There are tired legs in the bunch but on a wet and windy Saturday night in Ghent all roads again led to Het Kuipke for another sell out beer and bike racing fest.
A team point’s race opened the programme tonight, the winners being Tosh Van Der Sande and Leif Lampater who have had a disappointing Six after finishing 4th last year just 1 lap down.
The race for the 20 points was on again here as the top 4 teams battled it out. They finished in the current GC order too with Keisse / O’Shea beating Van Hoecke / De Ketele with Dillier / Bartko 3rd.
Flying Lap Time Trial (TT)
No track record today but another great time from Tristan Marguet after he was paced up to speed by Franco ‘marvelous’ Marvulli to post 8.63 seconds. Once again 7 teams went under 9 seconds with Keisse / O’Shea, 2nd in 8.70, a winning team most years here. The speeds in the flying lap have been this year’s highlight.
1st Madison (40 minutes)
The chase was as ever on in the night’s long Madison and the result was familiar Keisse / O’Shea battling it out with Van Hoecke / De Ketele, the Belgian / Australian combination winning out in the sprint. The final chase, tomorrow, will show which pair have enough left in the tank to win this Six.
Tonight there were 3 races on the programme, the high speed crowd pleasers tonight being Kenny De Ketele (twice) and Iljo Keisse – the top guys raced twice in an unusual change from the norm.
Individual Elimination Race 1
The top boys left this one to the mid-low ranking team riders, the win going to Tosh Van Der Sande from Steve Schets.
500 Metre TT
Yet another win for the fastest man in the building…..Tristan Marguet and his partner Franco Marvulli. The time tonight was 27.280 seconds.
The Frenchman Morgan Kneisky appears to enjoy this one as he gratefully received the bouquet for the 2nd successive night.
Despite a bad week in the chases Schets / Breyne have picked up some late night wins, tonight it was here.
Saturday night finished with the 2nd chase, a break in tradition especially as it was announced as being on an unknown length, another first!!! Tired legs starting a chase at 01.15am wasn’t ideal but the winners Hester / Hansen, followed by Bartko / Dillier won’t complain. These teams took back a lap from the leaders. The result meant 4 teams where on the same lap but the Keisse / O’Shea and De Ketele Van Hoecke go into the final ready to contest the win. Only a full lap gain can give the win to anyone else.
Ghent Debutant – Nolan Hoffman
Riding for the first time here in Ghent is South African, Nolan Hoffman. He is to my knowledge the first black cyclist to race in the pro Six since Brit, Maurice Burton in the 70s and 80s. The 27 year old from near Cape Town also rode in Amsterdam and Grenoble. After a trip home he’ll be back in Europe after Christmas to ride in Rotterdam.
As for his first time in Ghent, he admitted to me that at times he has struggled in the Madison’s, they are all what he described as being ‘full on chases’ and ‘like the World Championships every night’. He acknowledged that his partner Christian Grasmann is a strong Madison rider who had bailed him out a number of times this week. Back in South Africa there isn’t the depth to have a strong field racing the Madison, he thinks there are only maybe 5 or 6 guys who can race at anywhere near this level.
He was looking to do well in some of the races on the programme though but noted that the big guys have been going after those too. There has been no let up. Nolan was disappointed to not have been able to do as well in the Time Trials as he’d expected for that he sights two reasons. Firstly the track, being the first time he has ever ridden on this 166 track he noted it takes real technique and that just staying upright is a feat in itself high up on the banking. That is where the speed is built up for the flying lap. The second reason is the quality of the guys against the clock. As noted on Thursday it is rare to have so many teams go under 9.00 seconds.
Despite a lack of points and the unforgiving programme that allows for little rest between events, he was in good spirits and believes he is heading home stronger than ever. He takes comfort from the advice of Patrick Sercu (six-day king and sports director here) who’d told him ‘no one ever has it easy in their first Six-day season, especially in their first Ghent’. If he can get the contracts he hopes to back next year with more experience and looking to go better.
Standings after 5 Days:
1 Keisse (Bel) – O’Shea (Aus) 383 points
2 De Ketele – Van Hoecke (Bel) 379
3 Bartko (Ger) – Dillier (Swi) 266
4 Hansen – Hester (Den) 230
At 5 Laps
5 Schep – Stroetinga (Ned) 116
At 6 Laps
6 Marvulli – Marguet (Swi) 252
7 De Buyst – Mertens (Bel) 221
At 10 Laps
8 Kneisky – Brisse (Fra) 180
At 11 Laps
9 Van der Sande (Bel) – Lampater (Ger) 154
At 27 Laps
10 Grasmann (Ger) – Hoffman (RSA) 82
At 31 Laps
11 Coquyt – De Pauw (Bel) 100
At 35 Laps
12 Stahr (Ger) – Müller (Aut) 52
At 38 Laps
13 Breyne – Schets (Bel) 120
Around Het Kuipke
Tonight was the first time since I’ve been coming that Saturday had a slightly reduced programme, normally Thursday, Friday and Saturday have identical race programmes. On paper there was 45 minutes less racing and they finished with a Madison. A break from tradition that realistically is a sensible move due to the early start on Sunday afternoon, but a Madison to finish the night didn’t work for me.
Tonight there was a new feature here in Ghent, a Womens Omnium event consisting of Scratch, Points and 500 TT races. The winner for the record was Jolien D’Hoore. I’m not sure it really caught the crowd’s imagination tonight, but it could yet become part of the future here.
Thursday nights ‘streakers’ seem to have gained a lot of coverage – some sites gave that more words than the rest of the Six-days put together. The one thing I missed was the unsavoury side, one of them head butted a steward who tried to stop them getting onto the track.