6 Day

On track.

So the main event of my July was a trip to Fiorenzuola D’arda in Italy for my first Professional Six day start, in the Sei giorni Delle Rose. Something that I had been looking forward to for a while.

I set out from Zottegem. On a baking day, with 40kg of bikes and rollers to carry with me. This journey was not going to be an easy one…

It was so hot when I stepped out of the airport! Lugging my bags round the centre of Milan, trying to find a bus to the station and then the correct train was something that I did not enjoy! I arrived in Fiorenzuola station at about 11pm, and after a bit of a faff, not being able to get a taxi, I made it to the hotel. Thankful and relieved that I had made it!

Day 1

It was hot. Temperatures were round about 35C and I was struggling. I went and picked up my jerseys, moved into my gazebo, cabin area. I was next to the American team of Guy East/John Croom and the Swiss/German Pair of Michael Alborn and Robert Bickel. The rest of the afternoon was spent readying the bike for the 8pm start.

I was fretting a little bit about which gear I should be using. All of the previous U23 six days that I had done were either restricted to 49x15 or 50x15 depending on the track size. When I told Guy East that I was riding 52x15 I was greeted with “Dude that’s tiny!!” not what you would call a confidence booster… So I changed my gear up, or so I thought.

The first day included a 60 lap Madison and a Flying Lap TT.

In the dark when I was trying to gear up, I mis-read 49 or 48 on my chain ring so I actually ended up gearing down. So as a result I really felt that I could only follow the race and not contest the sprints etc. we didn’t score any points and rolled in on the same lap as everyone else. A start that I was happy with for my first senior Madison race of this standard.

Day 2

A drama filled day and one that would actually go on to shape our final result.

We did the TT lap and rolled in about 9th. I did the build up then swung Atillio in for the lap.

Then it was time for the Madison. Another 60 lap affair.

We went out hard. We needed to try and get some points on the board. So we went on the attack and won the first sprint without too much effort. We were in a group of 2 teams that just rolled off the front of the peloton. After the sprint I swung in Attilo and unfortunately after that it all went wrong. I had a rear wheel puncture, and because I was not in the race as a team we did not get any laps out when I was getting a wheel change. We came back into the race and we were half a lap behind and chasing hard. However, I found out afterwards that all the teams thought we were still off the front and going for the lap gain. So we were going really hard to get back on, and so was the bunch. So unfortunately after about 20 laps of chasing we where absorbed by the group, and thus lost a lap. Which really plummeted us down in the standings.

After the Madison was a Derny race. Where each team had their own motor pacer. One rider does half the distance then slings the other in for the final.

I had the first stint. It was actually quite comfortable despite what my heart rate said!

Day 3

This was short day, just the time trail. We just got through it after yesterday’s disappointment.

Day 4

Another day that started with a TT.

We went into the 60 lap Madison with the aim of trying to get the lap back. We sat towards the front of the group. Looking for a little lull when we could then attack and try to get the lap back/take the day’s victory. Unfortunately, this never happened. There was one lull but the French team of Kniesky/Thomas took the opportunity and got the lap. It was not our place to get involved in the race after that as the French then went into the lead. We did want to try but unfortunately it just didn’t work out.

Day 5

I did the TT today. Who knew that a lap was so far!

In today’s Madison, everyone expected it to kick off. But it just didn’t go to bits as expected. The big teams took the sprints and it seemed like everyone else kept out the way! My legs felt quite good today but my partner was a bit tired so just getting round without losing anything was all we could ask for.

Day 6

The final day.

There was a UCI scratch race in the afternoon which involved 2 heats. I was in the first one. I rode well until the last 6 laps and was up there. A group clipped away, and everyone started to ride across to it in one’s and two’s. I just sat there like an idiot and watched the race get away from me. So unfortunately I did not make it through to the final. Maybe a blessing in disguise.

The one lap time trial. Got round it, ready for the final chase…

The Final Chase. 100 laps. No sprints for the first 50 laps, then sprints every 10 laps with double points for the rest of the race. This is where it was all going to be decided. The first 50 laps were very nervous, with no one seeming to want to make the first move. Then when the sprints came it really started to kick off. With a small group finally going clear with 13 laps to go. We just managed to make the group which was basically the top 6 teams. Sprints at 70kph. It was rapid. We finished the race and managed to get 2 points on the board. And then the lap back on the American team on the standings above us. So we moved up 1 place. Not all bad!

So that was my first professional six days over and done with. And what a week it was. I really enjoyed it but at the same time learnt so much. It was so good to be in the same races as the guys you watch in the big leagues, and on the TV.

Hopefully this will open up the door for me to many other six days. We will see.

Forza Italia!

Ciao

Stephen