Swiss Six Day specialist Bruno Risi called a final end to his long and storied career on the track in Copenhagen today. The 41-year-old was given a special send-off by his long-time partner, Kurt Betschart, who surprised Risi by attending the ceremony in Denmark.
Risi and Betschart raced the Six Day circuit together for 15 years, amassing some 37 Six Day victories and a European championship as a pair.
As much of a force Risi and Betschart were on the Six Day circuit, they never managed to win the World Championship race. Risi claimed four rainbow jerseys in the points race, in 1992, 1994, 1999 and 2000 before finally taking the title in his specialty, the Madison, with a young new Swiss partner named Franco Marvulli. They also took the silver in the Madison for Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
When Betschart retired in 2006, Risi and Marvulli began racing the circuit together full time, and the two went on to win a second world title in 2007. Risi and Marvulli have combined for 20 victories in Six Day events.
Risi has been a popular rider in the Six Day races since 1992, and had a reputation as being a tactically shrewd racer who raced fair but hard on the track, but was always smiling and joking off-track.
The retirement ceremony in Copenhagen was just one of many such moments to honor the Swiss rider. He has been feted in Amsterdam, Munich, Gent, Zurich, Rotterdam and Bremen this season.
Danish Madison world champion Michael Mørkøv paid tribute to Risi at the Copenhagen ceremony, showing a photo of himself with Risi when the Swiss rider was a pro and the Dane a young junior. "We are from different times, but it has been a great honor for me and Alex [Rasmussen, his partner] to race against you.
"Since 2006 when we started, I've always tried to learn from you," Mørkøv continued telling Risi, "but even after these years you still surprise me, and you can still kick all of our asses!"
With still one more final race of his career remaining, Risi had to try to keep his emotions in check and focus on the final Madison, where he and partner Marvulli faced a two point deficit to overall leaders Iljo Keisse and Robert Bartko and had the Danish pair Mørkøv and Rasmussen breathing down their necks just five points in arrears.
He thanked the crowd, saying, "Even though I'm not a Dane, it's been a real honor for me to do my last laps in Copenhagen."
After an aggressive ride in the final Madison, Risi and Marvulli were not able to keep pace with the attacks of Keisse/Stam and the Danish pair Mørkøv and Rasmussen as they battled for the points in the sprints. The Danish pair claimed their second consecutive overall win, while Risi finished his career with a third place finish overall.
"I'm really satisfied with third," Risi said afterward. "[The Danes] were the real winners." He will return home to his wife and three children who will now get quite a bit more time with their father.