Australians claim maiden six-day victory with final sprint surge
Reigning world madison champions Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer (Axel Lange) have claimed their first six-day event, storming home on the final evening of the 101st edition of the Berlin 6. It was only their second attempt at the historic event and join only a handful of Australians to have won in Berlin.
In front of a 12000-strong crowd, the Australian pairing went into the final night in fifth place, down a lap, 22 points from leaders Belgians Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele (Techem) on 213. Germans Leif Lampater and Roger Kluge (Schultheiss) were next best on 204, followed by compatriots Robert Bengsch and Marcel Kalz (LCW) back one point and a lap. Swiss pairing Franco Marvulli and Silvan Dillier (Wolfram) were fourth.
The Australians had so far ridden in stark contrast to their previous appearance in 2011, taking a defensive approach in the previous five days before launching an all-out assault for victory.
Howard was bullish heading into the final night of competition, saying on his twitter feed that it was "Time to pounce!" Meantime, Keisse had suggested that the Australians had been "bluffing".
In the opening rounds of the night, Howard and Meyer along with Marvulli and Dillier gained a lap and so with the finals approaching four pairs were on zero laps with Bengsch and Kalz the only members of the top five to be a lap down.
With an hour and the final sprints left to race, the Australians drove the pace for a good 25 laps before claiming a 20 point bonus in the first two sprints. Howard and Meyer then took honours in the final sprint to cement their historic win with a 40-point total gain.
"It's the best six-day race in the world with the most electric backdrop," said Howard. "We wanted this victory and it should be a good omen for a third World Championship victory in a row at home in Melbourne. If we succeed, we want to show off the rainbow jersey at the next Six Days in Berlin again."
Marvulli and Dillier netted 28 points with Lampater and Kluge, along with Keisse and De Ketele nabbing 18. The Swiss pair finished on the same points (254) overall as the Belgian pair, Keisse and De Ketele with the Australians nine points ahead in the final standings.
Howard and Meyer are the first Australians in over two decades to win in Berlin with the last being Danny Clark in 1988 who added to his victories in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Other previous winners include Alfred Strom and Reginal Arnold (1950), Reggie McNamara (1926) and Jack Clark (1910, 1913).
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