The winter track season would not be the same without the legendary Berliner Sechstage Rennen, in its 103rd edition this year. The event annually welcomes 70,000 visitors inside the Landsberger Allee Velodrome.
A number of the small pool of top riders who have been competitive here in recent years are not riding due to road or national team commitments or, as has been the case with some, contractual issues. This absentee list includes recent winners Michael Mørkøv and Alex Rasmussen, Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer and Roger Kluge as well as Iljo Keisse.
However, the riders who have started in 2014 are giving all they have to provide the spectacle that the sporting public expects. After three nights, five teams are still in contention for the overall victory. The overwhelming favourites are Leif Lampater and Jasper De Buyst who are reunited having won the Ghent Six in November. They hold a 29 point lead on Kenny De Ketele and Andreas Muller. The Belgian De Ketele is one of the few top riders left in the Sixes and his partner Muller will be inspired to top his third place from last year. That was the best result of the affable Berliners career, so a win would be a major achievement.
In third place is the 'home team' of veteran Robert Bartko and Theo Reinhardt, who at 23 is in just his seventh Six Day. They are hanging in and will certainly challenge for the podium
Below these teams the surprise package is Yoeri Havik and Vojtech Hacecky, more than a mouthful for the ever exuberant commentators. They are on the same lap as the leaders so the Dutch / Czech combo will be more than happy with their progress so far.
The fifth placed team in the standings are World Madison Champion, Vivien Brisse and Bavarian, Christian Grasmann. The Frenchman Brisse was due to race with his 2013 Championship partner Morgan Kneisky but a knee operation has ruled Kneisky out of the early 2014 Sixes.
Sadly, in his last ever Six Day, Franco Marvulli is near the bottom of the standings, with Australian Luke Roberts. A winner of 32 Sixes in his career Franco is one of the last few in the line of riders who compete at every winter and summer Six. His retirement is another signal of the changing nature of this part of cycle sport.
Elsewhere the Spaniards Muntaner and Torres made a promising start and could have been up there on their preferred 250 metre track. However a crash on Friday night saw them neutralised and with Muntaner hurt they’ve since lost 7 laps and are out of the podium battle.
Official Standings after 3 Nights:
1. Lampater (Ger) – De Buyst (Bel) 176 points
2. De Ketele (Bel) – Muller (Ger) 147
3. Bartko - Reinhardt (Ger) 120
4. Havik (Ned) – V. Hacecky (Cz) 109
5. Brisse (Fra) - Grasmann (Ger) 102
at 6 laps
6. Bommel (Ger) – Thiele (Ger) 53
at 7 laps
7. Marguet (Swi) – Beyer (Ger) 64
8. Muntaner (Spa) – Torres (Spa) 57
9. Barth (Ger) - Heslich (Ger) 26
at 10 laps
10. Wotschke (Ger) - Pirius (Ger) 38
11. J. Morkov (Den) – Ackermann (Ger) 23
at 11 laps
12. Thomel (Ger) – Schomber (Ger) 25
at 12 laps
13. Marvulli (Swi) – Roberts (Aus) 26
at 13 laps
14. East (USA) – Holloway (USA) 20
15. Blaha (Cz) – M. Hacecky (Cz) 12
at 15 laps
16. Byrgesen – Christensen (Den) 02
Sprinters, Stehers and the Ladies
The main Six Day programme is much shorter than in some other cities due to the sprint and steher (motor-paced) races. We also now have the Ladies-Cup and that reduces the programme further.
The leading sprinter after three nights is Robert Forstemann. He and fellow German sprinters Balzer, Levy and Enders are putting on a show for the fans with a Pole, Zielinski and a Czech, Kelemen – although the latter is struggling a bit in this company.
Leading the Stehers after 3 nights is Mario Birrer who has had the best of the crowd pleasing high speed motor-paced races thus far. The Swiss is the current European Champion. This title is, nowadays, the pinnacle of this long forgotten but very specialist form of track racing.
Last but not least the Ladies-Cup is being dominated by Stephanie Pohl in the Omnium style competition. The one Brit in the field, Hannah Walker is struggling a bit in 13th place but Stockport rider always has a smile on her face and seems to be popular around the Landsberger Allee Velodrom.