It’s 11:29 on Sunday, somewhere on an autobahn in Bavaria. The Zürich Four Day 2011 finished at 02:30 but it was around 03:45 before we got away from the track.
We parked up at 05:00 at a motorway services and rose at 10:15; we’re en route Düsseldorf, which will take us the best part of the day.
It’s all part of the game.
I interviewed Germany’s Carsten Wolf yesterday, he was an individual and team pursuit star in the 80’s and a top six day man in the 90’s with four wins off 75 starts.
His highest total of sixes for one winter was 17 between October and February; he did that twice – including races in Colombia and Argentina.
I guess I shouldn’t complain about travelling, when I consider Carsten’s itinerary.
Seems a long time ago now.
The 300 lap chase was a belter, with Keisse reminding us how much the Six Day circuit needs him.
He always looks a million dollars, rides a cool machine and performs in spectacular fashion.
He uses the whole track; maybe not the best for economising on distance covered – but great if you’re watching him.
When he regained the string to take the winning lap he popped a wheelie that a BMX rider would have been proud of – at 50 kph plus.
Franco wouldn’t like to read this, but he’s not at the same level he was in the ‘golden days’ with Bruno Risi – but he’s still one of the ‘heads’ – pairing with Iljo and racing in his hometown brought out the best in him.
His win in Zürich is his fourth there, the three previous all being with King Bruno of Risi – a man we sorely miss at the races.
The sessions on Wednesday and Thursday finished at midnight but Friday went on ’til 02:30.
There wasn’t really any additional pro racing, just that they added in another 125 lap stayer race and some truly dreadful sprinting.
I thought it was over-kill on the motor paced but Franco says there’s always been a big tradition of stayer racing in Zürich.
That being the case, I’d have shortened the races to maybe 80 laps; but the fans do lap up the finales – which take place at mad speeds.
Homeboy, Giuseppe Atzeni dominated the racing – very smooth with little upper body movement and calm under pressure.
One of the sprinters was a giant of a man, and sporting a beard – however, the only cyclist in the history of the world, ever, to get away with a beard was Fabio Baldato.
But this dude could give Fabio maybe six stones.
I don’t think that the racing needs to go on ’til 2:00 am; in the ‘old days,’ Zürich was always notorious for the severity of the programme with racing going on until 05:00 am.
But as Franco explained to me, that was in the days before late opening bars and clubs – many of the spectators were bevie merchants in to enjoy a late night ‘swalay.’
When you’re back in the hotel and the clock says 03:45 it’s hard to get your head round – normally, I’d have been in bed for six hours.
In line with “veritas” I have to say that the last chase wasn’t a great one – Friday’s was much better.
But the crowd got what they wanted, a home win with a Suisse in second place too – Silvan Dillier.
Dillier usually rides with Claudio Imhof – they were strong in Ghent – but Imhof went down with a bad stomach and had to pull out.
They perm’d the teams and paired Dillier with Aussie Glenn O’Shea – a really rapid pairing, winning the flying lap on the last two nights.
The final spot on the podium went to Robert Bartko and Danilo Hondo.
Bartko isn’t as much of a beast as he used to be and whilst Hondo is still the coolest man in the world – when you see him right after a hard chase, the wear and tear is beginning to show.
I interviewed him at Ghent, last year and did my homework on him – the man has impressive palmares and oozes charisma. It would be hard to imagine young riders not giving Danilo respect.
It was another long night, with a double helping of big motors and more “sprinting.”
In Grenoble and Berlin they have sprint tournaments, but with the best riders both nations have – Bauge in Grenoble; Levy in Berlin.
Sprinting at that level is poles apart from cobbling together a few old, overweight guys and calling it a ‘tournament,’ as they do in here and in Copenhagen.
The promoter saves money, but the result is a mockery of a competition.
On the last two nights they also included a second U23 madison, late in the programme.
It’s fast and furious and crashes inevitable – there was an American duo riding; ‘I must have a chat with those lads,’ I thought to myself.
But they were in hospital before I got the opportunity.
And the four night formula?
Like Franco says; ‘four nights in Zürich; one night at the Revolution – it’s much better than nothing!’