Arriving in Amsterdam in mid-afternoon was a bit of a surreal experience. It only just hit me what I was actually here to do – and how I had spent the last couple of years wishing that I would get this opportunity. I had had a call from the organiser Rene Kos the week before so it was all very last minute, but it was too good a chance to miss.
For those of you who don’t know, the track that the 6 is held on is a 200m track in what is, basically, a warehouse. This makes it a very intimate venue and when full it means that all of the spectators are very close to the racing.
I arrived at the hotel where I met my partner – an American lad called Colin Berry. We decided that it would probably be a good idea to ride the track before the first Madison that evening. Even though I was riding the Under 23 Six Day, the race organisers still look after you properly. Colin showed me that all you had to do was to ring reception and in 10 minutes one of the red Commissaire’s cars from the Tour De France would be at the front door of the hotel, waiting to take you to the track.
We did an hour on the track that day – putting in some handslings and trying to form a partnership ready for the evening. It was amazing to watch the mechanics at work as well – such experts at what they did. They were also really keen to help you if you had any problems, in the hope that if you made it into the pro sixes you would pick them to be your mechanic.
Next stage was the riders’ briefing. The first thing that we were told was that UIV racing has a tendency to be very dangerous. Great. Then the rules where run though – how we would get scored etc – and we were given our jerseys.
The arena lived up to its reputation. We had to warm up in the corridors to the stands, so we would be there sweating it out on the rollers, with some Dutch spectators stood there with the nicest smelling ham rolls you could imagine. Every English speaking person – and people who fancied having a go at English – came and wished us luck, which was nice.
Race 1: We rolled up on to the track for the team introductions, then as soon as the last pair were introduced the race went manic. This was one of the hardest races that I had ever done on the track. My lack of leg speed didn’t do me any favours – I was pretty much swinging on the back for the whole race. The mandatory 88” gear made it even harder for me. We ended up losing 6 laps that day – not something that I am particularly proud of. The only slight consolation was that we weren’t in last place. I went to bed that night not feeling particularly happy with how I had ridden.
Day 2 was my birthday. I got up at around 9 o’clock and went down to breakfast. We seemed to be the latest risers – all our fellow competitors had already eaten and were sat around their tables drinking coffee – a classic cyclist past time. After breakfast I went and sat around in the hotel trying to catch up with all the people that where wishing me a happy birthday.
We warmed up in the corridor as normal with the waft of warm ham rolls in the air. When I rolled on to the track I was apprehensive to say the least. Because of how fast the race was yesterday, by the last 2 pairs in the introduction the bunch was already spread all over the track instead of staying in two lines like they were supposed to. However it went much better that day. We were much more on it and managed to finish the race on the same lap as the bunch, only losing a lap to Kraus & Kudach (who would later go on to win the six days of Gent). We went back to the hotel feeling much better about what we had achieved that day.
Day 3 and we went out for a ride in the morning. It was nice to see the area around Amsterdam. Despite the battering my legs had had on the first 2 days I didn’t feel tired at all, which I was really surprised about.
We rolled on to the track for the final night with hopes that we could maybe do something. We felt really on it today, riding at the front and being able to participate in the race. With about 15 minutes left of the race we started to really move looking for the sprint that was coming on 10 minutes to go.
We rolled in behind the sprint then, as everyone swung up, I put in a big attack underneath. We then spent the next 5 minutes really smashing ourselves and – with 3 mins and 10 laps to go – we managed to gain the lap. A memory that will always stay with me was when I made the junction onto the back of the group, seeing my dad leaning over the rail shaking his fist and going mental.
It was a good way to end the six days and it was a truly amazing experience. I don’t think I could have asked for a better partner in my first six day either. Colin, with his experience of UIV events showed me what we needed to do and I’m glad he did or else I would have had no idea what was going on.
I want to also thank Tim. It was nice to have him screaming at me from the inside of the track as we raced and also for looking after us so well.