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37th Grenoble Six Day - 6D
Grenoble, France, October 25-30, 2007
Day 5 - October 29
Neuville/Villa take a turn at the surreal top
By Timothy Bradford in Grenoble
Monday nights' races at the Palais des Sports in Grenoble did not bring any major surprises in the Pro Six-Day classifications, but they did bring another change in the overall leadership. After several days of trading back and forth, the team of Alexander Aeschbach/Dimitri Defauw, who started Monday night in the lead, and the team of Michael Morkov/Alex Rasmussen, who took over the yellow jersey after the first Madison of the night, found themselves behind Jérôme Neuville/ Marco Villa at the end.
Yet, with Neuville/Villa in the lead by only seven points over the other two top teams, who are effectively tied for second, the race is anything but over. In fact, as is customary here, Morkov and Rasmussen will begin the final night in yellow since they held it at the end of Monday night's first Madison.
At this point, none of the top three teams can gain much more than half a lap without the other two responding. Then there is the Czech team of Alois Kankovsky/Pert Lazar, who is two laps down on the leaders but perpetually fights its way into the thick of things.
The Six-Day racing began with a 36 lap race with six sprints and a Madison-style change of riders mid-way. Neuville/Villa showed the form that would carry the night and ended up with the win while the Belgian team of Steve Schets/Steven Deneef was second and Kankovsky/Lazar was third.
In the night's first Madison, the top three teams marked each other heavily, which gave the race a defensive feel. That is, until four or so laps to the end, when Morkov/Rasmussen made a brilliant move to catch the field off guard. The duo held their half-a-lap advantage with powerful riding and machine-like smoothness in their exchanges and by the end they had the final sprint, the race, and the overall leadership back in the bag.
This left Aeschbach/Defauw with the lime-green and black leaders' jerseys for overall points and Neuville/Villa with their usual white-and-pink leaders' jerseys for overall points/position combined. Morkov/Rasmussen actually held the lead in all three competitions, but the other jerseys go to the next-best-placed teams.
In the night's next Madison, which carried an extra bonus for teams who could lap the field twice without sitting in the peloton for more than three laps, Aeschbach/Defauw came back with a vengeance, won the race, and by doing so, retook the overall lead. Aside from that change, there was no other movement in the overall general classification.
Then, things got a little surreal, as they tend to after five nights of racing from eight PM to one AM. First, the crowd, which had been quite good and responsive - especially for a Monday night, started emptying out. One can't blame them; after all, it was after midnight on a work night. But when the real action of the night is playing out to a bunch of empty seats, well, it just seems a shame.
Then, Marco Villa was eliminated on the first lap of the Elimination for the black numbers. Was it a mistake, or a strategy that would allow him to be fresh enough to help Neuville so that together they could take second and first in the last two events? Regardless, it allowed them to sit tight in third while Aeschbach/Defauw and Morkov/Rasmussen swapped the lead back and forth one time during the Elimination events.
The last place overall team of Pierre-Luc Perichon/Morgan Lamoisson turned in a surprising victory in the penultimate event of the evening, a Scratch race, while Neuville/Villa placed second, setting up their eventual takeover via the night's final event, the "made in Grenoble" Elimination à la Dauphinoise. This race starts as a team-based Elimination event until only six teams are left. At that point, it turns into a Madison-style points event. Strangely, Aeschbach/Defauw and Morkov/Rasmussen were out before the points began, and this, coupled with a strong win by Neuville/Villa, allowed the French/Italian team to move into first place in the GC.
Heading into the final evening, the race is wide-open between the top three teams. Bernard Thévenet, two-time Tour de France winner and the track chief here, repeatedly has stated that Morkov and Rasmussen have the strongest team and the best team work. Even so, Aeschbach and Defauw are always there with them.
Meanwhile, Neuville and Villa, the underdogs among the top teams, have surprised everyone once. Can they do it again on the last night? Since Neuville is from Grenoble, and Grenoble is merely one hundred miles from Villa's home country of Italy, there are a lot of people here hoping that they will.
In the Sprinters competitions, Monday night's opening Keirin saw Kevin Sireau again best Didier Henriette, who finished second, and Arnaud Tournant, who finished third. Tournant leads that competition.
The Golden Sprint competition, this night a four lap handicap event based on a five metre advantage between racers in reverse GC order, was carried by Didier Henriette, who held off the field behind him. Nonetheless, Mickaël Bourgain retained his lead in that series.
And in the Match Sprint series, Arnaud Tournant won the final against compatriot and fellow World Champion Team Sprint team mate Mickaël Bourgain, but Grégory Baugé, the final member of that World Championship team, remained in the overall lead in the series.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Timothy Bradford
1 Jérôme Neuville (Fra)/Marco Villa (Ita) 305 pts 1 lap down 2 Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Dimitri Defauw (Bel) 298 3 Michael Morkov (Den)/Alex Rasmussen (Den) 298 2 laps down 4 Alois Kankovsky (Cze)/Pert Lazar (Cze) 206 5 laps down 5 Steve Schets (Bel)/Steven Deneef (Bel) 204 6 laps down 6 Angelo Ciccone (Ita)/Fabio Masotti (Ita) 174 7 laps down 7 Josef Zabka (Cze)/Milan Kadlec (Svk) 168 8 laps down 8 Christian Grasmann (Ger)/Gerd Dörich (Ger) 109 15 laps down 9 Jonathan Mouchel (Fra)/Sébastian Ivers (Fra) 58 20 laps down 10 Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra)/Morgan Lamoisson (Fra) 45