News for October 24
This is the second of 4 articles on the subject of Six Day
So What's It All About?
I guess you could expect the answer "ask a German" but in truth most
people going to German Sixes really don't have much idea of what it's
all about. The racing that is. And, again to speak truthfully,
modern Six Days have far less to do with cycle racing than with beer.
Most races (and not just in Germany) have a beer or brewer as their
main sponsor and most people visiting a Six are there more for the
social aspects than the racing. This is borne out by the fact that -
apart from the last night when the bike fans turn out in force - the
grandstands empty for the madisons and fill up for the motor paced...
I can only really speak about German Sixes as apart from them I've
only been to Copenhagen and London (long since defunct). It's true to
say that the most successful events are those which offer the best
attractions away from the track. In Bremen - a long time favourite of
mine - there are enormous crowds for virtually every night with some
30,000 packing the venue on Fridays and almost as many on Saturday.
Coaches come from all over northern Germany and you're likely to find
yourself being carried along by the crowd past beer stands, racks of
sausages, tombolas and all the fun of the fair to anywhere except
where you want to be!
The bigger the venue the more the organisers can offer the punters by
way of alternative entertainment and the bigger venues boast funfairs
to rival those you find setting up for small town fairs in the Summer.
Regardless of the millions of Deutschemarks changing hands some
promoters are still less than generous in their treatment of the
"stars" of these occasions and expect riders and their helpers to bed
down in dressing rooms in the venue although most now provide hotel
A nice feature of sixes - like a lot of bike races - is the
accessibility of the stars. As the inside of most tracks is
approached via an underground tunnel the riders have to use it just
like everyone else to get to and from the small cabins they occupy in
the track centre and the rest of the world. Exactly what THEY think
of the drunken hordes they find staggering around them I can only
guess at but Six Day racing - a visitor from outer space would surely
conclude - is all about large quantities of golden liquid...
Aside from beer there is some bike racing. There are two ways of
scoring in sixes - laps gained and points. Like any other bike race
the first rider - team in this case - across the line wins. Similar to
road stage races the overall winners are decided by the results of the
many races over the six days (or nights to be more accurate) of
racing. Most events come down to a last night battle between two to
four teams with a realistic chance of winning who are in the same lap
or within a lap of the leaders. The actual format can be complicated
but in essence there are two types of racing - the Madisons where laps
can be gained and points earned and various other events where points
can be earned for sprints, wins, etc. The format changed a few years
ago and when a certain number of points are earned in the "filler"
events then a lap is automatically gained. Which makes a formula
which was already complicated even more difficult to follow. It also
explains why so many of the crowd have blank looks on their faces and
get excited when told by the commentator! At the end of the six days,
points only come into play when two teams are in the same lap - so if
at the end two teams are equal on laps then the one with the greatest
points total wins.
Unlike the early days riders get the opportunity to rest although the
racing is at times very intense. The strain begins to show as the
pressure mounts during a long chase and I've seen top teams lose
several laps in the space of an hour when the heat is on. The chance
to take some time out comes when other races involving riders not
participating in the Six - for example sprinters or challenge pursuit
matches - take to the track. Motor paced races,
devil-take-the-hindmost, sprints and other races for points usually
involve only one rider from each team allowing the other to rest.
When you add it up - and particularly on Friday and Saturday nights
these guys work a normal working day in their frenetic office.
On the small tracks the racing is at its most exciting although I
think it's at its most "honest" on the bigger tracks. The smaller
tracks favour those teams with good acceleration - I've seen Bruno
Risi (who is one of the current top pairing) gain half a lap in the
space of two laps of the Bremen track and Risi-Betschart are ideally
suited for the smaller tracks where Risi's explosive power can be seen
at its spectacular best. On larger tracks gaining a lap is much
harder and can take as long as ten minutes when the hammer is down.
Attempts to lap the field are much more likely to result in failure on
a larger track.
Here's the programme from Saturday night at last January's Stuttgart
Six where the track measures 285 metres and an be clasiffied as large
by six-day standards. Events involving one rider from each team in
the main Six Day event are marked with an asterisk (*); events
requiring both are marked with a double asterisk.
1900 Amateurs (most sixes run an amateurs event
along with the pro event) 150 lap chase (madison)
** 1955 Presentation of the pro riders to the crowd
* 2005 10 x sprints for points
** 2025 111 lap Madison
2105 Sprinters (Marty and Co.)
* 2115 Derny (motor paced) Race for teams in positions 9-16
* 2130 Derny Race for teams in positions 1-8
** 2150 Team points
** 2230 263 lap Madison (main event of the night)
** 0015 Balustradensprint (pretty to watch as all the riders
forms a long line up and down the bankings round and
** 0025 Team Devil-take-the-hindmost
* 0050 Derny Race for teams in positions 9-16
* 0115 Derny Race for teams in positions 1-8
0145 Motor Paced race (not involving Six Day riders)
0230 Racing ends
Bear in mind that Stuttgart is one of the most rider-friendly venues,
the race director being Roman Hermann whose experience as a rider is
very recent - he can still remember the hell that can be six-day
World Cup Final Overall: A Clarification
Anyone wondering why Laurent Jalabert (111 points) did not figure in
the final World Cup points posted yesterday should note that for the
_final_ results, only those riders who have taken part in at least six of the
11 events count. Jalaberts points were amassed in only five (Milan-San
Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Leeds Classic, Clasica San Sebastian and
Championship of Zurich