmussen in a win or bust final sprint. Of course Keisse had the crowd roaring him on and as Kluge attacked with 4 laps to go they seemed in poll position. Michael Morkov closed some of the gap but not all and threw in Rasmussen with still a bit to do. He made it onto the wheel of Keisse and sat there until the last lap when Keisse started an almighty sprint. It was shoulder to shoulder down the home straight but Rasmussen had just enough speed left to haul himself across the line a wheel clear of Keisse.
Either of the teams would have been fine victors but perhaps Morkov-Rasmussen, after the disappointment of Munich, deserved this one, adapting well on Keisse's home track.
The home fans were not despondent though and many continued to sing for Keisse whilst the hall emptied out.
What they said:Alex Rasmussen (winner with Morkov):
I asked him about that last few laps and the noise of the crowd?
"Yeah I was thinking it's a big gap to close but luckily for us I still had good legs at the end. Also coming from behind it's a bit easier!!! The noise was loud but you don't feel like your not on home ground you just hear the noise and it doesn't matter if you're Iljo or somebody else you just know that the crowd is in the race. In this Six we saved some energy for the final sprints that was our plan and not wasting too much of that energy chasing down everybody else"
Roger Kluge (2nd with Iljo Keisse)
"It has been a nice experience here the public have been fantastic and I enjoyed it……and 2nd is not too bad!!! I was actually here before with the amateurs in 2006 but the Galvez accident meant of course it didn't finish. I have contracts for 3 more Six Days and will be in Berlin for my last Six this season. In the future I will race the road more but will stay on the track too"
Franco Marvulli (3rd with Risi)
"What a 'finale' eh?................just not for us!!! If we could have made the 400 points before the 'finale' it would have been different. Our problem was also that the others chased us down but not them (Morkov-Rasmussen, Keisse-Kluge) and if that happens then it's always going to be hard"
Kenny De Ketele (5th with Schep)
He had great legs all week, so I asked him, "was he frustrated not to be able to challenge for the overall win?"
"Well it was just circumstances and as a professional athlete you have to learn to react to such things. Ok... it's not great because you are in front of your home crowd but I am still happy. I could show my strength to the Belgian public and in the end with Schep it went ok"
And of his growing popularity with the Ghent crowd?
"I think that one year when the organisers make a team with De Ketele-Keisse there going to build a new roof!!!"
You couldn't describe it better, until 2010