Germany, somewhere near the Taunus mountains at 09:22 Sunday. We left the velodrome of the Zürich Six Day at 03:00 and there are still 400 kilometres to go to the ferry at Amsterdam.
It began to snow like Hell about an hour into Germany; there were roadworks, we were diverted off the motorway and there were either no diversion signs or they were snow bound.
Whichever it was, we ended up hideously lost and dropped a chunk of time.
But once the sun comes up, it all doesn’t seem quite as grim: despite the spray and demented German drivers. We passed the emergency services at one incident where a hot hatch was lodged in the branches of a tree – crazy.
And on the subject of dangerous surfaces; Kenny De Ketele and Peter Schep confirmed that they were the strongest pair on the rattling boards of Zürich to relegate Roger Kluge and Danilo Hondo to third.
(But Hondo is still the coolest man on the winter boards – just shading it from Iljo Keisse.)
Despite home boys Franco Marvulli and Tristan Marguet’s dominance in the time trials; when it came to the essence of what Six Day racing is all about – the chases – they didn’t have the horsepower of the men from the north.
For a while it looked as if Switzerland’s new ‘Golden Boy,’ Silvan Dillier – who was on the podium at Gent – might do the business, but once World Champion De Ketele and super stylist Schep got their noses ahead, no one was going to take a lap back.
None of our three riders set the boards aflame, but Adam Blythe won a Derny race – and there was a personal triumph in finishing for Martin Hacecky, who was unwell the night before and had doubts about even starting the final chase.
And the next time someone tells you that the Six Days are all fixed, direct them to Adam Blythe, Martin Hacecky or Alois Kankovsky and ask them to tell you about night three at Zürich 2012; savage isn’t the word; there were men in tears coming off that track – and I don’t exaggerate.
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Here’s what I wrote on Saturday morning, on the eve of the finale.
Franco Marvulli wants to win his home Six Day – but I don’t think that Kenny De Ketele agrees with that.
Marvulli/Marguet and De Ketele/Schep are strong, but so too are Dillier/O’Shea and Hondo/Kluge – with Hansen/Hester, Lampater/Grasmann and Graf/Müller all very capable, too.
It’s a solid, balanced field and the big chases are good to watch – there are two madisons each night; a 100 or 125 lap ‘opener’ and 200, 250 or 300 as the main chase of the night.
The final chase will be over 250 laps at 00:45 tomorrow morning – Sunday.
There aren’t many negs to report from the VeloVeritas camp – great hotel, decent cabins, good food at the track and three cool riders to work with.
Pete is in Zürich as part of the German team which builds the track – or in this case, nearly didn’t.
The container with one of the bankings went astray and it was all hands on deck to get the ‘bahn’ ready for the race.
The race was cut back to a four day, last year.
If you’re a Six Day organiser then one of your biggest costs is renting the hall – cutting back to four days makes a big difference to the sums.
Grenoble has followed suit and cut back to four days – and we’ve actually heard a rumour that there will be no race there in 2012.
Let’s hope not.
Zürich has run since 1954, although there was a break from 2001 to 2006.
‘Recordman’ is Bruno Risi on 11 wins – seven with brother-in-law, Kurt Betschart, two with Danny Stam and two with Franco Marvulli.
Winners last year were ‘Marvellous’ Franco and Iljo Keisse – having the Belgian as a partner doesn’t do your chances of winning a Six Day any harm, it must be said.
None of our guys will be on the podium – but a race isn’t just about the first three.
Martin Hacecky was meant to ride with brother Vojtech but when the latter went down sick, Alois Kankovsky stepped in.
Martin and Alois ride for the Dukla Prague Continental team and have good palmarés.
Martin was junior time trial champion of the Czech Republic and spent time racing in Italy where he was a good climber.
He rode a year for Swiss Continental team Atlas before he returned to Dukla where he began his pro career.
Even although he had four wins in the Czech Republic in 2012, his job on the squad is to provide horsepower for team mate Alois.
Alois was World Omnium Champion in Palma in 2007 and has strong track palmarés, with a Worlds Madison bronze as well as World Cup and European medals.
But he’s a big finisher on the road, too.
The Dukla boys keep it together and Alois finishes it off; Martin tells me that he’s seen SRM files for Alois which show 2,000 plus watts in sprints – that’s serious power.
He’s won this year in Poland, Azerbaijan, Austria and China – as well as his native Czech Republic.
They’re both sound guys, there’s no ‘prima donna‘ stuff from Eastern Europeans.
Adam Blythe is also very easy to work with; Adam bailed out of the GB ‘Academy’ to follow his own path in Belgium, so he hasn’t been cosseted, unlike some we could mention.
It’s a while since Adam has been on the boards – although he was European U23 Team Pursuit Champion in his youth and won the Ghent UiV cup with Peter Kennaugh.
He arrived in Zürich, and then via separate routes, so did his bikes and BMC madison shorts.
He has cool new white Nike shoes, too – we’ve already told him that he might not go the fastest but he’ll look the best.
He’s proper ‘old school,’ keeping himself warm and grabbing naps as often as he can – we like that.
On the subject of ‘old school,’ the race magazine has 38 year-old Danilo Hondo down as the ‘last of the Mohicans’ – the only big road name you’ll still find on the winter boards.
And he’s still the coolest man alive.
On the subject of cool guys, deejay Peter Traynor, ‘Mr. Music’ stopped in to see us, with an; ‘och aye, the noo!‘
But he’s allowed to poke fun at us, as long as he has that soft spot for our favourite Gloria Gaynor tunes.
The first night passed without too much incident, albeit Kenny De Ketele and Adam’s partner, Wim Stroetinga hit the boards.