Friday - 70th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent
by Steve Penny
70th Six-Days of Ghent - Friday
At most Six-Day races the big night is usually the Saturday but here in Ghent it has traditionally been Friday that is the time to bring the wife, girlfriend, brother-in-law, friends etc. to experience Six-Day racing Flemish style. Many of the fans will be coming out to cheer on Iljo Keisse and indeed his official supporters club were gathering at his fathers De Karper Café 500 metres from the track a few hours before the start. Looking back at yesterdays racing Robert Bartko and Danilo Hondo looked strong in the chases and Bartko, a winner here twice with Keisse, maybe motivated to prove he can win here without the Belgian. Gaining laps will be the only way they can win this Six though as neither man has the speed to get big points but they appear to be primed to try and spring a surprise. Despite his own form Keisse has stated that he still believes that last years winners Rasmussen and Morkov are the top favourites.
First Race: - The evening session began with the warm up point's race, 10 bonus sprints and no lap gains, the win going too Alex Aeschbach and Franco Marvulli. The Swiss remain close to the lead despite the fact that Marvulli has been suffering with an ear infection.
Team Elimination Race: - The first 20 points on offer came in the Team Elimination or Devil as it's known in English speaking cycling circles. The win went to Marvulli / Aeschbach from De Ketele / Lampater, Aeschbach got a good jump and held Kenny De Ketele off to finish the line. The 12 points for 2nd gave De Ketele / Lampater a bonus lap and they held the lead albeit early in the evening.
Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - Tonight saw a surprise against the clock with Mouris / Stroetinga getting the best time of 8.83. The Dutch team have got faster each night over the first 4 days. In 2nd were Rasmussen / Morkov in 8.84 and Marvulli / Aeschbach 3rd with 8.92.
1st Madison: - The 40 minute chase gave the crowd what they wanted with a win and a bunny hop across the line from Iljo Keisse. His partner Peter Schep has always been a classy rider and will be looking to play his part in taking the win on Sunday afternoon. In 2nd were Bartko / Hondo who continue to show well in the long chases with Stam / Van Bon taking 3rd and staying in contention although most likely their final placing will be 4th-6th.
Derny Races: - Tonight's series of Derny races saw Wim Stroetinga continue his good session winning behind Ron Zijlaard, son of Joop. Then Kenny De Ketele and later Iljo Keisse both won, paced by Michel Vaarten, nearly bringing down the house in the process. Last but not least Danny Stam gave his Derny pacer and Joop Zijlaard yet another win in the small hours of Saturday morning.
Individual Elimination Race 1: - Once again big teams took it easy as two of the struggling teams riders battled it out, Jeff Vermeulen took it from Steve Schets continuing the misery for the Belgian.
500 Metre TT: - It was once again Iljo Keisse and Peter Schep who won setting the fastest time of the week 28.08, besting there own 28.12 from last night. It was Keisse himself who was roared around by another sell out crowd for the last 2 laps at a speed of over 63kmph. In 2nd were Mertens / Ligthart in 28.18, they need a win to boost their morale after disappointing again losing 3 laps in the opening chase. In 3rd where Lampater / De Ketele in 28.24, they're another pair who have gotten faster every night.
2nd Madison: - After a quiet night last years winners Rasmussen / Morkov won the chase. Coming into the late stages they were a lap ahead along with Van Bon / Stam and Madsen / Hester. It was pretty much a non-event though as Rasmussen out sprinted the other two to win by about 5 bike lengths. The performance of Madsen / Hester confirmed there promising week but the big losers were Marvulli / Aeschabch who slipped to 6th place overall a lap behind the 5 teams.
Individual Elimination Race: - With no singing tonight the Argentine Donadio took a much needed win ahead of Marc Hester in the two up sprint.
Standings after 4 Days:
1. Keisse - Schep 264 points 2. De Ketele - Lampater 232 3. Rasmussen - Morkov 230 4. Bartko - Hondo 185 5. Stam - Van Bon 165 At 1 Lap: 6. Marvulli - Aeschbach 217 At 4 Laps: 7. Madsen - Hester 98 At 9 Laps: 8. Mouris / Stroetinga 96 At 13 Laps: 9. Mertens / Ligthart 161 At 15 Laps: 10. Roberts / Kneisky 77 At 26 Laps: 11. Donadio / Vermeulen 92 At 27 Laps: 12. Van Der Sande / Muller 47 At 38 Laps: 13. De Neef / Schets 63
Around Het Kuipke:
This year the organisation are celebrating the 70th running of the Ghent Six-Day making it the 2nd longest running Six-Day on the calendar, the oldest being Berlin. Ghent is now tied with New York with 70 races but the Big Apple hasn't seen Six-Day racing since 1961. The event has been held in the Citadelpark since 1922 but the old 'Wintervelodrom' that was built as part of the 1913 World Fair or Exposition burned down in 1962. The new 'Gents Sportspaleis' as it was known opened in 1965, the first winners in the building were Patrick Sercu and Eddie Merckx no less, and the Six-Day race has been run here ever since. The name of the building has changed since the late 1990s to become known as Het Kuipke (The Tub - named so as the track is reminiscent of a bath tub). In the past Het Kuipke was just the name given to the actual track rather than the building. Over the years subtle changes have been made in the main bar area but the building and the unique steeply banked 166 metre track still make it feel old. This annual winter festival is still Six-Day racing without glamour, the public know what to expect but keep coming through the doors and over 40,000 visitors will again watch this great spectacle.
UIV Cup for Riders Under 23:
The British Cycling Federation team of Jonathan Mould and Simon Yates took the nights 200 lap Madison and moved clear in the overall standings. In 2nd are Claudio Imhof / Silvan Dillier then Alex Carver / Jackson Law, both these teams have a lot more points but trail by a lap. The young Australian Alex Carver was the latest faller but he got back on his bike almost immediately to finish the chase. His partner Jackson Law was starting to look tired but at just 17 years old he has more than held his own so far.
The British boys are managed by ever youthful looking Chris Newton, a rider who competed in 4 Olympic Games on the track taking 3 medals. He was a World Champion in the Points Race (2002) and Team Pursuit (2005) and has 5 other World Championship medals to his name. He raced a couple of German Six-Day races in 2002-2003 when he was World Points Champion but the scene and its hours weren't for him. Despite early promise he didn't ever ride for a continental team on the road but was a regular winner on the British road racing calendar.