|November 18th-23rd 2003|
The story so far: We kicked off the season with the Amsterdam Six, which saw Dutch fast men Danny Stam and Rob Slippens come out on top. The Dutch duo have been getting seriously quick over the last year or two. Then on to the schizophrenic phase of the six-day season, with half the guys racing in Grenoble, France, and the other half racing in Dortmund, Germany. Why the two races take place in the same week when there are big gaps in the six-day calendar later in the season is a complete mystery. Grenoble was won by the up-and-coming Swiss duo of Alex Aeschbach and Franco Marvulli (Marvulli being both world scratch champion and world Madison champion in 2003). Meantime, Marvulli's Madison partner from the worlds, Bruno Risi, was back with regular partner Kurt Betschart at Dortmund - and back in winning ways. The top Swiss pairing (Risi / Betschart) continued their winning ways in the Munich Six. However, all was not well in Munich, and reports of mutiny have reach Fat Nick's ears. Young upstart Bradley Wiggins, partnered by French hardman Robert Sassone in Munich, upset the status quo on the fifth night by unexpectedly taking the race lead. And although Wiggins and Sassone gracefully left the established top boys to slug it out amongst themselves on the final night in Munich, Fat Nick suspects that the lanky British world pursuit champion was showing what he is capable of.
Some of the six-day guys were racing at the Newport Velodrome opening meeting in November 2003, which featured the European Derny championships. Two things caught Fat Nick's eye at Newport: Bradley Wiggins, the world pursuit champion, is really on form at the moment. And big Franco Marvulli is absolutely flying, with a blisteringly fast turn of speed when he needs it.
The 2002 Ghent Six-day bike race saw the regular pairing of Bruno Risi and Kurt Betschart score a hard-earned win ahead of some fierce competition. This year, the newly made up team that came second in 2002 will be hungry for revenge: Ghent's own Matt Gilmore was paired for the first time with Britain's Bradley Wiggins in the 2002 Ghent Six, and they are a remarkably effective combination. Gilmore and Wiggins can also be sure of having the local crowd behind them, as they were both born in Ghent while their fathers were themselves racing on the six-day circuit.
So, Fat Nick's money will be going on a win for Matt Gilmore and Brad Wiggins. They are both very, very keen to win the Ghent Six in 2003, and Wiggins is on cooking form. The only slight question mark against their form is Matt's condition after he had a "vehicular mishap" on the way back from the recent Munich Six, a car crash which has left him a bit battered and bruised, and with reports of a pulled muscle. But Gilmore is tough and has bounced back from worse, and he had the good sense to lay low and rest, choosing to miss the European Derny title in order to be back on song for his home six-day race.
Other riders to watch? Well, Switzerland's top six-day pairing of Risi and Betschart should never be underestimated, but they may well be ready for a bit of a rest after two hard-earned wins in Dortmund and Munich. Slippens and Stam are very, very quick, and could well make the podium. But Fat Nick's money for an outside flutter has to be double world champion Franco Marvulli and Alex Aeschbach.
Throw in a few Belgian beers (for the spectators, anyway!), a nice tight 170 meter track, and oodles of atmosphere, and you can see why Fat Nick has been looking forward to this race. And the race is "under new management" this year, with new owners and new ticketing arrangements. The good news is that former six-day ace Patrick Sercu remains firmly in charge of sporting matters, so exciting racing is guaranteed (Fat Nick remembers well the look on Sercu's face a few years back when he went to have blunt words with the then world madison champions, who were riding like a pair of bananas. Quite what was said remains a secret, and Fat Nick is too discreet to name the two riders in question - but they later emerged from their cabin looking as chastened as two schoolboys caught smoking behind the bike sheds!)
Fat Nick will be skulking around in Ghent from Thursday until Sunday, and looks forward to sharing a drink or two with friends old and new. . . .
See Fat Nick's photos from the 2002 Ghent Six
See Fat Nick's photos from the 2002 Amsterdam Six
See Fat Nick's photos from the 2002 Grenoble Six-Day race
For day-by-day results while Fat Nick is in Ghent, keep an eye on www.cyclingnews.com.
And while you're here, why not have a look at some photos of previous years' cycle racing action from the Ghent Six?
Not sure what all the excitement is about? Read Dee Dee Scadron's account of her trip to the Ghent Six.
Do you have any news about the Grenoble Six? Because of spamming, I don't publish my e-mail address here. But heck, my name is Nick, and the domain name is fatnick.com, so you can probably work out how to contact me <g>.
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