By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium
Having a long time partner in Six Day racing helps to discover the best way to exchange and how to ride the time trials the fastest possible way. But things don't always pan out. Australia's Luke Roberts was riding with Dane Marc Hester, when the latter had to leave the Gent Six Days after a crash. Roberts had to sit out all the team events until the final day.
He paired with Nicky Cocquyt for the final Madison, the same rider who was involved in the crash that ended the Six Days for Hester.
German competitor Andreas Beikirch admitted that for the professionals it is easier to switch partners. "It is sort of a well organised circuit. You know the quirks of the other riders." But it is different for the U23 riders – Brits Luke Rowe and Andrew Fenn paired up in a last-minute deal, as well as American Jackie Simes and Brit Peter Williams.
"I was supposed to ride with Mark Christian, but he broke his collarbone in the World Cup in Manchester," said Rowe. "We are used to each other's styles of riding, so it was a change to ride with Andrew, but it has been good.
"It was a tough week and a big learning curve. We were ninth after the first night, then slowly climbed the leader's board."
The British pair ended the Six Days in sixth place, equal on points with fifth-placed Belgians Thomas Sprengers and Simon Verhamme. Rowe will return to racing with Christian in the Rotterdam Six Days after Christmas, before heading to the World Cup in Copenhagen.
Simes also had to scramble to get a new partner, after another deal never materialised. Simes was hopeful for a good repeat performance. A year before he had won the final night in Gent with USA's Guy East. The pair also took the fifth night in Copenhagen.
"Being used to your partner is definitely part of it," said Simes. He also had more prep-time last year that allowed him to able to get more Six Day races in before Gent. "It's been a little bit tough this year, with not having been able to race the track in while."
East proved that getting used to your partner is helpful. He has been riding together with compatriot Austin Carroll for the past year and the two progressed from competing for sixth place in 2007 to competing for the wins in 2008. "Winning in Dortmund was such a great feeling and experience," said Carroll.