It is difficult, sometimes, to know where to start. Arriving in Bremen, I was excited for the 51st edition of their six-day race, the first edition with status ,allowing races to earn points. But I was not prepared for everything else: the 166m track inside an arena with a capacity for 5.000, two disco balls, three announcers, four jumbo-trons, pyrotechnics, racers with light-up armbands, three stages, at least one of which feels like a nightclub, pretzels on necklaces, light-up bunny ear headbands, a mascot, madison racing, sprinters, womens’ events, paralympic racers, youtube sensations, magicians, sing-alongs set to techno music, and, of course, some great racing.
So, just to jump in: a short list of some highlights from Friday and Saturday:
● Fire. Yeah, I said it. Every time (well, okay, not every time) something exciting happens, it’s punctuated with fire. Not just from one little flamethrower, if such a thing even exists. From 17, count ‘em, 17 flame-throwing canons.
(In the background, you can see that the Incredible Hulk also showed up to enjoy the festivities.)
● If you’d like to see the sprinters in action, you’re going to have to buy a ticket and show up next year. But! The third- or fourth-best thing would be to have a look at this video that I took of a 3-up match sprint.
● Bremen serves up elimination (miss n’ out) races in both individual and team flavors. Still, veterans Bobby Lea and Luke Roberts work pretty well together even when they’re not, explicitly, on the same team: the duo finished Friday’s individual elimination race alone on the track, having worked together to dispense with their competitors. (Make sure you check out Bobby Lea’s Instagram updates, via Bicycling Magazine.)
● Racers wear light-up armbands, so that the announcer can light up a racer in order to show the crowd who he’s talking about. But if you give the racers enough time between events, this is the kind of thing they come up with:
(Marcel Barth, the king of the wave.)
● There’s women’s racing too! Not just points races, either – although points races are a lot of fun to watch – but eliminations, scratch races, and dernies. It’s cool to see different faces on the track, right alongside all of the other events.
● Mickie Krause took the stage at halftime, two days in a row, to get the crowd singing along to his bar anthems set to techno beats. And the crowd loved it, packing into the middle of the track as if Sercu and Merckx themselves had shown up to race:
(He wears his sunglasses at night.)
● Then again, Krause’s fans got nothing on Marc Hester‘s fans.
(But then, who isn’t a fan of Marc Hester?)
● On the other side of the complex, the band Blast was playing. But you’ll have to check another video to get a taste.
● The German word for madison race is Jagd, which translates back to hunt. Cool, eh? Which reminds me how good the short madison race was on Saturday: super fast, with constant attacks to a strung-out field. Everyone finished within a lap of each other, spare a thought for Barth/Mohs’ last-minute attack, which just ran out of road before they could lap the field.
Stay tuned for more tomorrow.