Archivo de la etiqueta: zesdaagse

Reportaje: seis días en Rotterdam

De vuelta a Holanda!

Antes de irme, tenía muchas ganas: nunca había conocido a la segunda ciudad de Holanda; todo el imagen de la carrera, bien currado por lxs chicxs de Soigneur, da la movida una pinta muy buena; sabía que los equipos iban a luchar hasta la última noche.

Mucha ilusión, hasta el momento en que miré la previsión de tiempo:

rotterdam_tiempo

… y me dí cuenta de que iba muy lejos de casa. Pero bueno, si a Roma vas, como vieres haz, así que lo primero que hice al llegar fue alquiler una bici. Mentira: lo primero que hice fue flipar por la arquitectura moderna. Hasta la estación de trenes:

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Una buena manera de distraerme del frio. Aunque, claro, en Holanda la gente va en bici sin guantes y gorros en pleno invierno, y después dejan las máquinas en una aparcabicis de dos plantas hasta que queda llena:

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(Aviso: eso no será la última foto de un aparcabicis.)

Pero bueno, no tenía mucho tiempo para dar vueltas por la ciudad – aunque vale la pena – porque tenía que ver una carrera. No pensaba que me esperaban, pero resulta que sí:

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(El señor de la campana.)

Empezamos con la presentación de equipo – ojalá que fuera la discoteca que parece, pero por lo menos sabemos por que mola tanto los colores fluo del pelotón.

teampres

(Pon tu propia banda sonora aquí.)

Y, con un cañonazo, empieza la noche!

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(¿Qué cara pones tu cuando disparas una arma de fuego?)

Como todas las carreras de seis días, había competicion con derny:

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(“El GPS dice izquierda en 50 metros.”)

Para tapar un poco el ruido de los derny, subieron al escenario The Kik, un grupo holandés rollo sesentera. Muy guay, escuchar un grupo poner los puntos de exclamación a la carrera!

thekik

(Viva Nederbiet! Más aquí.)

Y, después les tocó a los esprinters. Seguro que el descanso, aunque era corto, iba bien a los otros corredores. Primero había keirin:

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Después de ocho vueltas, el moto deja la pista y los corredores hacen un esprint para dos vueltas más.

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Y, después, iban uno contra uno, puntuando para su equipo (era holanda contra grecia):

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El evento principal, claro, es la americana:

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(Andreas Graf & Andreas Müller)

Después de acabar el primer día 1º, los daneses Mørkøv y Rasmussen perdieron dos vueltas la seguna noche. A pesar de estar siempre delante, la semana pasó con los equipos de Ketele/de Buyst y Keisse/Terpstra cambiando de líder, hasta el último día, cuando, lamentablemente, de Ketele cayó enfermo, y tenía que abandonar antes del último día.

Una pena, pero la última americana fue buenissimo, con los tres mejores equipos (Keisse/Terpstra, Mørkøv/Rasmussen, y Muntaner/Torres) luchando a saco para ganar vueltas. Keisse y Terpstra dieron todo, cubriendo todos los ataques de los otros – yo perdí la cuenta después de ocho – y, con un contraataque en el momento justo, sacaron dos vueltas para ponerles la puntilla.

Así acabó, con los cracks Keisse y Terpstra ganando por la tercera vez los seis días de Rotterdam:

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Aquí tienes más fotos en Flickr.

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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:

nohaypan

(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:

elimination, part one

(Can you do the can-can?)

elimination, part two

(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.)

derny

(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.)

dhoore

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

druyts

(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:

classy

 

—-

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.

The magic of the six days, building houses, and learning to live for someone else : an interview with Guy East

I spoke with Guy East in Amsterdam (I know, this post comes late, but better late than never), while he was getting a massage from veteran soigneur Angus. Eventually, Angus started to chime in.

How are you enjoying Amsterdam? Do you get the chance to see the city, or is this only a business trip?

Guy: Actually, I’m one of the odd ones, I’m more adventurous and I actually explore the city and stuff like that, and try to know where I’m at. I come over, normally, a day or two early and I spend the first day with friends in another part of the country, and also tour around the city. It’s too pretty not to, it kinda stinks just to be cooped up in a hotel room, especially when it’s such a beautiful city. On a [rainy] day like today, you don’t want to go out, but some days I’ll sneak out before the racing, cruise around.

Especially because your wife is here as well, it’s great that you two can do that. How does she feel about this?

Guy: She likes it, she comes with me most of the time, because it’s hard to be away, you know? If she didn’t travel with me, I don’t think I’d be that motivated to keep going. She loves coming over, and seeing the world too.

And she really gets to enjoy the city in the mornings, no? She doesn’t have to — well, she might go for a massage, but it’s not for work.

Guy: We go to bed late, though, so we wake up late, but she’s going to go into town tomorrow, so she has more fun.

I heard that you also build homes in Mexico, that’s cool.

Guy: We live town there, just south of San Diego, near the Mexican border, I’ve been down there for three years. I had first raced for Lance and his team, and had raced and lived over here for four years, in Belgium, with the US National team. I started doing amateur six-day races in 2007. They wanted to prepare me for the Olympics, and in 2009 I rode through Mexico City — they took the Madison out of the Olympics, so I was pretty discouraged — and then I was riding through the city and I saw all of this poverty. I was like, what’s the point? What am I doing with my life, traveling around the world racing to a line that’s painted on the road when there’s so many other, more critical issues going on?

And so, shortly after that, I stopped. And I stopped for two years, I sold everything I owned, and I just had a backpack’s worth of stuff, for almost two years. I traveled around Latin America and stuff. And it was pretty cool, and during that time, though, I realized — our house also burnt down, that’s also a big life-changing experience — but during that time I realized I still like bike racing. And I can do it with a greater purpose. I don’t just have to be identified as a bike racer, I want to be a bike racer and also to help other athletes live with greater purposes themselves, because I know what they’re going through. It’s a hard thing, when your identity is only in one thing.

So part of that is, we bring professional athletes down, and they get to experience what it’s like to live for someone else. Because we live our whole lives just for ourselves, you know, eating right, just for us, training right, just for us, traveling, everything’s all about you. Which is good, to a certain extent, you have to have that mentality, but sooner or later your sport’s going to end, your career’s going to end, or you’re going to get married or something, and you realize: it’s not all about me. And it’s a really hard adjustment to make, and people don’t necessarily do it right. And also, there’s so many broken relationships all throughout sports and stuff,  and it’s like, if we focus a little bit more on the emotional side, on the human side of who we are, then they’ll be better athletes because they’ll be happier, because they’re not divorcing their families or… so that’s kind of the focus that I’m taking with that. Right after this race we have a bunch of pro athletes coming to build a home in November, from auto racing to cycling to rugby to speed skating.

Why’d you move to Mexico?

Guy: Pretty much because of that, to do that. I moved to Mexico and then I was like, I want to start racing again. I like it, and I train a lot in San Diego, I train a lot in the US, so it’s pretty easy, it’s pretty chill.

You just stick your passport in your jersey pocket?

Guy: Yeah, it’s easy to cross.

Is this all the good work you got going on, for the moment? I mean, it’s a big project…

Guy: Yeah, it’s a lot. Also, bringing professional teams down, so they use it as a team-building opportunity, just organizing all that stuff. I raise all the money so the athletes can come, which is a lot of money, for every house we build I have to raise $20,000. And so there’s a lot of work involved with that, it’s practically a full-time job. I’m also trying to start a high-level amateur cycling team, a Mexican-American team, with a couple hundred thousand-dollar budget. So I’ve got… my wife’s pregnant, I do a lot of stuff, and I like having all this stuff going on and it kind of helps me… I wouldn’t just want to be a bike rider, and I just wouldn’t want to work on the charity stuff, or whatever, so it’s good.

Is there an exit strategy? Or are you never going to quit racing?

Guy: Nah, I’m gonna quit, I’m at the point where I could just stop whenever and totally be fine. And I think that’s a good place to be, you know, because you’re confident where you’re at and I’m not tied down to it. Some people stay in it out of fear, because they don’t know what they’re going to do, I think it would be hard to transition out of it but when I’m done I don’t know exactly but I would find something. I would find something pretty quick, there’s a lot going on.

But I just do the six days, pretty much, all the other guys are doing all kinds of big road races and stuff, which is pretty cool, and I probably should do a little bit more; I would like to and I would probably come here a little bit more prepared. But for the lack of racing that I do, I think that I come here with a fairly decent level. But I just like the six days, it’s something really cool and special, and Angus’ll tell you that they’ve changed so much over the years, but this one is special. They’re all special in their own way, this one isn’t a huge party, but you go to Berlin and it’s a huge party, you go to Ghent and it’s a big party, they all have their own little specialities.

Yeah, in Grenoble there’s acrobats!

Guy: Yeah, Grenoble’s super cool, that’s one of our favorites.

I don’t have to tell anyone else about your opinions on this, but do you have a ranking? What’s your favorite?

Guy: Well, I haven’t done Ghent — well, I did Ghent as an amateur, but — there’s something… Grenoble was my first pro 6-day and it so fun, and that track is fun, so I think Grenoble is one of my favorites…

I’m going on Thursday.

Guy: Oh yeah? It starts Thursday?

Angus: You have to say hello to Biondi and Thévenet, they’re two sport directors.

Guy: The sport director for AG2R, and Thévenet, he won the Tour de France twice.

Angus: You have to say hello from Angus, I was supposed to be going there, and then this showed up [laughs].

An offer you couldn’t refuse?

Angus: This is six days, that’s three days now, and just from here it’s 1.000 kilometres.

Guy: Grenoble is cool, the town and everything is cool, where you’re at in the Alps and whatever, but it’s — well, maybe if I had a contract to go there — but I can’t justify going to a three- or four-day race all the way from the U.S. A six-day race, it’s cool, and I like the stats, how many starts you have, stuff like that, I kind of chase that a little bit.

Angus: Me too, eh?

Guy: I think I’ve done…

Angus: 31 times in Grenoble, eh?

Guy: He’s done 400 six-day races, right? 400?

Angus: Nearly.

Guy: This’ll be, what, 396 or something?

Angus: Something like that, yeah

Guy: So I’ve only done 14 of those. But he’s been with me all the winter ones, at least, so that’s fun.

Are you coming over for anything else this year?

Guy: Um, I think we’ll do more, it just kind of falls into your lap, we’ll get quite a few, I think, like we did last year. Berlin, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, I’m sure. We got some sponsors who like seeing us over here, so they help us out. The Island 200 [track], they’re the sponsor for us here. All the teams have their own sponsors and our guy is American so he wants to have an American team, so it’s almost like a guaranteed start.

But when’s he going to tell you? Christmas Eve?

Guy: Sometimes. We found out about this one at the end of September.

Yikes.

Guy: Same thing for last year, too, but yeah, I would assume Rotterdam, maybe Bremen, Berlin, Copenhagen. That would be our goal, I think. Yeah, pretty fun. Rotterdam’s cool. This one’s fun, too, cuz it’s quaint and stuff, you know?

Yeah, they built a track in a warehouse?

Guy: But it’s a pretty prestigious six days, don’t you think, Angus?

Angus: Yeah, well it’s quite new, is the thing, the first one was in 2001, from the 60s. Last one [before that] was ’69, I think, but this is the way to build velodromes: it’s what they really have to start thinking about in the States. One of my friends was a six-day rider, then a promoter, and then he built tracks all over the world. Really what you need is not an Olympic track, you need a 200m velodrome inside a factory, because of the costs: you can get one for £300.000, so you put these in the towns, then you get the kids going on it, then you get good riders. It’s the way you have to do it. To build an Olympic velodrome, it’s too much money.

Guy: Yeah, you look at track cycling, honestly, and you look at how… I’m just thinking, if you want to sponsor a velodrome, like the LA velodrome, for example, it’s going to cost you like $30.000 per year, or more, just for a little logo. And then, during the UCI races, you’re not even allowed to have those logos up. And if you’re doing the World Cups and stuff, you can’t even show your own personal logos and sponsors if you’re a rider, you have to show your country.

Angus: It’s not allowed.

Guy: It’s not allowed, so it’s not a profitable business model for track cycling. The only one making money out of it is the UCI, right? Well, the six days do actually have a — I don’t know if it’s scaleable, but it’s more or less a successful business model, and it’s the only track event that’s doing that. Maybe there’s a couple in South America, but… six days are special, they’re actually an effective business model, which is extremely important.

Angus: In the old days, most had a big sponsor, which was normally a beer company, and then you had all of the little sponsors for the teams and things. It was good advertising, because people would come, but like Guy says, for the UCI events and everything, there’s a famous velodrome in Britain. And the biggest British soft-drinks company wanted to put advertising on, and they wouldn’t let them, because they wanted to have World Cups. And these guys, I know them because it’s from Scotland, and they were just like, ‘we want to give them half a million, and they don’t want it.’ But if they put the advertising on the track, like you see here, they have to take it off every time they have a World Cup event or a UCI event. It’s the way the sport develops: the international federation is in control of everything, so all the money has to go through them, you know? It’s difficult. But, in saying that, it’s almost the same as every other sport. You know, Formula 1, football, it’s all the same.

Guy: Anyway, it’s just interesting, they actually generate income.

Angus: And when beer companies were still around, you could tell which town you were in by the beer. You know? In Stuttgart it was Stuttgarter beer, in Bremen it’s Beck’s, in Berlin it’s Schultheiss, you know when I was young and starting, that’s how you knew where you were.

Guy: In general, man, I just think the six days are so cool. The tradition, the racing style is so different, it’s sport as entertainment, which I like because I feel like athletes are entertainers, and these guys, they know they’re entertainers, but it’s really still hard racing. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, for the most part.

But it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a thrill, I think if you go to a matinée show, you know the storyline for the most part. If you go to Beauty and the Beast, or whatever, you don’t go because you’re going to be surprised at the ending, but you go because it’s a beautiful show. It’s a cool story, and it’s professionally done and it’s entertainment. And it’s a similar thing with the six days, it’s like, yeah, you probably know who’s going to win, and the guy who’s going to win, they deserve to win anyway, because they’re the fastest guys on the track, but there’s some choreography, you know, so I think if you relate it to that, it brings a little more clarity to what they’re like. But to say that they’re fixed, or anything, isn’t an accurate description.

Angus: It’s a show with three battles going on. The guys for first, then the middle guys, then the little guys at the back, they’re always fighting with each other for points and places, there’s always something, somewhere, to watch.

One thing is the overall, but I really love that there’s keirin in the middle, and the miss n’ out…

Angus: It’s not even that. In the Madison, there’s three fights going on, the lead guys, the middle guys, and the back guys, because nobody wants to be the last of their group, so there’s always something to watch, that’s what’s actually good about it. And also, the variation of the different events. Here, there’s not a big program, there’s not a big variation, but in most races they have a lap record, and a 500m record, and you have different dernies, here they put in keirin, there’s always something different for the public to watch. And, like Guy says, that’s important. If you don’t put on a show, people don’t come in.

Guy: I think that’s probably actually okay to include [in your interview], if you’re going to take it that direction, it’s cool, people don’t understand: ‘ah, it’s all fixed, it’s so boring’…

Angus: Ed says to me, that’s fine, it’s all fixed, but riding at 54k per hour. Can you do that? How can you? It’s like Guy says, you can probably tell that there’s three teams up there, and probably one of them is going to win because they’re just the best, you know, but anything can happen.

And how do you feel about being on stage for a week straight?

Guy: It’s cool, I like it, I think it’s fun. What exhausts me a little bit is the loud atmosphere on the track. It’s not horrible here, but in Berlin, oh my gosh, you’re up there for six hours and there’s loud music the whole time and it’s just like, I wanna die right now.

Angus: Your brain hurts.

Guy: I can’t do this any more… after the first couple hours on the first day, you’re just like, it’s too much.

Angus: And you try to speak to each other, and it’s like, eh?

Guy: Rotterdam’s like that too…

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: Lex van Deijl

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Lex has a lot on his plate, but he’s not too busy to answer my silly questions, which he had to do every time I ran into him.

So, Lex, what’s your job here at the Amsterdam six days?

The whole backstage.

You coordinate everything?

I coordinate the volunteers, the security, accreditation, press…

You answer e-mails…

Yeah…

Thank you for that, by the way. What’s the biggest challenge, organizing the Amsterdam Six? What’s the hardest thing?

The hardest thing… hm… the audience.

The audience? Because they drink?

Yes, the beginning years, there were a lot of drunk people. A lot of people, we sell public cards for the tribunal, and in the first years, only the infield was only for VIP. But now it’s mixed, now it’s a little big better.

And what’s your favorite part about the 6 Days?

My favorite part? The whole thing!

Who’s your favorite racer?

Ooh [it’s difficult for him to say]…. Yoeri.

This whole operation is quite small, everyone here seems like family.

My wife is over at the ticket sales, and all of our friends and family are volunteering. But the riders are family also, when the riders come to Amsterdam, they’re coming home. And they see what the volunteers are doing, that they can ride.

That’s cool, it’s special.

When it’s Saturday, a lot of them go home with tears. That’s the six day family.

But it’s only been running again since 2001?

Yes, we started on 9-11, the same day.

Yikes.

And here, you live out of the world. You didn’t see anything, busy busy busy, only at night, at home, did you see the building fall on TV. The evening, the man who sung “New York, New York,” I was sitting in the dressing room with him as he was in tears.

Of course.

The whole music program had to change. The next day, 9-12, all of the flags were at half-mast, and everyone was wearing arm bands [in solidarity].

What a story.

Yeah, it was a story, the first six days we’ll remember forever.

A typical day at the Amsterdam Six

Amsterdam is beautiful. Even (maybe especially) in October: leaves change color, the weather is crisp, cool, and, if you’re lucky, dry. But the best reason to go is to see the six-day race. Yes, there’s all sorts of touristy stuff to do during the day, and all sorts of trouble to get into during the night, but you kind of like bike racing, or maybe you just like watching stuff go fast, so you decide to head down to the track to see what all of the fuss is about.

Is it too mundane to talk about the trip there? The Amsterdam Velodrome is located in the south-west corner of the city, not far from the Schiphol airport. Obviously, you should have rented a bike, but maybe you forgot, or maybe you couldn’t find a  rental bike in Amsterdam because you ran out of your disposable contact lenses/you are legally blind/and also a bilateral AE amputee, which is the only reason not to be able to swing your arms and hit a bike rental shop in the Dutch capital.

Anyway, the point is, if you had rented a bike it’s a sweet, easy 8km ride from the center, all in bike lanes (it’s hard to not find a bike lane in this country) with no one to bother you except the aforementioned motorbikes. If you’re taking the tram, you have to get off at the Kasterleepark stop near the end of the line 2 tram. The only challenge is to walk through the worst kind of strip-mall suburb. I’m not exaggerating.

Built inside an old factory, the track feels like it barely fits inside the structure. But the low ceiling makes it all the more intimate, and if you sit in the front row you can feel the wind as a group of riders flies by.

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(The track, calm before the storm.)

But that doesn’t matter! You’re here, and it’s all good. You roll in the door, and the first guy you see is Lex van Deijl. Or maybe it’s his wife; she’s selling tickets, and he’s working the door, organizing people, chatting with retired derny drivers, smoking, and he’s been doing that since eight in the morning, he tells you. You (okay, me) wave at the coat-check staff, because you already got a reputation for being the last one out the door the night before, and they remember stuff like that. There seem to be two more of them working than is really necessary, but you’ve never seen coat-check staff smile so much.

Sure, it’s early, but you can find your seat and as the program gets going.The juniors have just finished, and the night starts as every night starts, with each team of two being introduced to the crowd, taking a lap under the spotlight. There’s no pause before the first Madison starts, and it’s chaos: 24 men on a 200m track, slinging themselves into and out of the action. The announcer starts getting excited as a pair attacks, trying to lap the field, and a foghorn blasts as they catch the group from the other side. The 90 laps go by quickly, and before you know it the crowd is cheering as the bell rings for the last lap. The racer sitting in third position slings his partner to do the last two turns, perfect timing to come around and win the sprint.

There’s a brief pause in the action, but not in the show, as the winners accept their flower bouquets and take a victory lap. One of the racers (Nick Stöpler, this time) stops to give his flowers to a woman in the crowd:

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And, of course, it totally makes her night.

All that watching other people sweat has made you thirsty,  so you head to the infield to grab a beer and watch the Miss n’ Out. What a great event; the teams compete Madison-style, and every three or so laps, the last one across the line is eliminated. The announcer manages to explain this to the eliminated teams in their own language (‘Ciao! Basta! Buona sera!’ he says to Marco Zanotti, as if the Italian hadn’t noticed himself being boxed in on the final drag to the finish line). And of course the barman remembers you, because you were talking football with him last night. Hopefully it’s because you were talking football with him; being remembered by a bartender is great, as long as you know why.

As you return to the stands to join your friends, who came up from Belgium to watch Jasper de Buyst race:

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(Thankfully, they brought an extra pink hat along for me, otherwise I wouldn’t fit in.)

Next up is the flying-start time trial. Each team does two laps, with a Madison throw in the middle, against the clock. As the riders circle the top of the track, the crowd starts cheering, the music gets louder and louder, blasting “Simply the best” each time a new fast time is set. This is, by far, the most exciting time trial you’ve ever seen.

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(Niki Terpstra, sharing the track for once, with partner Yoeri Havik.)

Just as the awards ceremony finishes, the derny drivers start to lap the track, and the smell of exhaust starts to fill the velodrome. The DJ comes over, because this is a break for him; no one could hear his music over the noise of the dernies. And he remembers you, too, and fortunately there’s no hard feelings, despite your attempts to convince him to play requests the night before. He’s still shell-shocked from seeing the previous night’s crash, but you still manage to gossip about the London six-day race next year.

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(Twelve men on a track go fast, but it’s goes even faster if you put six of them on motor bikes.)

The derny racing is impressive, the strategy is totally different than any other event, and all of this at 62 km/hr. But even above the buzzing of the motors, you can hear the crowd getting excited as the racers position themselves to attack in the final laps.

Next up is the Keirin. As long as the dernies are already warmed up, might as well, right? Six racers jockey for position behind the derny as it makes its rounds, pulling off two laps before the line, signalling the start of a group dash to the line.

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(And they say that Dutch people don’t queue. Pff!)

The evening closes with the second Madison race, which must hurt worlds more after three hours of racing. And tomorrow, the whole entourage will close up, hopefully get some sleep, and get ready to do it again the next day. So, for that matter, will you.