Those Venga Boys, they ‘Like to Party,’ the ‘speaker’ is getting excited; ‘ho, ho, ho !’ the bone-hard Contis rumble on the boards, the 1/8” pitch chains rattle – it’s good to be back, there’s nothing like a Six Day. A couple of weeks ago I was spectating at the Gent Six Day, right now I’m on the other side of the boards working in the track centre at the Rotterdam Six Day.
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Wednesday morning, the first night in Rotterdam passed without incident; the cabins are tidied, the drinks bottles are washed, the tricots folded and placed with the clean shorts, socks and track mitts for our three riders – and my feet hurt from these concrete floors.
Our three charges are:
Wojciech Pszczolarski [Poland] 31 years-old and a former European u23 and Elite Champion in the Points Race and Elite European Champion in the Madison as well as former Polish Champion in both disciplines.
Bartosz Rudyk [Poland] 24 years-old who rides with Wojciech and is a former European Champion in the u23 Scratch Race and a multiple medallist in Polish Championships – in the Omnium, Team Sprint, Madison and Individual Pursuit.
Not a bad road rider either.
Denis Rugovac [Czech] 29 years-old and a multiple Czech track championship medallist – he rides with aggressive Italian Matteo Donega who has his own helper.
All three are experienced Six Day riders who we’ve worked with before – ‘laid back’ and easy to work with, no ‘Prima Donnas’ in our cabin.
Night One Rotterdam?
In a nutshell?
‘The Yoeri Havik Show,’ – with partner and fellow ‘home boy,’ Niki Terpstra he won both Madisons then on his own, the Elimination and the ‘Supersprint’ – a ‘Points Elimination.’
But like he told us; ‘I’m World Champion and expected to put on a show for my home public.’
Before we get into this race, let’s talk a little history about the Rotterdam Six Day;
- First held: In 1936 but there have been various hiatus – not least World War Two – making this edition 39.
- ‘Recordman’ is home boy Rene Pijnen – who rode 233 six days during his career, second only to Danny Clark (235) as far as number of starts go; Pijnen won 72 of those races so is third best on wins behind Patrick Sercu (88) and Danny Clark (74). Ten of Pijnen’s wins came here in Rotterdam, which unsurprisingly makes him ‘recordman’ – he won four times with countryman the late Leo Duyndam, three times with Aussie, Clark, twice with Belgian Legend, the late, great Patrick Sercu and once with big Suisse, Urs Freuler.
- The last edition of the race – pre-Covid – was held in 2020 with local hero Yoeri Havik partnering now retired compatriot Wim Stroetinga to victory.
- Apart from Danny Clark the only other ‘Anglo’ winner is Tony Doyle who partnered Clark in 1988
- The track is a temporary structure, on steel frames with plywood riding surface, 200 metres, 13.5 degrees in the straights and 49.5 on the bankings.
- Track record is 9.852 seconds set by current sprint Dutch World sprint king, Harrie Lavreysen in 2020 at the last edition of the race.
And that’s enough words for today except – coolest man on the boards?
Italia and INEOS fast man Elia Viviani is paired with 23 years-old Dutchman, Vincent Hoppezak, the team is sponsored by Jordex a Dutch shipping company, their company colours are orange and black – check out Elia’s helmet, glasses, mitts, socks and shoes.
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Tonight was a rolling presentation, most of the riders prefer that to individual intros in the track centre – no boring interviews and it loosens tight legs.
‘Back in the day,’ when I first worked at the Six Days most of the riders would go up on the boards in the afternoon to stretch their legs – not these days.
They like their sprinting here in Rotterdam, not least because the Dutch are the dominant force in world sprinting, that’s World Sprint and Keirin Champion, Harrie Lavreysen on the right, next to him is World Kilometre Champion, Jeffrey Hoogland.
The only Worlds Sprint discipline they missed out on was the Team Sprint where the Aussies surprised everyone.
Our man, Thomas Babek is ‘pretty in pink’ in the picture, a former European Kilometre Champion and a multiple Czech Champion in all the sprint disciplines.
And you only think you’ve seen a long handlebar extension until you see the 18cm job on Thomas’s Argon.
He was a ‘LOOK man’ but says the Argon is much stiffer than the French marque; our Six Day man Wojciech has ‘gone Argon’ too, he was a Cervélo man – but as an endurance rider reckons there’s little to chose between the frames.
The first Madison went to the Swiss/Spanish duo of Claudio Imhof and Seb Mora; the Suisse won the recent UCI Track Champions League whilst Mora is an accomplished Six Day man, having won here with Alberto Torres in 2016.
As well as Imhof/Mora in the running for a podium there’s the young Belgian duo of Gent Six Day winner, Lindsay De Vylder and Jules Hester.
Both ride for Sport Vlaanderen which becomes Team Flanders-Baloise for 2023 and are multiple national medallist and champions on the track.
‘Men in Black,’ Viviani/Hoppezak have to be considered too, Viviani’s abilities speak for themselves whilst the young Dutchman is on the ‘up.’