Sunday - 71st Z6s Daagse Vlaanderen Ghent
by Steve Penny
71st Six-Days of Ghent
Prior to the start Patrick Sercu – the sports director – and Rob Discart – the event organiser – held the customary press conference to give their overview of the proceedings.
Patrick Sercu said the main reason was obvious, the absence of Iljo Keisse determined the atmosphere and turnout for this years Six. He is the undisputed crowd favourite here but also a rider who can put on a show. The rider field is not as strong as it has been, but the fact that there has been no Six Days for a month doesn't help those that are here either. He was happy with the efforts of Kenny De Ketele, who has shown improvement in the sprints, to add some spectacle without Keisse. He also commended Tosh Van Der Sander who has done well, albeit in a weaker field, and to the Swiss pairing Dillier-Imhof.
It was also noted that in this pre-Olympic year there was the unavailability of other top track riders such as Michael Morkov, Elia Viviani and Roger Kluge, and that the UCI track programme does not co-exist well with the Six Day season. He reiterated that that getting big name road riders to race here is not the answer, as they are not in top condition at this time of year and want more money than the organisation is prepared to pay.
The riders head into the final session on their race to nowhere with the podium places still up for grabs, but there is a general feeling of disappointment about this years racing.
Klassement Sprint (point's race): - This was yet another win for the relative surprise package of Morgan Kneisky and Marc Hester, giving their sponsors good value throughout this race.
Team Elimination Race: - Franco Marvulli showed again that he is a force in the elimination races, easily out-sprinting Tim Mertens in the last 166 metres. He'll head home for what is now a 4 day race in Zurich, full of confidence, especially as his partner will be Iljo Keisse who'll be chomping at the bit to get back into action after missing this event.
Flying Lap Time Trial (TT): - The king against the clock is undoubtably Wim Stroetinga who again left the opposition trailing in his wake with 8.730 seconds (68.726 kmph). Another good showing from the Swiss riders Dillier-Imhof gave them the same time as Bartko – Ketele, 8.910 (67.337 kmph), to finish 2nd.
Derny Races: - The first of two Sunday afternoon Derny races saw home winners in Kenny De Ketele followed by the youngest rider in the race, Tosh Van Der Sande.
The last motor paced event of this Six took the grand title of 'Derny Finale', where Van Der Sande and De Ketele returned to the track along with a member of each of the other top six teams in the standings. Unsurprisingly it was De Ketele who won this one for the fans.
Individual Elimination Race: - One of the two Australians in this race is Glenn O'Shea, a native of Victoria, who had some early Sunday joy winning the only elimination race on today's programme.
500 Metre TT: - The Dutch team of Stroetinga – Schep made it 12 out of 12 in the Time Trials with another impressive performance in 27.790 (64.771 kmph). In second place once Dillier – Imhof with 28.160 (63.920 kmph) from Bartko - De Ketele, 28.210 (63.807 kmph).
Scratch Race: - The last race before the 'finale' was an honourary victory for the retiring Belgian Steven De Neef, who took one last bouquet before hanging up his wheels at the age of 40.
Finale – 60 minute Madison: - Once Kenny De Ketele and Robert Bartko took control of this race by getting a lap clear of the challengers on Friday night, the result of the 71st Ghent Six hasn't really been in doubt. As this is a spectacle though they did put the hammer down one last time in the last few laps and bask in a standing ovation.
After working hard all week Stroetinga – Schep nearly lost 2nd place as Kneisky and Hester made an effort to get away, but the aforementioned charge from De Ketele – Bartko put paid to that. So the Dutch hung on for 2nd with the spirited performance of Kneisky – Hester seeing them hold off the rest for final place on the podium.
Although on paper it seemed easy, De Ketele was under pressure to bring home the bacon and held his nerve and form to take a cherished first win on home soil.
The Riders View:
Marc Hester (3rd with Morgan Kneisky) – I asked about his improvement and ride here:
"It's natural that as you get older you get stronger. Also in the Madison you need to guys who can work together and are equally strong so I have had that here and yes it's a good result."
Claudio Imhof – He and partner Silvan Dillier were the revelations:
"On the first day we really struggled, but after that we just got better and better... I'm really happy. Like all riders I have ambition to do well on the road, but I think its possible to ride both the road and track so I aim to be back here next year to do even better!!!"
Alexander Aeschbach – I asked him about what appeared to be a poor showing by his normal standards:
"I had two bad crashes in the summer, one of them was bad for my knee, the other my rib cage and so I've come into this race without the form and condition I've perhaps had in the past. Then on the first day my saddle broke, and you can imagine I had some pain there. But as well as that, it is also a mental thing and motivation has been tough as I wasn't so happy with the partner they gave me for the Zurich race, a young guy in his first ever Six, so all in all not a great week for me!!!"
Andreas Muller – gave his thoughts on a less than exciting Six Day:
"This year the speed has been about ½ kmph slower and believe it does make a difference. Ok... Keisse is not here and he is after all 'De Kaiser' (the king) in Ghent, but I also think the teams are not as strong. They (the teams) might be more even but there are not as many strong riders here. But other than that I can't explain it, even the crowd seem less interested, although they have still come in large numbers. I still like it here and for me the track is great."
1. Bartko - De Ketele 346 points @ 1 Lap: 2. Stroetinga - Schep 352 3. Kneisky - Hester 339 4. Lampater - Van Der Sande 280 @ 2 Laps: 5. Grasmann – Marvulli 372 6. Mertens - Stam 228 @ 5 Laps: 7. Dillier – Imhof 288 @ 8 Laps: 8. O'Shea - Roberts 188 9. Muller - De Neef 119 @ 10 Laps: 10. Van Bon - Aeschbach 156 @ 19 Laps: 11. Barth - Bengsch 130 12. Edmuller - Morkov 110 @ 23 Laps: 13. Hacecky - Blaha 75
'Memorial Noel Fore' – UIV-Under 23 Race:
The final 45 minute Madison Simon Yates and Owain Doull improved their winning margin to two laps, confirming that they've been the best team here all week. Their main competition have been Dutchmen Van Zijl and Caspers, but they did not ride today, and a challenge from the French team never materialised.
The disappointing thing is that despite Britain sending good youngsters here every year, in the long term they have no interest in Six Day racing at all. The national track programme does not even enter a team in the Madison at World Cups or World Championships since it's no longer an Olympic event. It's impressive to see the production line, but the intention of the UIV-Cup is / was to blood riders for the elite Sixes, not serve as part of national training programmes.
Recent winners of the 'Ghent Toekomstezesdaagse' Dillier, Imhof and Tosh Van Der Sande are all showing well in the elite race and they are what this should be about, the future of the Sixes!!!
1. Yates – Doull (GBr) @ 2 laps: 2. Boudat – Pijoulet (Fra) 3. Harmsen – Bond (Ned) @ 3 laps: 4. Van Zijl – Caspers (Ned) 5. Cornet – Breyne (Bel) @ 4 laps: 6. Stahr (Ger) – Van Immerseel (Bel) 7. Bigum – Helleskov Busk (Den) @ 7 laps: 8. Hugentobler – Suter (Swi) @ 8 laps: 9. Hesslich – Barkschat (Ger) @ 13 laps: 10. Venneman – Lava (Bel) @ 14 laps: 11. Furst – Vendolsky (Czech) @ 29 laps: 12. Coppernolle – Merlier (Bel)