The second London six day race of the modern era was also the first round of the new 6 Day Series which will take in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin – and culminate in a night of Madison mayhem in Mallorca in March. Mmmm.
Sell-out crowds on all but the first night (which wasn’t far off) saw some fantastic action with Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins – in his last race on British soil – keeping the crowd engaged throughout the event.
The first three nights saw the 1878 Cup for Under 21 riders act as the ‘warm up’ act – with a star-studded Women’s Omnium running over the last three. And, of course, there was a Sprint competition running through the six nights with a strong international field including a couple of World Champions. Reports on those to follow.
The first night of competition saw Andy Tennant and Chris Latham take the Derny race ahead of Austrian duo Andreas Graf and Andreas Mueller. Tristan Marguet and Caludio Imhof of Switzerland edged out Leif Lampeter and Marcel Kalz of Germany but just 14 hundredths of a second in the Madison 250m Time Trial – the fastest four four teams to break the 13 second barrier with a 12.921. The Swiss duo showed it was no fluke, taking the lead in the four day long 500m Madison Time Trial competition – setting the benchmark at 27.157 – a tenth or so ahead of Christian Grassman and Max Beyer.
Experienced Belgian pairing Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw pipped Lampeter and Kalz in the Team Elimination and took second in the closing Madison chase – behind Yoeri Havik and Wim Stroetinga of the Netherlands and ahead of Cavendish of Wiggins. Those three plus Aussie duo Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson and Lampeter and Kalz finished the race on the lead lap – with five teams just a lap down. Taking all the other events into account, that left Lampeter and Kalz on top ahead of De Ketele and De Pauw with the home favourites in third ahead of the Australians and Havik and Stroetinga.
Lampater and Kalz shaved a couple of hundredths of their opening night time in the 250m Time Trial to take with win with a 12.878 – just ahead of the Swiss pair, who also improved on the previous evening’s performance. De Ketele and De Pauw led the first lap of the Team Win & Out – and took the win – with Tennant and Latham second and Cav and Wiggo third.
Just as the Swiss had posted the fastest times in the Madison Time Trials on the first night, so the Germans did on the second with Lampeter and Kalz moving to the head of affairs on 26.760. Danes Casper Pedersen and Alex Rasmussen also went under 27 seconds, moving into second place with a 26.776.
Meyer dominated the Derny Race – riding away from the field and lapping most of them in the process. If only every lap counted for the overall. Latham out sprinted the Australian to win the Longest Lap but it was Cavendish and Wiggins who took the win in the final Madison chase of the evening. After 45 minutes there were still five pairs on the lead lap but it was the Madison World Champions who took the win from the Belgians, Havik and Stroetinga, Albert Torres and Sebastian Mora of Spain and the Australians.
With Lampeter and Kalz finishing a lap down, that changed the overall going into Day 3 with De Ketele and De Pauw on 156 points, Cavendish and Wiggins on 137, Meyer and Scotson on 130 and Havik and Stroetinga the last pair on the lead lap, but some way adrift on 101 points.
Things got closer as the competition reached the halfway mark. The Belgian duo tightened their grip winning both the Derny race (much to Wiggins’ frustration) and the Longest Lap. The Swiss were back on top in the 20m Time Trial – taking the best time of the week down to 12.805 and it was the French paring of Morgan Kneisky and Benjamin Thomas who were the last duo standing in the Team Elimination Race.
That just left what turned out to be a tight Madison Chase with the first ten teams on the lead lap – including Cavendish and Wiggins and Lampeter and Kalz. Meyer and Scotson took the win, but a second place for De Ketele and De Pauw – combined with bonus laps for the two teams that had hit the 200 point mark left the Belgians and the World Champions alone on the lead lap. At 243 points to 202, the lead was comfortable, but not unassailable.
Tennant and Latham topped the time sheets in the 250m Time Trial with a 12.891 – ahead of Lampater and Kalz and Cavendish and Wiggins. Imhof took the Longest Lap but De Ketele and De Pauw took second a third. There aren’t many points on offer for the ‘novelty’ sprint, but they all count.
In the best Derny Race of the week, Cavendish took the lead in the closing stages and looked the likely winner, but was overhauled on the final lap but Ollie Wood. Lampater and Kalz took the overall win in the 500m Time Trial – nobody bettering their 26.760 – although Pedersen and Rasmussen came mighty close on 26.776.
The crowd were there to support the current Madison World Champions, but it was two former holders of the jersey that took the honours in the Madison Chase with Kneisky (2013 and 2015) and Thomas were first home – ahead of Torres (2014) and Mora. Wiggo and Cav – and Lampeter and Kalz – finished a lap adrift.
That left the Belgians alone on the lead lap as they nudged past 300 points. They finished the night on 302 with Cavedish and Wiggins a lap back on 279, the Australian duo on 230 – 14 behind Lampater and Kalz who had dropped another lap behind.
The penultimate day of competition set up a fantastic finale with some significant changes in the overall standings. Lampater and Kalz began their fight back with a win in the Derny Race while Latham won his second Longest Lap of the week. Wood followed up his Derny win on Day 4 with a win in the Elimination Race along with partner Jon Dibben.
But it was the Madison Chase that sent the crowd home happy and guaranteed that the crowd for the following day would have something to look forward to – Cavendish and Wiggins not only won, but took a lap on everyone else – De Ketele and De Pauwe finishing down in 7th, a lap off the leaders.
With the Brits now a lap up – but 10 points behind the Belgians in second place, the battle for the lead was going to be close – and likely to come down to the final 60 minute Madison Chase. And those extra 15 minutes meant that you couldn’t rule out the two teams sitting two laps down. Meyer and Scotson and Havik and Stroetinga.
What more can you ask for a six days than it comes down to the final sprint of the final race of the week? Tennant and Latham crowned a solid week with a win in the final Team Elimination race while Cavendish closed the gap to the leaders by winning the Derny Race. Neither of the leading pairs featured in the Longest Lap – Michael Morkov and Marc Hester of Denmark taking first and sixth places – and so it all came down to the final Chase.
In a thrilling race that saw the leading four pairs take and lose laps right up to the end, it came down to the final sprint – the Belgians nicking the win – and the overall win – on the line. They finished on the same lap, 11 points clear. It wasn’t the result most of the crowd wanted, but the drama more than made up for it and the De Ketele and De Pauw remain the only winners of the modern 6 Day London.
Can they turn the tables on the Belgians on their home turf at Wiggins’ last ever race at his ‘home’ track in Ghent? I wouldn’t bet against it.