Archivo de la etiqueta: bremen

Everything track racing should be: an interview with Korina Huizar

I’m not sure where to start, I feel like you have a lot to say about track racing, and women’s track racing. But maybe start by telling me how you wound up in Belgium?

Track racing is an individual sport, and there aren’t really teams surrounding it. Last year on the road I raced with Vanderkitten, and they supported me on the track as well. Unfortunately, they folded, and that left me in the position of having to find a new team for both road and track.

I’ve signed with a great road team [BMW Happytooth], and for the track, I wasn’t sure: there aren’t any track teams in the US, except for Felt, and they’re pretty international; they only pick a handful of riders. So it created the opportunity for me to find all of my own sponsors that I wanted to work with. There’s a few, like Fast Forward Wheels, that I’ve been working with since I got started on the track in 2012, so it made sense to reach out to them. They’re my title sponsor for this year, and I’ve got a few other great ones on board, like Nuun, Castelli, Marc Pro, so yeah, it really worked out.

This next year is all about accruing UCI points, this is a UCI scratch race. Almost all of the six days – they don’t have women’s madison racing –

Yeah, why not?

I don’t know. It’s not that popular in the US, although that’s where it gained its popularity [note?], and there’s definitely people trying to make it happen again – Jack Simes, the godfather of cycling, is trying to bring it back. He did the Hollywood Six Day two years ago, and I think are hopes that it’ll happen again this year.

But for me, I ended up in Belgium wanting to start my season racing on the track, it’s my favorite. I feel like it’s the hardest form of racing, so it’s a great way to start the season, to come out here and get a few track races in. I’ll go to Berlin after this, and it sounds like I may do the Revolution Series after that.

After that it’s back to the US, we have our road team camp at the beginning of March, and then my season kicks off in April.

What do you think needs to be done to help women’s cycling? I mean, I know that you’re a racer and not a promoter, but…

I think it’s just as simple as promotion. Everyone knows about six-day racing, but not many know that there’s a women’s race in conjunction with that, and just having it broadcasted in the pamphlets, that the women are doing certain races, or highlighting women’s racing, for whatever weekend it is, I think our races are just as hard. We crash just as hard, bleed just as easily, we put everything out there.

Have you only ridden [a Six] here and Fiorenzuola?

Yeah, it’s the only six-day race I’ve done.

And how do you feel, the second time around?

I love it. It’s crazy, its a big production and yeah, it’s a bit stressful coming in, we had our meeting at 1 and we were on the track at 2 and there are people everywhere. But it makes it fun.

Absolutely. Most of the racers that I’ve been talking to are really into the six-day thing because the crowd is louder, more excited, there’s music… do you even hear it, by the way?

Oh yeah. You can even hear kids with the noisemakers, sometimes they catch you off guard. But it’s a blast.

The kids are really into it too…

It’s a show, and I think that’s how racing should be. We were talking about it, it’s kind of a show for spectators, it’s more than just racing… I feel like the track community in general is pretty easygoing, it’s a lot of fun.

I’ve never been to Fiorenzuola, would you tell me a little bit what that was like?

It was beautiful. It’s Italy, to start off with, so that just sets the precedent: it’s in a beautiful countryside, and the racing was phenomenal. I’ve never, even to this day, raced in such a hard, world-class start. It was phenominal: Georgia Bronzini, Kirstin Wild, we’re talking world-cup status. For me, it was a great opportunity to race with them and get that experience firsthand. And I think once you get a taste of six-day racing, you just want to come back. It’s a blast, and it’s hard, and it’s fun, and everything that racing is.

One of the things that I think is unique to Bremen is that everybody’s at the hotel afterwards, to chit-chat and have happy hour, but at two in the morning. Are you joining in the fun?

We’ll see, it’s kind of hard, the track is kind of like a casino: you have no idea what time it is, even how you’re supposed to feel. When you get back [to the hotel], your sense of time is so skewed. We’ll still be racing at 10pm, that’s not the norm, so to get off at two, when racing ends, you still have your adrenaline pumping, you’ve just been racing all-out, so it’s hard to just shut it off and wrap it up. It’s only natural.

And talking about the track community as a whole: that’s the beauty of it, we race hard on the track, and then everyone comes out and hangs out on the infield.

What else should I know? What am I missing about track racing, or women’s racing?

Well, I was going to introduce you to my friend Verena Eberhardt, who I met at Fiorenzuola. It’s funny, you show up to the same races and it’s nice to have familiar faces, so you instantly become friends because you’re all doing the same thing. Most of us went to that race alone, you have to wrench everything yourself, juggle all the chaos, it’s nice to have other people understand how stressful and exciting it is.

You do your own wrenching? Your own wheel changes?

Yeah, of course, but that’s the tough thing: you saw me getting bandaged up as the women’s elimination race was about to start, so I’m running after them, no time to cool down or anything. But it’s fun, I wouldn’t do anything else.

I think that’s all I have for you…

What do you ask the guys?

Mostly I go after the older racers, the ones who have been around for a few years. I wanna know how six-day racing has changed, I want to talk to someone who has something to say. You know what I ask them: what else do you do, outside of racing? What do you do for fun? What music do you listen to?

Oh, I listen to everything. Right now it’s the weekend, on repeat. It’s hard to be in Europe without loving European music, I dunno, I love it, it’s different, it’s dance-y, it’s fun.

Did you get a chance to catch Mickie Krause yesterday? You gotta check it out tonight, I don’t know if you’ll like it but you have to see him, mostly because by the time 23h15 rolls around, everyone’s been drinking enough to sing along with him.

That’s the other crazy thing about six days! Sometimes there’s beauty pageants in the middle, and pop stars, the famous YouTube girl… it really is a show.

Are you living full-time in Belgium now?

No, just for the next few weeks, until the end of February, and then back to the US. I had the opportunity to come over here for road racing last season, and yeah, I love it. It’s such a different style of racing, and it’s really hard – I didn’t do well with it, to be honesty, but I enjoyed that the most. I truly enjoy a challenge, and I’d rather get my butt kicked and learn from the best than… just ride my bike. I’m here to race. So I hope to be back here for either road racing or track racing.

Well, I hope to see you back here!

Thanks.

——————–

Further reading: Ms. Huizar’s excellent blog, Instagram, and guest articles at Freeplay Magazine.

Bye bye Bremen

2015/01/img_3835.jpg

The last night in Bremen was everything that we could have hoped for. The short Madison ended without any team taking a significant advantage, although Lampater’s strong final sprint made us wonder what was left in the tank for the final.

The tension was thick as the hour-long (plus 50 laps!) madison began. The crowd had been whittled down to the pure sports fans, too, with no concerts on the evening’s program.

And we would not be disappointed. Lampater/Stroetinga went up a lap early to get a taste of first place, Burkart/Politt attacked several times to try to dislodge the World Champions, and Graf/Müller reminded us why they are the European Madison champions as they fought to catch fourth-placed Grasmann/Marguet.

Neither effort was meant to be: with just 12 laps to go, Rasmussen saw a gap and put in a strong attack, distancing the group despite the chase efforts of their competitors. That lap was enough to move into first place, but Rasmussen kept going, lapping the field again to seal the deal.

Full results below, and the official race report is here.

1. Marcel Kalz/Alex Rasmussen (0) 357
2. Morgan Kneisky/Jesper Mørkøv (1) 297
3. Leif Lampater/Wim Stroetinga (1) 286
4. Christian Grasmann/Tristan Marguet (5) 233
5. Andreas Graf/Andreas Müller (7) 153
6. Nick Stöpler/Nico Heßlich (12) 225
7. David Muntaner/Albert Torres (17) 117
8. Achim Burkart/Nils Politt (19) 118
9. Martin Blaha/Vojtech Hacecky (20) 102
10. Marcel Barth/Erik Mohs (26) 110
11. Luke Roberts/Bobby Lea (28) 143

The final countdown

I’m off to the track! But a few quick words about what we’re in for this evening. The standings:

1 Kneisky, Morgan – Mørkøv, Jesper        0    235

2 Lampater, Leif – Stroetinga, Wim           0    230

3 Kalz, Marcel – Rasmussen, Alex            1    297

(Complete list here.)

The three-way battle for first is going to be a fierce one this evening; Kalz/Rasmussen will almost certainly be awarded a bonus lap (for hitting 300 points), so nothing is a given this evening. No cake walk for anybody else, either; new team Grasmann/Marguet are only a lap and
ahead of Müller/Graf, and tonight’s final madison is an hour long, so team #2 will have to watch their back. And ditto for world champions Muntaner/Torres – with two separate teams within two laps, defending their place will be a battle.

Who will be throwing the flowers tonight? IMG_7883

(More on my instagram.)

The early bird gets the gyro

It’s not all late-posted race reports and previews here at Six Daze. Because sometimes, if you want the real story, you gotta show up early. So, on the last day of the Bremen Six, I rolled out of bed at the crack of 16:00 and made my way to the track. Everyone was getting prepared for the evening, and the excitement was tangible. Food stands were prepped:

IMG_3775

(Smells fishy.)

IMG_3774

(Turns out that kebabs are a universal language.)

Carnival games were set up:

IMG_3773

(The Claw is hungry!)

IMG_7609

(I’d be pissed too, if my mom made me wear that sweater.)

And, of course, the racers were warming up:

IMG_7690

(Tomas Babek’s smile is even bigger than his legs)

And this guy couldn’t wipe the smile off his face, neither:

IMG_3733

(Obviously, no one ever taught him how to take a selfie.)

Well-prepared, we go into the last day

I’m all about that race (no treble)

Sunday’s matinée session in Bremen was anything but the quiet, relaxed day that Sundays are known for.

The women kicked off the morning sesion¹ at noon – which, technically, isn’t morning any more, but Saturday’s evening had finished at nearly two in the morning – with a scratch race:IMG_7539.jpg

Korina Huizar launched a brave attack with 17 laps to go, but it was not to be, and she was reeled in five rounds later. Soon after, Martina Ruzikova got away, with Isabell Seif along. The duo would stay away for the remaining eight laps, and Ruzikova took the sprint.

After Luke Roberts stamped his name on the men’s elimination race, it was time for the long Madison. Attacks were frequent and fast; because the men wear armbands which light up to indicate that they’ve broken away from the field², the track became a Christmas tree of lights.

IMG_7529.jpg

(Nico Hesslich, lighting the way)

The race came down to the wire: Andreas Graf, tied for laps but lacking points, took off with 17 laps to go. Grasmann/Hester weren’t having it, though, and it looked like they could drive the pace of the group hard enough to keep the Austrian team from lapping the field one more time. With just four laps to go, the team of Chessmaster Müller got their lap and clinched the race, while Stroetinga’s cunning sprint for points nudged his team into second. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what a great race!

The sprinters took their turn next. While it’s easy enough to watch and enjoy the sprint events separately – I do, I have to admit – they do count towards an individual and a team total. Here there are six sprinters, three for the German team and three for the English/Czech team. Standings are updated on the official web. Anyway, the keirin is always a crowd favorite for its heated sprints, and this evening’s did not disappoint. Although, it must be said, there was almost more heat on the podium than during the race:

IMG_7593.jpg

(…)

Other highlights included the tandem pursuit. Marcel Kalz piloted one of the tandem pursuit bicycles, and Erik Mohs the other; each tandem had a stoker³ who was a blind member of the paralympic team.

IMG_7482.jpg

(Marcel Barth has a pom-pom beanie in every color, to match any jersey the six-day organizers give him.)

The women’s elimination was pretty great, too; it came down to the four highest-placed racers. At the end, Ms. Pavlendová took Ms. Marcus by surprise to pull away just after the bell rang.

IMG_7558.jpg

The men’s short madison came down to another nail-biter. With 20 laps to go, Stöpler/Hesslich took a lap, and were leading the field. Morgan Kniesky waited for his chance, and made a strong attack three laps later. It looked convincing, but so did Lapater/Stroetinga, trying to reel the franco-danish team back in. Alex Rasmussen, currently the overall leader, was chasing so hard that he left the field behind, only to be caught with five laps to go. Kniesky/Mørkøv finally caught the group with just two laps to go, hard work that set them up to take the overall lead by the end of the night.

IMG_7576.jpg

(Current standings here, little guy, you just have to check your smartphone.)

——–

Notes:

1. Really, the morning was kicked off by the fans who gathered in the train station adjacent to the track at 11:00 to drink beer by the pint, but that’s another story.

2. Great idea, right?!

3. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that each tandem was stoked, in any sense of the term.

Bremen report, part one.

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.IMG_7038

(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:

IMG_6863

(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.

IMG_7012

(#sufferface)

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:

IMG_6854

(He wears his sunglasses at night.)

● Then again, Krause’s fans got nothing on Marc Hester‘s fans.

IMG_6639

(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.