Saturday - 70th Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent
by Steve Penny
Standings at the start of Saturdays racing:
The end of the Six maybe in sight but there will be nowhere to hide for the 26 riders tonight with the main contenders looking to push on or consolidate there positions before Sunday afternoons final session. Who will win will of course won't be decided until tomorrow but a bad session tonight could mean kissing a podium place goodbye if any mistakes are made. This is probably the most open Ghent Six in recent years and although everyone has there own opinion predicting the winners on Sunday is still a tough call. In poll position are Iljo Keisse and Peter Schep but Kenny De Ketele / Leif Lampater, Alex Rasmussen / Michael Morkov, Robert Bartko / Danilo Hondo and Danny Stam / Leon Van Bon will be going all out to knock them off the top.
I got the thoughts of a few riders before the start today:
Kenny De Ketele: - "It's going really well. Of course there is a big fight for the win but that's Ghent, it's a Classic!!! We are doing well for points and this year no one is going to get too 400 so what we need to do is make sure we at least get to 300, which we should do, and stay on the lap as the other leaders. All we have to do then is gain another full lap on the field tomorrow, not easy but we're going to be giving it 100%"
Robert Bartko: - "Ghent is always a very hard Six-Day but I really like the track here and I have done well before. We're feeling good and of course we still have a chance even if our points are not so high and we'll be doing our best to get a good result"
First Race: - The session began with 10 bonus sprints (no lap gains) and Bartko / Hondo took the points they needed to gain a bonus lap and go to the top of the leader board.
Team Elimination Race: - the first test of the evening was left to the 2 up sprint between Morkov and Van Bon. Although not the recognised sprinter of his team Morkov was still too sharp for 38 year old former Tour De France stage winner Van Bon.
Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - Most teams went a bit slower in the flying lap tonight except for Wim Stroetinga who showed last night was no fluke. Once he was thrown in by his partner Jen Mouris he flew around the tight track in the fastest time of the week 8.74 (68.375 kmph). In 2nd were Rasmussen / Morkov in 8.87.
1st Madison: - During the first chase of the night Keisse / Schep and Rasmussen / Morkov really put the pressure on the other contenders. They all finished on the same lap, just, but Rasmussen showed his sprint speed in the long races by coming from a long way back to cross the line first. The Danes have taken over 50 points already tonight and it'll be hard for anyone to beat them if it goes down to the bonus sprints tomorrow.
Derny Races: - The first series of Derny races saw wins for Morgan Kneisky and then Iljo Keisse again nearly took the roof off Het Kuipke as did Kenny De Ketele, all were paced by Michel Vaarten.
Individual Elimination Race 1: - With the majors players taking there foot of the gas it was left to Tim Mertens to out sprint Sebastian Donadio for a home win.
500 Metre TT: - It was Iljo Keisse and Peter Schep who won yet again delighting the crowd with a ride of 28.12 from Mertens / Ligthart. The 20 points gave them a bonus lap and first place. Despite there good night so far, Rasmussen / Morkov haven't done particularly well in this discipline over the week.
2nd Madison: - After a good start tonight last years winners Rasmussen / Morkov lost a lap to Keisse / Schep and De Ketele / Lampater in this the last chase before tomorrows finale. Even after taking a bonus lap, as they will soon, they have a lot of work to do if they are to repeat last year's dramatic victory. The 'home team' of Keisse / Schep looked very easy again taking laps quicker than any of the other team in the field and although the chase went to De Ketele / Lampater they seemed to find it hard to get big gaps when they went clear. Also losing out are Bartko / Hondo and Van Bon / Stam as these teams will need to gain 2 laps in the finale; a big ask. Out of the running for the podium went Marvulli / Aeschbach who are 6th at 3 laps down.
Individual Elimination Race 2: - In need of points unlike on other nights Michael Morkov took this one seriously riding off with veteran road pro Danilo Hondo (see below). The old head, Hondo, got the better of Morkov to finish the night well.
The Lampre professional Danilo Hondo has 83 wins to his name on the road and has enjoyed a mini renaissance this season after riding with small teams following a doping ban in 2006 (that ban was eventually overturned in court). At 36 years old this is only his 7th Six-Day race although he has track experience as part of the German Team Pursuit squad that won gold at the Worlds in 1994, but that was a long time ago. This correspondent had doubted his motives but fair play to him as he has acquitted himself well on this his first visit to the Ghent Six. I asked him about his Ghent experience so far and although he was friendly he responded to that question with a shrug and a smile noting "it's ok". He explained that he sees riding Six-Days as good winter training but has no ambition to become a specialist although is motivated to do well because he is in a competition which always makes you want to do your best. He will go to Zurich next week to ride with Bartko but he is unsure of any January Six-Day rides as they are likely to interfere with the start of the road season.
A rider with a less high profile career behind him but is a true professional in the old school sense is Andreas Muller. Although being Berlin born and bred he now competes for Austria and took his first ever senior Worlds medal with a bronze in the 2009 Scratch Race. He has over 57 starts in the Sixes to his name but spends the summer riding in the USA usually without sponsorship but racing in the old school way, for prize money. As well as the States he spent time this year racing in Trinidad and Tobago and will go to Cali, Colombia soon to race in the Omnium at the Track World Cup. A case of have bike will travel. His ambition is to again ride the Scratch and Madison and the World Championships but he is another rider who has suffered from the UCI decision to replace the individual endurance events at the Olympics with the Omnium. The events against the watch are a struggle for him but it is the Olympic events that the Austrian federation support, so he is trying to qualify for London 2012. Despite his usual optimism and pleasant nature, you sense that he is resigned to the fact the Omnium is a long shot for him, as it is for most of the Six-Day riders.
Standings at 01:20 a.m. (5th Night):
1. Keisse - Schep 330 points At 1 Lap: 2. De Ketele - Lampater 298 3. Bartko - Hondo 236 4. Stam - Van Bon 206 At 2 Laps: 5. Rasmussen - Morkov 296 At 3 Laps: 6. Marvulli - Aeschbach 255 At 6 Laps: 7. Madsen - Hester 128 At 12 Laps: 8. Mouris / Stroetinga 129 At 16 Laps: 9. Mertens / Ligthart 220 At 19 Laps: 10. Roberts / Kneisky 94 At 30 Laps: 11. Donadio / Vermeulen 111 At 33 Laps: 12. Van Der Sande / Muller 58 At 44 Laps: 13. De Neef / Schets 78
Around Het Kuipke:
All week 9 times winner of the Ghent Six Etienne De Wilde has been in the seats watching proceedings quite intensely with Stan Tourne, a rider he partnered for 2 of those victories. De Wilde hails from Wetteren just a few km from Ghent and was a real hero of the local public. He was a real entertainer, his double laps and Derny rides behind Joop Zijlaard are my earliest memories of the Ghent Six. He had a long career on the road and track winning a stage of the Vuelta in 1980 and later taking stages in the Tour De France and Paris Nice amongst others. He was a winner of a number of Semi-Classics and a Belgian National Road Champion. Despite being a regular Six-Day rider it was not until he was 35 that he won his first World Championship at Oslo, Norway in the Points Race. At the age of 40 he was 1998 World Madison Champion with Matthew Gilmore and 2 years later the same pair took Silver at the Sydney Olympics behind Scott McGrory and Brett Aitken.
Another visitor to Het Kuipke tonight was Kurt Betschart winner of a record 37 Sixes, including 3 here in Ghent, with his childhood friend Bruno Risi. He retired from cycling quite unexpectedly in the summer of 2006 and never had a farewell tour of Europe's velodromes like many of his contemporaries. He was perhaps underrated by the public who always recognised Risi as the guy because of his style and speed but Betschart was a strong and steady rider and one man alone can't win a Six-Day race alone.
UIV Cup for Riders Under 23:
After a week plagued by crashes tonight it was the turn of British rider Jonathan Mould to go down in the back straight. Like Alex Carver last night he got straight back on his bike and into the fray but also like the Aussies last night his team lost a lap and the overall lead. The winners of tonight's chase and the new overall leaders were the Swiss team of Claudio Imhof / Silvan Dillier. They are just 2 points ahead of the Australian team Alex Carver / Jackson Law and thankfully Carver didn't appear to be feeling the effects of yesterday's crash. It is going to be a 3 team fight between the Swiss, Australians and British for the 'Memorial Noel Fore - Toekomstzesdaagse', the Brits will need to gain a lap if they are to be victorious though..
As noted the British team are here under the watchful eye of Chris Newton who himself rode the Dortmund and Berlin Sixes in 2002-2003. Although he told me he enjoyed that experience the Six-Days never really fitted in with his programme of summer road and Track Championship preparation. He was a rider that could have potentially done well in this style of racing but the choice was obvious as his tally of 10 Olympic and World Championship medals show. The British Cycling Federation use some of the Six-Day races to work on the technical skills of their young riders, get used to the low gears and of course give them some international competition experience.