Bartko the track specialist

Former Olympic Champion Robert Bartko

Former Olympic Champion Robert Bartko (Image credit: Bjorn Haake / Cyclingnews)

By Bjorn Haake

Robert Bartko won two Olympic gold medals in the 2000 Sydney Games. Eight years down the road, he is still a force to be reckoned with at various track events. He hopes to qualify for the UCI Track World Championships in the pursuit. During a racing break at the Gent Six Days he told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake about his plan to achieve this goal.

Racing on the Gent, Belgium, track provided Bartko with a unique hometown advantage. The German has been racing with local resident Iljo Keisse for the past two years. "Of course, it is something special to ride with the 'local hero'. All the spectators are behind you," Bartko said.

However, riding with the local hero was a kind of double-edged sword. "Then, of course, there was the pressure from the spectators. That didn't make it easier." Overall, though, he found it nice to be racing with the extra cheers provided by the 7,000 fans that ventured to the old Gent track, called het Kuipke, every night.

The short, 166-metre track provided its own challenges for the 1.86-metre tall rider. "On a short track like this, for a tall and robust guy like me, it is difficult. The centrifugal forces in the corners, the short straightaways ­ they do not necessarily favour me."

But Bartko gets used to it. "I need the first night, and then I always manage well in Gent."

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