Watching a dream die is never nice, but if it’s done quickly and clinically, then it’s humane, at least. Here at the Grenoble Four Day, Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele were ruthless executioners in the last chase in the small hours of Sunday morning.
Bryan Coquard and Morgan Kneisky rode with panache and bravery, in what I believe was a 100% ‘straight’ finale.
Inside the last 50 laps of 180 the Belgians attacked – we were waiting for it.
Keisse thunders round the track like he’s on a monorail, the ultimate stylist.
De Ketele isn’t as smooth but the power is there – he has those super fit riders’ ‘roadmaps’ on his inner thighs.
They took the lap quickly, cleanly – beautiful to watch.
The French countered, but were digging deep, if Coquard’s face was telling the truth, this night was perhaps the hardest he’s ever tried in a bike race.
Eventually they made the junction, gasping like fish, out of water and desperate for oxygen.
But it was of no consequence – the Belgians had done what only the real stars can do; when they made the junction with the peloton, they didn’t ease, took no ‘breather,’ simply rode straight ‘over the top’ to continue their infernal charge.
It was brilliant bike riding – and it spelt the end for the French, they had nothing left to give, they’d gone to the depths to take the lap.
The Belgians weren’t risking it on sprint points, not against the class and speed of the French – it was brute strength and experience which won the day.
And a shame that Marc Hester couldn’t quite coax Nolan Hoffman on to the podium – they lost out to the Italians Angelo Ciccone and Fabio Masotti.
The beautiful weather at the start of the race had given way to snow squals by Saturday night and it was close to a full house as the speaker did the introductions.
The evening started on a ‘down’ note with our boy, Austin Carroll pulled out and his partner, Guy East was paired up with Swiss fast man, Tristan Marguet.
Tristan was originally teamed with Franco, but with Franco out because of illness, the organisers wanted a solid rider like Marguet in the last chase.
Austin had been improving as each day passed and was riding at least as well as the lower ranked French guys – but his mum, dad, sisters, brothers, girlfriend and workmates weren’t up in the stands…
But Bernard Thévenet popped by to give Austin his prime cash personally, that was cool.
Our friend Vik was really captivated by the ‘contortioniste’ in the box we mentioned the other day – so I made sure I got a close up, just for him.
He is a remarkable chap. Vik, that is.
The sprinters’ Keirin was another half-hearted affair – maybe I’m becoming a ‘track snob,’ but I wasn’t knocked out by the sprinting, this year.
Except for Jason Kenny that is – he is one fast laddie.
Next up was the 42 lap Points Race, six sprints, one every seven laps.
On the last day of a Six Day (or a Four Day, as here), races like this aren’t that hotly contested – most thoughts are about the 180 laps to come after midnight.
More sprinting; and no-one here looks like they’ll beat Jason Kenny come the Worlds in February.
The 20 minute Pro Chase is next, with too many teams on the zero lap for it to have been serious.
Meanwhile the diners attack even more seafood, the tools are laid out for them as neatly as Dirk’s Campag spanners.
More sprints, those remarkable men twirl and dangle on their trapeze – then the De’il for ‘dossard rouge.’
Kenny De Ketele takes it – I think he just wanted the flowers.
The Folies girls do their thing then it’s the Team Sprint.
Three laps, flying start with the Pro teams ‘launching’ their sprinter.
Kneisky winds it on the fence, he dives, it’s quick, Coquard, quicker still, Kenny, warp factor – track record: 34.643.
Coquard reminds me of the American rider Colby Pearce, presenting a tiny frontal area to the wind but with a good engine.
The 20 lap ‘Balustrade‘ Sprint, the string rides high, larks around, hands off, pull their jerseys up – probably best watched after a few beers…
Next up is an attempt on the track lap record – it’s a 10.7 which I think still stands to Florian Rousseau?
The cream of French sprinting is up on the boards, French, European and World junior and senior champions – plus Jason Kenny.
Conord, Palma, Bauge, Bourgain, D’Almedia – none can crack 11 seconds.
Kenny, powering it round the fence, he dives, it’s quick – 10.9.
There was €7,000 on the table for the record.
Just Sireau to go – last man to go as befits the World Record Holder: 9.5 for 200 metres.
He’s a big man and his momentum takes him down off the fence like a cruise missile dropping from a B52; 10.9 – but Kenny pips him.
That was good racing.
And a tall order for Kenny to get the lap record after four nights of racing.
The ‘Golden Statues’ – I can’t resist more pictures: Vik won’t be happy.
More sprints – Kenny again.
The Team De’il, it’s nippy – Coquard is best.
The Sprint final; it looks good ’til Baugé beats Kenny on the line – where did he find that second, he was off the pace in the flying lap? And isn’t he looking a tiny bit heavy…