Ghent 6 Day 2008
Rollpaluza organized a trip to watch the racing at Ghent’s Kuipke velodrome in Belgium for the famous 6-day event. 9 hardy souls in the minibus from London to Ghent, via the ferry from Dover to Calais. We arrived on day 5 to watch Saturday night’s events, and stayed overnight for the finale on Sunday.
For anyone who’s never seen 6 day racing, this is a far cry from the world championships and Olympic cycling events that have attracted so much public interest of late, by contrast these races are all about entertainment, and it takes place over 6 days with the riders racing in pairs to gain points which count towards an overall score.
After arriving at our hotel on Saturday, we took the 5-minute trip into town, wandered around the “Plum” bike shop for a bit, looking at an impressive collection of vintage machines, and many equally impressive brand new ones, then went in search of steak, mussels and frites to satisfy our stomachs in preparation for the night of racing, which was to go on until 2am.
The Kuipke is a small track, which makes for great, close up spectating, track centre is filled with people watching the race, buying beer and generally soaking up the atmosphere, the riders and mechanics must make-do with tiny “dug out” style boxes for all their race prep and bike fettling.
Race format followed a madison style system, with flying laps, points races, devils (elimination) scratch races, derny (motor paced races) and even some Keirin thrown in. Music is played over a large sound system, and you are even entertained by singers during the short intervals. Audience participation is actively encouraged, and the riders often ride parade laps where they whip up the crowd, leading mexican waves (known as “La Ola “) amongst the cheering spectators, many of them making full use of the many beer sales points throughout the velodrome!
We were lucky enough to watch tour legend Eric Zabel competing, alongside fellow German Leif Lampater, in his farewell competition, this made for some exciting changes on the leader board as they were battling with favourites Robert Bartko and his partner, the local hero Iljo Keisse for the top spot.
Sunday saw the temperature drop below -1 and more snow arriving in Ghent, it also saw Bartko and Keisse take the win, with Zabel and Lampater second, and Kenny De Ketele and Andreas Beikirch third up after a huge final madison event.
The Rollpaluza crew arrived back in London, tired but happy before 11PM on Sunday night, safe in the knowledge that 6-day is a cracking way to spend time in a velodrome, where else could you see a 25stone Dutchman riding a Derny bike, whilst being tapped on the behind with a large, inflatable chocolate milk bottle wielded by a Tour De France legend?
Take it from me, whatever your opinions on track racing, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to a 6-day!
Thanks to Winston, Charlene and Hippy for pics.
Hippy’s pics here
Ricky’s pics here.
Wayne’s pics here.