The King of the Sixes. The race we’ve all been waiting for. It’s everyone’s favorite; the crowd is incomparable. It’s hard not to believe the hype. I mean, just look at this track:
Sweet, eh? It’s one of the shortest in the world, at 167 meters. It’s also one of two velodromes in Ghent. Yeah, that’s right. How many cities have two velodromes¹? And word on the street is that they open this one exclusively for the Ghent Six. If you build, it they will come. And come, they do:
(Another poor papparazzi photo of Mr. Cavendish.)
Sorry, I just had to get that one out of the way². As a result of Cavendish’s star power, the Ghent six sold out for at least four nights; any tickets which weren’t scooped up by Belgian cycling fans or freaks like me got bought up by (I assume) Cav fans, and the place was packed:
(No hay pan para tanto chorizo. Es que no hay bastante trigo en el mundo para hacer pan para tanto chorizo.)
So, if you imagine the most crowded sports bar you’ve even been in, scale it up to a capacity of 5000 people, and then rip out all of the TV screens and put a giant bowl of wood inside³, you’d have a pretty good idea about how it feels to be at the Ghent Six. When the favorites attack, the noise is deafening. I’ve been to punk-rock shows with quieter, better-behaved crowds.
It’s a hard thing to describe, no matter how good my camera is or how much ink I spill. So I started taking videos:
(Can you do the can-can?)
(Gotta love the miss-n-out!)
What isn’t hard is to see how much fun this is. Even the racers are having a blast:
(Better get your laughs in now, Mr. Hoevik, before Mr. Hester gets on the front.)
(Mr. Rasmussen schmoozing with the world champion.)
All of this is to say nothing about the racing, although the program is pretty standard: the Madison, a couple of time trials, a couple of elimination sprints, the derny:
(Mr. Lampater throws Mr. Dillier into the fray.)
(Welkom in Gent, indeed.)
Make sure to check out Cycling Weekly for more race coverage.
What was really cool about Ghent is that the women’s events run alongside the men’s. Normally⁴ relegated to the two-hour time slot before the pro racing starts, here it was great to have the women’s events in between the men’s.
(Lined up for the scratch race.)
(Ms. D’Hoore, putting the “flying” into the flying lap. Click here to check out an interview with her.)
(Ms. Druyts, off the front, as usual.)
(Flowers from Patrick Sercu? No wonder everyone’s riding so fast!)
Most spectators take advantage of the awards ceremonies go buy more beer, use the restroom, etc. But much to my dismay, the bathrooms weren’t free.
Yes, I get it: in Belgium, it’s normal to pay for the restrooms in concerts and sporting events. And no, €0,50 isn’t a lot of money. But still, charging someone for their beer and then to pee it out is kind of like McDonalds charging you for becoming diabetic.
And, weirder still, the city of Ghent has installed free public toilets around the city, and done us all the favor of marking them as men’s:
But I kept my chin up and paid my fifty cents, trying not to think about the fact that there are bathrooms in northern Europe that make much, much more money than I do. Because I had better things to do, like hang around with gentlemen who are much, much classier than I:
1. Okay, wise guy, you’re right: Santiago also has two velodromes, and so do Bogotá, Prague, Zürich, Mexico City, Lima, and, of course, Roubaix. And I bet you’ve already read Mr. RNG’s excellent post on ‘t Kuipke, huh? Well, take a moment to pat yourself on the back.
2. If you’re a Cavendish fan and you haven’t already bought a copy of Rouleur #50 , please put down your web-reading device, get on your bike, ride to the store, and do so now. On the way, you should ask yourself what you’re doing with your life.
3. I know, it’s my fantasy too, but stay with me, I’m making a point here.
4. Ahem, “normally.” I’ve been to exactly five six-day races over the past two years, so I really don’t have any idea about what normal is.