Archivo de la etiqueta: six days

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.

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(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:

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(…)

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.

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(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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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(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.

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(#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:

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(He wears his sunglasses at night.)

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

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(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.

I just can’t Ghent enough

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:

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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:

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(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:

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(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:

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(Can you do the can-can?)

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(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:

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(Better get your laughs in now, Mr. Hoevik, before Mr. Hester gets on the front.)

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(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:

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(Mr. Lampater throws Mr. Dillier into the fray.)

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(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.

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(Lined up for the scratch race.)

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(Ms. D’Hoore, putting the “flying” into the flying lap. Click here to check out an interview with her.)

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(Ms. Druyts, off the front, as usual.)

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(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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

Interview with Daniel Holloway.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Daniel “Hollywood” Holloway last week in Amsterdam.

So, how’d you get your nickname? Because you’re so friendly to fans like me and stuff?

Aw, I got that persona when I was 19 or 20, we had a national team training camp in the Bahamas, and I showed up with aviators and white jeans, a patent leather bag. One of the coaches was like, ‘Jesus, dude, you’re so Hollywood.’ I’m from California, and if you come from California, you’re either a surfer or from LA, so I was labelled pretty quickly and it stuck. And, you know, I like to have fun and do my best to put on a show, because we’ve gotten to the point in time where everybody is so focused on performance that there’s no crowd engagement anywhere, whether it’s criteriums or six-day racing or your local velodrome. People come to watch, so you need to engage them. It just makes it worth their time and everything else.

So which one are you? Are you a surfer, or are you from LA?

Ha, I’m from inland, a little valley called Morgan Hill. I grew up in the suburbs [of San Francisco], so I can’t swim, so I don’t know how to surf. I’m not the biggest fan of LA, just the rat race down there, even though I have been spending more an more time there. But I stay in the south bay, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, just a more laid-back vibe, you can find everything in its little pocket, good riding and stuff.

But there’s also stuff happening there, aside from the excelling road riding, I didn’t know until recently that they put on a half six days in Carson City.

Yeah, last year Jack Simes got a three-day going, brought some Euro guys over to try and gain some exposure, but the venue cost at the StubHub Center is just so exorbitant that it’s just not cost-worthy. It takes so much money just to get the facility, and in the end they nickel and dime you if you want good sessions, or if you want TV, or if you want music. It’s very controlled, so it takes lots and lots of money to try to do an event, right? And the infrastructure inside the velodrome isn’t really designed to host large events, it’s kind of difficult to work with, so you know, if you had a million dollars, you could put on a really good event, but if you’re trying to do it on a small budget, it’s just never going to work. It’s unfortunate.

So he’s not doing it again?

Yeah, we didn’t hear anything about it this year, and it’s just one of those money things, for such a kind of niche thing, to get a sponsor or a private investor, a lot of people want to see perfect success the first go-round, with any amount of money. I think it was a good starting point, but it just wasn’t successful enough either to have a private investor continue on or to attract another sponsor to replace that. So it’s unfortunate, but hopefully it was a learning experience for everybody that’s involved or looking in from the outside, about how to re-try or re-approach it.

It’s always a chase for sponsors in the cycling game.

Yeah, and a big problem is that everybody has their hand out but they don’t have a legitimate program, or a way to say how it’s worth it. Everybody’s like, or a team, is like, hey, I want ten helmets, we’re going to win all these races in our region. But the region is like 300 square miles and, you know, there’s no reach, they don’t do blogging, they don’t do social media, and they just take the helmets and say thank-you and that’s it. So you have an obligation to do more, do more for that sponsor, the sponsor wants the value of their helmets back plus some, right?

So, if you can continue to show them that it’s easy to build relationships and build a reputation, the industry is so small that just because this guy’s a marketing guy for this company doesn’t mean in three years he’s gonna move somewhere else, you know? And he can say, you know, this guy is reputable, he believes in you, and can vouch that you’re going to do things for their company that’s worth value. It goes a long way. A lot of people just have their hands out in the industry and don’t really give it back.

And if you start asking big businesses outside of cycling for money, they want to see the value. It’s a passion play, but then, a guy that’s in marketing, or even the CEO of a company, has to go to a board and present this proposal and say, yeah, I want to give a quarter of a million dollars to this team, or this race. And everyone else on the board is going to be a naysayer because it’s new to them; they don’t know how to approach it.  So you have to give your marketing guy as much quality information and numbers for him to be able to stand up against this board, whether it’s three guys or ten guys, and say, no, this is why it works. And this is why it’s worth the time and the energy and our resources to do this.

You know, it’s just a lot of fine-line things, it’s a big puzzle: do you start from the outside or from the inside? As a new guy, with my current road team, we’re just figuring things like that out, we’re going to try a new approach to how the team operates next year, as far as what we do off the bike, like I was saying before: the cool bike racing is a bonus to being a professional sportsman, and having your sponsorship obligations and trying to sell product. We’re not really salesman, we’re more on the marketing side, but it’s giving the people who talk to us the most information so they can go actually buy a bike from the salespeople.

You wake up Monday morning, something new’s going on, ebola or whatever else that’s making headlines, and we don’t even make national news to begin with. But that stuff still overtakes us on Facebook and everything else, so we have to be relevant seven days a week. So we’re trying different things and a lot more outside of racing: visiting people, visiting shops, being in the community, talking to people, just you know, Cat 5s and weekend warriors want to talk to the professional athletes, you know, we gotta act like humans and show them we’re just normal guys that like music and like pizza and like movies, and build a conversation rather than being intimidated because I’m a pro. No, I’m just a regular guy that just happens to be a little talented and can win a bike race every once in a while.

But you build that connection, and all of a sudden they’re excited and it’s just positive imagery for our sponsors. It’s just always a positive connection to see a Felt bicycle with Fast Forward wheels, whatever else it may be, there’s positive brand awareness, and that’s really important. Down the road, these guys don’t always have thousands of dollars to just re-up new equipment, but it’s when it’s time, if you have this positive vibe and this positive image, they want to be associated with. And when they’re ready to spend the money, you hope that you’ve done everything right for them to purchase your product.

Makes sense. I also noticed that you also work mentoring in the Bay Area…

Yeah, it’s a junior team, kind of local, I know one of the guys that’s the co-founder of the program. I was super fortunate as a junior to get tons of support, and it made my life easier, it made my dad’s life easier financially, so he could spend time and energy getting to the bike races instead of more time working to be able to afford a new bike or new wheels if I crashed or whatever else. You know, I like to give back to the juniorws with my experiences, I made a lot of mistakes as a junior and U23s as far as handling relationships and just, you know, my attitude on the bike and off the bike, so…

Any examples or is that…

I just had more attitude than my results maybe alluded to and I didn’t always follow-up with the sponsors, to keep those relationships going or, you know, a clean slate. And on the bike, I wouldn’t say I was angry, but I was very vocal. If a guy did something I didn’t like, he’d know about it, and sometimes it’s better just not to say anything and just kind of ignore it. In the cycling world, that stuff just hangs on to you forever, the way you train and eat and stuff. All that stuff stays with you for a very long time, and it’s taken a long time to just remove some of those negative features that are garnered as a younger rider. So when these kids ask for information and tips and stuff, [I can share] my experience. If you go eat ice cream, don’t always go and post it on social media. Enjoy your ice cream, but online, that’s forever, and people see it.

How do you feel about the format, compared to a criterium? What’s the best part of coming over here to race the six days?

Just being unique, being one of two Americans to do it. I think now, I have the most six days under my belt, of the last couple generations of Americans, so it’s kind of cool to start building that kind of legacy. We haven’t done well but it’s a stepping stone and hopefully it’s just getting comfortable and we’re starting to just build our time here, so it’s knowing in August you’re going to do all winter, you can prepare for it, make a jump up.

So it’s unique in that aspect, and it’s a different outlet for my sponsors, get some good exposure, and the road season stops in September, so October through February there’s nothing going on. But if I can get on the track, I can do more racing and show my sponsors that that’s a value and keep it fresh. A lot of road guys die off and it’s hard to continue to do social media when you’re not racing and everything else, but if you’re racing and you’re traveling, you’re always relevant, you’re always posting something new, keeping your fans engaged and excited.

It’s cool to change it up.

I’m not the most focused trainer, you know, it’s hard for me to just go out and train a specific program by myself, I’m more of a social rider so group rides and small groups help me get out the door and start the day. So to come over here breaks up my winter, gives me short, focused goals that I can work towards. When road season starts, I have some good intensity and racing that didn’t take a lot of mental effort. Just get out there, I’m forced on the bike, and the fitness comes with it. It’s good that way.

How’d you get hooked up with Angus and Guy?

I’ve known Guy since we were juniors together, we were on the nationals program together, we have a long history. He knew Angus and built a relationship with him. It’s nice to be where your partner is, and not split up. You can see that not everyone on the European side shares soigneurs and stuff like that but here, it feels like it’s pretty important to be in the same space a lot and build that bond, because when you’re out there suffering, you just want to have that relationship. So if you split up, off the bike, it can kind of be detrimental.

Yeah, I noticed that there’s a team of Dutch brothers here [Christian Kos & Patrick Kos]. Do they have an unfair advantage?

Nah, well, I think in many different sports you can see that brothers have an unspoken bond, just from being brothers, they know how the other guy’s feeling and can really help each other out. It’s beneficial to know immediately how the other guy’s feeling, this connection that no other team would have.

One last question: what’s on your iPod? What are you listening to these days?

It varies a lot, I like a lot of hip-hop and stuff, through all kinds of generations, Kool Moe D all the way to Childish Gambino nowadays, and I also like folk music and some country to just even it out, but I can listen to just about everything.

Interview: Boro the bartender

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Boro takes great care of the bar, part of the crack team of caterers that keeps the Amsterdam six-day fans from getting thirsty. I took a liking to him immediately, mostly because he always had a couple of words for me every time I passed by on the infield.

 

You excited for tonight?!

Eh… [shrugs].

No?!

Well, there’s football tonight…

Yeah, Barça – Ajax. I live in Barcelona!

Hm, careful, there’s a lot of Ajax fans around here.

I won’t say it too loud. Who’s going to win?

Eh… 4 – nil, Barcelona.

 

[Editor’s note: Barça did win, but the final score was 3-1.]

Oh, yeah, if you’re looking for the bar, just keep an eye out for the sign:

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(Honey, where’s the bar?! I can’t find the bar. Why don’t they just tell you where it is?”)

Interview: Nolan Hoffman

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I had a chance to catch up with Nolan Hoffman in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Do you race many six days?

Eh, I have before, and also I am now, quite a bit in the last 3 seasons.

How’d you get into it?

Because I always did track cycling, and my first was in 2009, in Zurich. Yeah, because I had a silver medal in the World Championships in 2012. The organizers always look to the world championships, to the medals, to see who they can bring. Normally if you medal, then it’s good for the six days and your profile.

I win a lot of races in South Africa, and it makes some sense for them to have me here; it, how do you say, it promotes cycling in Europe that it’s globalizing, like what the UCI did. I think people find it different to see all different sorts of nationalities just than the traditional Europeans, it brings some sort of diversity to the sport.

So what’s your favorite part of coming to Amsterdam? Do you get to see the city at all, or do you just come for the week and then go home?

Yeah, so far I haven’t been fortunate to get out, I’ve seen the city but yeah, it’s work as usual, you know, I don’t come for the holiday, I come for the racing and unfortunately I’m still pretty much in my season, so I have to keep focused, as I still have one really big race in South Africa in two weeks, so yeah, I have to stay healthy and keep going, and the racing here will also help me keep racing at a very high level, so it works for me.

And what’s your favorite six that you’ve ridden? They all have a different flavor, no?

Every six days is different, like here, people consider Amsterdam to be one of the smaller six days, but I would definitely say that my favorite would be Ghent, in terms of participation and the atmosphere. I don’t think anything beats Ghent, it’s like the monument of the six days, and it’s always considered to be the hardest. To finish Ghent, and be able to ride there, it was an incredible experience for me, the hospitality of the people there, it was phenomenal.

Yeah, they really know their cycling, don’t they?

That too, and I would say that the six days in the Netherlands and in Belgium is the best, it’s well-organized, it’s cycling crazy, it’s a cycling crazy nation, cycling here, to them, it’s… people really regard the athletes very highly. So it’s nice to be part of that small, niche group, and to show your talent in front of the crowds. It’s special, you don’t get it anywhere else in the world.

Which event hurts the most?

Uh… there’s so much…

So much pain?

Yeah, yeah, but I would say the last chase of each day, normally it’s longer than the first one and it’s more time suffering, and it’s the race where everybody gets tired, so it [requires] more concentration. Definitely the last chase, for me, is the hardest of the day.

I have one last question for you: what are you listening to on your iPod these days?

I’m a big — I’m a huge — Tiësto fan, I think he’s one of the DJs that’s been around forever and still is on top of his game. And I mean, he’s forever coming out with good music and that’s what makes the legs turn on the five-hour rides and all that, and on the rollers…

That’s the other reason why you like coming to the Netherlands, huh?

Yeah, yeah, I think I’m pretty Netherlands-crazy, because everything they have is pretty much up there in terms of talent, music, everything, it’s nice to be like the Dutch.