You know when you’re getting old when ‘young guys’ you were with on their first race come round to retiring. At the Copenhagen Six Day 2009 we saw Danes Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv take their home Six for the first time.
I was lucky enough to be working for them as their ‘runner’… and I was their runner at Grenoble on their first Six Day in 2006.
But whilst Michael – as one of the most respected domestiques around – moves from Katusha to QuickStep for 2018, Alex has retired – last year’s Copenhagen Six Day was his last ‘race to nowhere.’
But let’s look back to 2009 and some great memories.
* * *
Alcazar’s ‘Crying at the discotheque‘ may have been the soundtrack to Alex Rasmussen’s huge attack in the closing minutes of the 2009 Copenhagen Six Day; but the only tears shed some 17 laps later were those of joy as home boy, ‘Razi’ and his Denmark and Saxo Bank ‘other half,’ Michael Mørkøv sent the full house home happy from Ballerup Super Arena.
On the penultimate night it had looked like the best the young Danes could hope for would be second behind the swashbuckling William Tell duo of Franco Marvulli and Bruno Risi.
But as the first tread band broke the finish line timing beam on the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, the classy Swiss had to settle for third, denied their hat trick at Copenhagen by the young men in the legendary number seven, ‘Danish flag’ jersey, but also behind the Netherlands duo of Peter Schep and Danny Stam.
The Dutch men had looked the freshest in the 70 minute chase which decide the race and indeed, finished level on laps with the Danes.
But the home team’s domination of the nightly flying laps and dernys meant that they had a far superior points total as the witching hour fell.
VeloVeritas was with the winners throughout the day of this win at the Copenhagen Six Day, their third Six Day win; Grenoble having fallen to them for the last two years.
Breakfast, and it’s not every day you have your orange juice with a legend; but Patrick Sercu is sitting just two tables away from us this morning – we’re in the same room, so I’m claiming it as “breakfast with the Flemish Arrow!”
The TV cameraman and reporter have tailed Michael the whole day. Massage, lunch, getting ready for the race, during the race – it’s a pain for us; but that’s what life’s like when you become a showman.
Talking of TV, one of the Danish networks is covering the final night, live.
When we arrive there are strangers everywhere – and kilometres of cables.
Jakob Piil, who was the last Danish winner here, with Jimmy Madsen, four years ago, is doing the TV pundit thing – he still looks in good shape.
The rolling presentation of the field sees Michael and Alex receive a rapturous reception from the big crowd.
Marvulli wins more wine, in one of the sprints – these races baffle us, but the boys come back with lots of prizes, win or loose, so we’re not complaining.
Jens-Erik has been a bit ‘down’ all week, but he’s perked-up today; could that be because it’s pay day?
Dernys; Franco hates them, I’ve never seen him win behind them. Michael’s been dominant here, but Stam takes this one.
The race was no sooner finished than the little beasts were scurried off into the back of vans and estate cars and are offsky; next outing, Cremona, Italy – 2,500 kilometres away.
Casper Jørgensen comes to visit us; with Alex, Michael and Jens-Erik he made up the silver medal winning 3:56 Beijing Danish team pursuit squad.
He was supposed to ride the six, but injury prevented him – it doesn’t stop him from laughing all the time, though.
Everyone is twitchy; the final chase is on all of their minds.
The flying lap – Bartko & Lampater clock 12:867 to Razi & Mørkøv’s 12:996; the crowd are quiet after that one.
The mechanics are packing, the discs have gone, but not the ‘second’ bikes that are used for time trials and behind the dernys.
The mechanics learned a hard lesson in Bremen; with 15 laps to go in the final chase there was an almighty crash which ‘totalled’ several bikes.
The mechanics had stripped and packed the ‘second’ bikes away for the journey to the next race – but had to rebuild them pronto to let the race be concluded.
A visitor, ‘BS’ the ex army man who puts the Saxo Bank team through it’s paces; Michael tells us that all the team, including him, are waiting on a character assessment arriving from ‘BS’ and his advisers, based on what they had seen at the ‘Survival Camp.”
Bjarne Riis, love the man or hate him, he doesn’t do things by halves.
BS is accompanied by eccentric Saxo Bank mechanic, Christophe – he doesn’t let us down with his new, dyed blonde hair do.
On the last night, it’s easy to let the cabins go, but I force myself to ‘do the rounds,’ tidy the shoes, fold the clothes for the tenth time, check the drinks, ask the guys if they need anything.
There are kids in the enclosure tonight, they argue about who to seek autographs from; meanwhile, just centimetres away sits a quiet, anonymous, older guy – Patrick Sercu, the most successful six day rider in history and an athlete of amazing versatility.
The man was Olympic kilometre champion, world sprint champion and green jersey in the Tour.
The sprints, and the guys just go through the motions, that 70 minute chase hangs in the air like a ghost.
There’s a ‘special event;’ a presentation for Jacob Moe – it’s his last race and he gets a ‘guard of honour,’ flowers and big respect from the crowd.
‘Hollywood’ gives us ‘We will rock you’ and ‘Born in the USA’ one more time; “Thank you for the entertainment, Mr. Holloway – it’s been outstanding,” says the announcer – I’ll second that.
Tomorrow night at this time, I’ll miss Daniel and his crazy fun.
Franco leans on me, the crowd is counting down for the start of a killer 70 minute chase, but the big guy still has a wink for the crowd.
I give him an almighty shove…
“Cara mia, mine…”
The Continentals and Schwalbes begin to thunder on the pine.
The next 70 minutes will decide whose names are painted on the fence above the banking as winners of the 2009 Six Days of Copenhagen.
But first I have to empty and disinfect the pee pails and strip out our neat little cabins which we tried so hard to make comfortable for our guys.
By the time I do that, the clock says 49 minutes to go and the overall standings are: Rasmussen & Mørkøv 230 points; Risi & Marvulli 208 points; Stam & Schep 146 points, all on the zero lap.
Bartko & Lampater are one lap back and de Ketele & Mertens are crumbling at five laps.
Half distance, 35 to go and it’s status quo, except that the Belgians are seven back and Mertens looks very rough. The music is hot, the racing’s not. For me, it’s Stam and Schep; they look the perkiest. Daniel Holloway misses a change, Colby has to do a double spell – ouch!
The minnows are clawing the odd lap now – a sure sign that the tempo isn’t savage. They know that Sercu is watching and he want’s men who go for laps – he has crowds to please.
Schep changes bikes; those tyres look just fine to me!
Big Bob Bartko doesn’t look like he’s having fun; but team mate Leif Lampater looks composed and fresh – I think he’ll be ‘the man,’ soon.
The count down board switches from minutes to laps – 45 to go.
‘Vamos a la playa!‘ the Balearic beat pumps; are they kidding – it’s Denmark in February!
The results board hasn’t changed it’s rap, the boys still lead on points from the Swiss and Dutch on the same lap.
Kris tells me to go and check the ‘kontrol’ notification; Jens-Erik and the white number from the winning team are the ones that affect us.
Stam and Schep snaffle a lap; they make it look easy, and now they lead by 250 metres.
Marvulli and Risi try and try to get them back, but Lampater closes them down each time.
The laps tick down – 20, 19, 18 and then the roof lifts off as Alex launches and seals his place, with Michael up there on the fence.
After the presentations, it’s chaos as everybody wants a piece of the winners – TV, press, photographers, friends, family, fans and autograph hunters.
I have to keep an eye on the guys’ mobile phones and gear as Kris starts to shuttle our kit to the camper.
It’s gone 1.30 am; hand shakes, pictures, laughs, cuddles, kisses, maybe a few tears and it’s time for the three hour drive through the frost and mist to Billund and Ryanair.