By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium
German Andreas Beikirch put in a solid week of racing with his Belgian partner Kenny de Ketele to take third overall in the Gent Six Day on Sunday. The 38-year-old Six Day specialist who also races on the road for the continental team Sparkasse got a start at a young age on the short, tight tracks like 't Kuipke, and felt right at home.
"I grew up on tracks like this. I already raced in the sports facilities in Cologne when I was 10, 11, 12 years old," Beikirch said. So when asked if he needed to get used to a different track like the Gent, he turned the question around. "What do you mean different? You can interpret it that the other tracks are different... In my opinion, tracks like Gent or in the past Cologne and Bremen – the 166-metre tracks are the real traditional cycling tracks."
Beikirch also felt the spectators are better off. "It is ideal for a two-person team and the racing looks really fast. When you get back in, you don't have to try to get much momentum., because it is really steep."
There was another, more selfish reason for Beikirch to enjoy races like the Gent Six Day. "I like the short tracks and because of my height, they really suit me well." The 1.70-metre German said. "Racers like Robert Bartko have different difficulties there. But he is so strong, he can obviously compensate that with other means."
Better to know the quirks
Beikirch admitted that for safer racing it helps when all the racers are familiar with each others' styles. "It is better everybody knows most of the individual habits from the others. One changes this way, the other changes that way."
Beikirch noted his own individual behaviour. "I am known that I do sort of a little hook [when changing], but because everyone knows they can handle it."
Beikirch has been part of the Six Day racing for a long time and has won four of them (Dortmund, Bremen, Stuttgart) and it was that experience that led Patrick Sercu to suggest him as a partner for the up and coming Kenny de Ketele. Beikirch acknowledged that experience and having the eye for situations counts for a lot, but not all. "If you can't pedal, having the eye doesn't help much."
Beikirch thought he and De Ketele did a good job. "We were close to taking the lead on one day – we were missing one point." Beikirch prefers to go out hard and fight as long as possible, but acknowledged it can hurt in the end. "But that is better than riding defensively and maybe ending one place higher."
Sparkasse not affected by financial crisis
Beikirch rides for Team Sparkasse, which is a German bank. It has not been affected by the financial crisis, and rumours that the bank wouldn't sponsor the team next year were news to Beikirch. "That would be news to me. As far as I know they will continue, but it is possible there will be a co-sponsor."
Some of the riders are still negotiating with other teams, even though it is already late in the year. Beikirch acknowledged that some of his teammates had a good year and it was legitimate for them to look what else is out there. "We just have to wait and see what the roster looks like after the negotiations."
Beikirch felt it was hard to make predictions for next year, as 2008 was outstanding for the team and it may be hard to repeat." We won quite a lot of races. That we could take out the Sparkassen Giro with Eric Baumann was really cool."