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Summary & Thursday - 70th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent

by Steve Penny
Het Kuipke, Ghent, BE
25-26th November 2010

The Story So Far:

The opening two nights saw the pre-race favourites locked in a close tussle to top the leader board come Sunday afternoon. No one has dominated as yet but the fans will be happy that local hero Iljo Keisse, with Peter Schep, has come back from his ban to sit in 1st place albeit after just 2 days. He appears to have his old leg speed back but how his endurance will still be tested over the next number of days. Holding 2nd place in the classification was another local favourite Kenny De Ketele, riding with Leif Lampater. This pair will have been concerned about losing points to the faster guys but they've held their own. The team they'd have assumed would eat up points are last year's victors Michael Morkov and Alex Rasmussen who hold 3rd place. As it's still early the Danes may just be finding their track legs after long road seasons or they may be holding back a bit either way it keeps things interesting.

One lap in arrears are 3 teams the Swiss Marvulli / Aeschbach, Germans Bartko / Hondo and Dutchmen Stam / Van Bon. All these teams will be happy with there starts and Robert Bartko and Danilo Hondo are so far more than holding there own despite Hondo not having ridden a Six-Day for a number of years. Your correspondent may have called this one wrong as they look like they are going to be in this race right to the finish.

Elsewhere the other Danish team of Jens-Erik Madsen and Marc Hester will be pleased with 7th place just 2 laps in arrears but the same can't be said for Belgian Tim Mertens. The 24 year old missed Ghent last year with illness and he and his partner, Dutchman, Pim Ligthart would have hoped to at least remain close to the leaders going into the weekend instead they started 4 laps back. Another Dutch team Jens Mouris and Wim Stroetinga should feel the same as they have also lost too many laps already. The Milram professional Stroetingas indifferent form can perhaps be attributed to the fact he's been on holiday for 2 weeks before starting here.

The Australian Luke Roberts will be satisfied with the progress he and Ghent first timer Morgan Kneisky have made. The young Frenchman, Kneisky, has medalled at the last two World Championships but has no experience at this level of Six Day racing. The remaining 3 teams are seriously off the pace. It is disappointing to see Jeff Vermeulen and Sebastian Donadio a full 10 laps behind, Vermeulen went well here last year but most of Donadios experience has come at the more low key Italian Sixes and this is his first here with this difficult track and gruelling programme. Also at 10 laps are Andreas Muller and Tosh Van Der Sande the latter is a 19 year old Belgian who is cutting his teeth with the pros so they won't be too concerned. The Belgians De Neef and Schets are once again struggling in last place already a whopping 18 laps behind.

Leaders after 2 Days:

1. Keisse - Schep		134 points
2. De Ketele - Lampater		123
3. Rasmussen - Morkov		113

At 1 Lap:
4. Marvulli - Aeschbach		114
5. Bartko - Hondo		95
6. Stam - Van Bon		86  
At 2 Laps:
7. Madsen - Hester		54

Thursday Night

The evening session began with the usual leg stretching point's race, the win going too Jens Mouris and Wim Stroetinga. Bartko and Hondo took the points they needed to gain a bonus lap and sat in 4th place on the same lap as the 3 leading teams.

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. The win in this one went to Rasmussen / Morkov from Keisse / Schep with Stam / Van Bon in 3rd. The 10 points for 3rd place gave the veteran Dutch pair a bonus lap and took them up onto the same lap as the leaders.

Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - On the opening night Rasmussen was the fastest around the 166 metre track in 8.83 but Marvulli stormed back last night to register 8.77. Iljo Keisse has always done well in this discipline and had clocked 8.85 on both nights. Tonight saw these 3 teams again battle it for the 10 points and the bragging rights with Rasmussen taking top spot matching his 8.80 from yesterday from Marvulli in 8.85 and Keisse 3rd with 8.89.

1st Madison: - The first 40 minute Madison wasn't the most exciting you'll see but was as ever fast and furious. Three teams got a lap clear of the field with Bartko / Hondo taking the bouquet ahead of Lampater / De Ketele and Marvulli / Aeschbach. Worth a mention are Marc Hester and Jens-Erik Madsenů. they look to be going well and hung in with the bigger names all the way through. Hester although only 25 has over 50 Six-day starts to his name but just one podium finish. That podium finish was in Grenoble a few weeks ago and word from an insider is that he is a much more mature person these days and could still fulfil the promise he showed as an amateur.

Derny Races: - Every night there are a series of Derny races on the programme and they are always crowd pleasing, especially if Iljo Keisse is riding. Tonight the wins went to Jens-Erik Madsen behind Belgian track coach Michel Vaarten, and an improving Danilo Hondo then his team mate Robert Bartko behind legendary showman Joop Zijlaard.

Individual Elimination Race 1: - The big boys eased off the gas here and allowed some of the other riders a piece of the limelight, Tim Mertens took the 10 points in the final two up sprint from Jeff Vermeulen.

500 Metre TT: - The battle for the 20 points had been won by Marvulli / Aeschbach on the first two nights. Tonight Iljo Keisse and Peter Schep laid down the gauntlet registering the fastest time of the week so far with 28.12, bettering Marvulli / Aeschbach despite them clocking their best time so far of 28.14. In 3rd where Lampater / De Ketele in 28.36 thus knocking over half a second off their previous best time. The Danish Dynamite, Rasmussen / Morkov, are not at their best in this discipline although 28.39 is no disgrace.

2nd Madison: - This race was when Iljo Keisse showed he's still the 'Kaiser of the Kuipke' as and Peter Schep seem to be working very well together and took laps with apparent ease during this 40 minute roller coaster ride. Hanging on for grim death once again were De Neef / Schets, Donadio / Vermeulen and Van Der Sande / Muller. Also finding the going tough this time were Roberts / Kneisky. Despite the impressive display by Keisse / Schep the two biggest men in the field, Bartko / Hondo, came on strong taking a lap gain towards the end causing alarm bells to ring for Lampater / De Ketele, Rasmussen / Morkov, Marvulli / Aeschbach and Stam / Van Bon. These teams all made it and the top 6 teams once again fought out the victory, Schep winning the sprint and the 20 points giving him and Keisse a bonus lap to send them back to the top of the standings.

Individual Elimination Race: - The lesser lights once gain had the chance to shine in the last elimination race of the night. The favourites slipped off the back and off to there hotels, with the exception of Hondo who took a few more points. The win went to Morgan Kneisky from Sebastian Donadio, who was no doubt tired from his singing exploits (see 'Around Het Kuipke' below).

Leaders after 3 Days:

1. Keisse - Schep		203 points
2. De Ketele - Lampater		177
3. Bartko - Hondo		154
At 1 Lap:
4. Rasmussen - Morkov		182
5. Marvulli - Aeschbach		152
6. Stam - Van Bon		116  
At 4 Laps:
7. Madsen - Hester		64
At 8 Laps:
8. Mertens / Ligthart		113
9. Mouris / Stroetinga		57
At 10 Laps:
10. Roberts / Kneisky		54
At 18 Laps:
11. Donadio / Vermeulen		55
At 20 Laps:
12. Van Der Sande / Muller	32
At 30 Laps:
13. De Neef / Schets		36

Around Het Kuipke:

The track centre was bulging at the seams with the first sell out crowd of the week. Thursday night has become very popular with a younger crowd over the last few years. Perhaps the Six-Day offers a weekday night out for those looking for a different kind of entertainment as it doesn't interfere with their regular Friday or Saturday night plans!!!

Despite struggling in the race standings Argentine/Italian Sebastian Donadio showed he has other talents performing a couple of songs, including the Beatles 'Let It Be', playing piano and singing himself. Reminiscent of Danny Clark in his heyday, Donadio swapping the Clark moustache for the Latin footballer style long hair.

The cycling legend Eddie Merckx was in attendance tonight and as always turned heads as he chatted to old friends around the building. He is an annual visitor to an event he won 4 times, with Patrick Sercu, during his illustrious career in 1965, 67, 75 and 77. Also amongst the many former professionals taking in the atmosphere tonight was former Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix winner Peter Van Petegem who won the amateur Six (as it was then) in 1990 as well as competing with the pros a few times before his road career really took off. He must have enjoyed himself as he was still supping beers in the Middenplein (track centre) at 1.30am.

Being from the Liverpool area it was touching to once again hear our local football anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' perfectly sung by the late night revellers in Ghent.

UIV Cup for Riders Under 23:

The Toekomst Zesdaagse (futures Six-Day) was marred by crashes on the first two nights causing two teams to drop out due to the injuries they sustained. The Americans Williams and Marans both left Het Kuipke yesterday with broken collar bones. Thankfully tonight everyone stayed upright.

Last year the Australians Alex Carver and Scott Law dominated proceedings in every session. The impressive Carver is back again but this year teams with Jackson Law, Scott's younger brother. The boys from down under are not having it all their own way in 2010 although they do hold the lead after 3 days. The Swiss pairing of Claudio Imhof and Silvan Dillier won tonight's chase and are 2nd just 6 points behind. British Cycling's annual representatives are Jonathan Mould and Simon Yates who hold 3rd some 17 points out. These leading 3 teams are all on the same lap although the Australian and Swiss teams are picking up most of the points. Only one other team, Matias Greve and Christian Kreutzfeldt from Denmark, are still in any kind of contention for a place on the podium a lap behind in 4th.

The Italian team in the field have former Six-Day stalwart Marco Villa looking after them. He was due to ride a last season in 2009 but had to retire a year early due to a health problem. He won here with Silvio Martinello in 1998 during a very successful period of his career when he teamed with his fellow Italian to win over 20 Six-Day races and two World Madison titles.