The crowd is good, the riders’ contracts have been paid, there’s one more procession, one last picture of the Folies girls, I’ve polished the bikes of Jens and Franco Marvulli, most of the stuff is out of the big cabin, the strongmen are going through their routine and there’s a buzz in the air.
The programme is short – just a 25 lap sprint series with points every five laps; the flying three lap time trial and then the big one – ‘180 tours pro madison’ with sprints on 120, 140 and 160 for 5, 3, 2, 1 points and ‘points doublé lors du sprint de l’arrivée de 6 jours.’
I’m looking forward to it; more so because we’re spending the night here and don’t have to rush away straight after the chase – I’ll be able to watch, not load the camper as usually happens during the last chase.
Our boy Jens-Erik Madsen and partner Marc Hester lead for Denmark, level on laps and points with the Italians Elia Viviani & Angelo Ciccone – but we have yellow in the cabin, always nice.
The sprinters hurtle by in the Keirin as I write this – Teun Mulder takes it.
The boys are up next for the sprint series – and stay in yellow.
Sprinter time, the citizens of Grenoble love the big fellows; when six of then go past ‘full gas’ in the keirin, it’s like a runaway train passing.
Big Shane does the business for the Antipodes.
With no mechanic, tyre pressures are one more thing to worry about for us – but the Italian mechanics are good guys; ‘14 bars?‘
‘Si, no problem!‘
More strongmen; the organisers must have got a good price if they take four acts.
Just the time trial to go before the big one.
Viviani takes his team through the first lap under 12 seconds, Ciccone holds the momentum and German Team Sprint World Champion Maximillian Levy doesn’t fold on that 52 x 14 – he drives all the way.
Fastest, for the third night running.
More strongmen – next year I’m going to offer the organisers a ‘wimps’ act – you can have too many shaved chests and bulging biceps.
Sprinter time again and the big Aussie Shane is too quick for world champion Bauge, in the final.
The Folies girls do their thing one more time, whilst Danny Stam revs out on the rollers.
One more keirin, one more strong man act and the pros are up already, rolling around the bottom of the track – it’s better than sitting waiting.
180 on the board, the gun fires and within 45 minutes or so we’ll know who the winner is.
The start is quick, then it looks like it settles down; but Daniel Mangeas tells us that the average is 54 kph.
I sneak off the ‘gods’ to get some pictures of the track – it’s high, up there.
Some of the French guys explode like Roman candles; losing a lap in less time than it takes to write it – then the pain of holding the string and remembering to switch to the ‘live’ wheel starts all over again.
Into the last 50 laps; De Ketele’s chest heaves as he takes his spell out.
First sprint – the Italians.
Second sprint and the band goes bananas – get a drugs tester up there – Hester/Madsen.
They can win it.
There’s a lull – two teams go clear.
Franco and Danny Stam are clear – Jens & Marc chase, and chase, and chase.
There’s no help guys, you wear the yellow jerseys, you’re the leaders – it’s all down to you.
The Danes are gallant but two young bucks can’t hold off four wily old foxes.
The junction is made, too late for Jens and Marc to get it back – Marvulli takes the last sprint before the finish.
The French guys think about those crisp Euro notes for their points at the finish – it’s all that keeps them going.
Danny and Van Bon lead by one point; 20 tours to go and it’s all on the line.
Van Bon goes for a long one but Franco is on him – the effort will see him coughing his insides out for hours after the race – and down the home straight the big man finds the speed that’s made him four times world champion – number six!
‘Une victoire historique!‘ Daniel Mangeas tells us – for sure.