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Ghent Six Day Excursion



 
 
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Old November 24th 03, 11:59 AM
Ilan Vardi
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

Ghent Six Day Excursion
=======================

Trip to Ghent
-------------

My wife and I live in Paris, so we hired a car and drove over to Ghent,
which is only 300 kilometers away. This was a painless three hour trek.
The hard part was the drive from the freeway offramp to the hotel, which
took about one and a half hours for about three kilometers. We had printed
out precise computer generated directions, but these proved to be impossible
to follow since they referred to street names which were not indicated
at intersections. The only map we had was one of Belgium, so it was not
of great use in making sense of local detail. The situation was exacerbated
when we were forced to turn onto an unidentified parkway and had to drive
quite some distance before being able to take an unidentified exit.
We ended up in a train station in the South of Ghent in a state of quasi
total despair. That's when we decided to get serious. The first thing
to do was to get a "feeling" for getting around in Belgium. I realised
that travelling round these parts consists of two distinct modes:
(a) Long distances on well marked freeways or national roads,
(b) extremely short distances
in which nothing is marked and errors can be catastrophic due to the tree like
(no loops) structure of roads. The latter is due to the fact that suburban
roads are based on connections between ancient villages,
unlike the US, where such streets form grids designed by
by modern urban planners. Note that tree like structure virtually eliminates
error correction which is reduced to simple backtracking. This has the
effect that one can get easily lost by failing to understand the
sudden phase transition between mode (a) and (b). Furthermore, when in
mode (b), the only way to find one's way is to avoid making mistakes
at crucial intersections (i.e.,all intersections) is to drive slowly enough
to make informed decisions (traffic circles are helpful, since one can
simply do laps until the correct direction is found).
So, when we finally got to the general area
of the hotel, I started driving slowly, while my wife was examining the map
and driving directions to the hotel. To our great surprise, this
generated much annoyance from the locals. They continually honked at us
to speed up, despite our French license plate and the very visible "F"
on the back of the car, while the lit interior clearly suggested
that the passenger might be reading something, e.g., a map. We found
further evidence of local driving habits when we drove up to a
fresh accident scene in which the parties involved were marshalling traffic
around their wrecked vehicles. I was wondering whether Museeuw's
accident in which he was rammed by a car while starting his motorcycle
parked on a sidewalk was all that unusual.
Of course, I welcomed this over-sensitivity as an opportunity to
annoy people, which is one of my favourite pastimes. After we found
our hotel, we got back on the road, and at some point, I did a rather
deliberate right turn off a main road forcing the following motorist
to apply the brakes lightly: The response was a loud honk, of course,
but we were also treated to him gesturing at us that we were
crazy. One definition of insanity is that one lives in a culture
without acceeding to its norms. It seems clear to me that a foreigner
who fails to adhere to local custom cannot immediately be branded as
insane, since, by definition, customs are not universal. Inability to
understand this concept is what characterises a culture as
"provincial".
At a later juncture, I drove for 1km at 60 kph on a two lane divided
road, which I later found out had a 70kph speed limit. Therefore,
the following motorist was unable to pass. When the road widened
to four lanes, the person following me pulled up beside me and started
gesturing while his girlfriend in the passenger seat did her best to hide.
He pulled down the right window and vigorously exhorted
me to discuss the problem man to man. Since I had French plates and
(at the time) I suspected he didn't speak too much French, I was wondering
which method he would use to communicate with me. Instead, I just
smiled and waved and hoped that my belief that
Belgians don't toat firearms was correct.
This behaviour surprised both me and my wife, since we hadn't had any
problems at all in all previous visits to the area. We conjectured
that, since it was 6 pm on Friday night, the locals were eager to get
to the home or pub after a hard week's work. To add to the puzzlement,
the next day we noted that pedestrian rights are not taken lightly
in this area of the world --
walking off a curb onto a crosswalk immediately cause traffic to halt in
both directions. In fact, other than the driving incidents everyone
was perfectly polite and helpful. Oh, and no one seemed to have any
problems about speaking French, if we addressed them in that language.

Anyway, we got to the hotel, which was in a rural area outside a
suburb of Ghent called St. Martins Latem. It was fairly upscale, since
the main road featured a Porsche dealer but there were also about four or
five whore houses which were easily identifiable by women sitting
behind windows clad in lingerie.
The hotel itself was in a medium size country estate.
When we left, we found out its quaint history: It was originally owned
by a relatively well known painter named Servaes. It turns out that
in World War II, he denounced all the Jews in the area to the Nazis,
and at the end of the war, he fled to Switzerland, where he spent the
rest of his life. Hotel was also special, because room didn't have
a television. This privilege would cost us an extra 6 Euros a day
added to the 75 Euro price. This proved to be a wise investment,
as TV in Belgium is really good. You get channels from England,
Germany, Spain, France, Holland, and Belgium, and all the English
programs on Dutch TV are in original version with Dutch subtitles.
My wife got to see her first corrida, broadcast live on Spanish TV,
and I got to see snooker on the BBC (unfortunately, I have yet to
see sheepdog trials, maybe next time). On Dutch TV, there was
speedskating which was interesting for me, because the final pair featured
Chad Hedrick. In case you didn't know, he
most successful inline skater of all time, having won about 40 world
titles. If that isn't enough, he revolutionised that sport by inventing
a new way to skate, now called the "double push", in which you
given an extra pull during the previously passive gliding phase.
He turned to ice skating a year ago, and everyone was wondering whether
he could transfer this technique to the ice, previously considered
impossible, since ice skates grip exactly opposite to roller skates,
that is, there is most grip at the highest lean angles. He was
apparently able to do this, and I tried checking it out in the program,
and I did notice a wobble in his left left recovery. Anyway, he was
paired up with Olympic champion Uytehage (too lazy to look up his
spelling) in the 5K race. This guy de Jong had set the best time, and
Uyttehage and Hedrick took off at a real fast pace and were up 3 and
2 seconds by the first kilometer. Hedrick looked kind of uncomfortable, because
the cap of his skinsuit didn't fit too well and was sticking up. This
didn't seem to bother his time at first, maybe because
he's used to having a helmet from roller skating. Anyway, they were
gaining more time, but Hedrick started fading bad and lost 2 seconds
in one lap at 3K, and Uiytehage started losing time as well. By the end,
Hedrick must have been down more than 10 seconds and wasn't in the top ten,
while Uytehagge ended up 2nd or 3rd. This guy wasn't fooling around
because he was foaming at the mouth during his race.

However, the most interesting program by far was from British
MTV (rebroadcast on Dutch TV with subtitles): It was called Dirty Sanchez,
and is about a bunch of slackers who have nothing better to do than doing
total dumbass stunts and videotaping them (I didn't recognise anyone from
r.b.r.). The episode we saw was their top ten funniest videos.

10. Naked paintball, and one of the guys slams himself in the groin
trying to jump an obstacle.

9. One guy takes his shirt off and the others staple it using a staple gun.

8. Take a giant spider and put it on a guy and watch it walk up his arm
to his head.

7. Take a muscle stimulator for the buttocks and put it on maximum power
causing incredible pain and visible butt spasms.

6. Tie a rope on a guy's feet while he's sleeping in a tent, attach the
other end to a car, and drive off.

5. Guys go to Val d'Isere during ski season and hit each other in the head
and groin with snow shovels.

4. Guy stands on top of a step ladder, while the others drive into the
ladder in a car. Guy on ladder is wearing a full face motocross helmet.

3. Guy volunteers to get his eyes sprayed with pepper spray. When he
tries to clear the spray with water, give him soapy water.

2. Guys jump into bushes of nettles wearing only underwear. This plant
causes extremely irritating skin rashes which go away after about an hour.
They showed their skin covered in rashes. Oh, and in case you were
wondering, the underwear was just for show. They pulled out their
privates and rubbed the plants all over them.
They ended that party by stuffing their mouth full of plants
and chewing them in agony.

1. One guy volunteered to have his penis nailed into a block of wood using
a "u" nail. That is, the nail is in the shape of an inverted "u" about
2 cm wide, and then nailed into a board of wood. When hammering the nail,
you of course make great big swings: "It's called 'u nail' because
u got to trust me." Once that operation was done, the nailee was
walking around complaining about the pain, and when one person
pulled the board, he said: "Don't ****in' pull it, it bloody
well 'urts!"
The nailer then said: "Remember when I said I knew how to take it off?
I lied. You're going to have to go to the hospital and get it taken
off." However, the nailee managed to slide it off him unaided.

There was one guy who volunteered for most of these
events, so he must be quite the masochist.



The Velodrome
-------------

Our tickets indicated that the racing would start at 7 pm, but we headed
off early, anticipating problems finding the venue. This turned out to
be correct, and once again, the problem was underestimated how close
the track was to the central square of Ghent. We were experienced
by now, so it only took us 45 minutes to do the 2 kilometers from
downtown to the track. It turned out that we
did a fair number of laps about 200 meters from the site, but we only
found it when we saw a sign pointing to Ghent Six Day parking areas. That was
the end of the problems, and everything went very smoothly from then on.
I should mention that we only got tickets for one evening of racing,
Saturday night, which was the penultimate day.

We got there at about 5:45 and we were allowed in the stadium at 6:00
sharp. The first thing we did when we entered was to get a program,
which was quite complete except it was written exclusively in Dutch,
so not always comprehensible. It must be noted that the actual race
program was also given in French. After that, we checked out the
concession area outside the actual velodrome. I was surprised at the
small number of these. There was one selling pictures of riders,
ranging from small postcards to full posters. The riders represented
were mostly current professionals, but also a number from as far back
as the 70's and a lot of pictures of past Ghent Six riders. My
favourite was one of an uncomfortable looking Sean Kelley doing one of
his last races in a Festina Jersey and sporting an obsolete Brancale
hardshell helmet (apparently one of the first attempts by Europeans to
make this type of helmet). There were also numerous cycling books on
sale, including the life of Freddy Maertens in pictures, which I
didn't get, since there weren't any good pictures of him sticking his
tongue out. There was a big Batavus stand, which is one of the larger
Dutch bike manufacturers. For sale was food, consisting of sandwiches,
very oily looking hamburgers and hotdogs, and Belgian waffles. To buy
refreshment, you had to get coupons, which were sold at 3 for
5 euros, and each coupon entitled you to 3/4 of a small cup of soft drink.
I didn't note beer prices.

I ended up eating a sandwich and a waffle with chocolate sauce.
Surprisingly, that waffle was not at all horrible and managed to
sustain me for the rest of the evening. However, I did get chocolate
sauce all over my face and hands, so I made tracks to the washroom to
wash up. To my surprise there was a woman at the door requesting 50
cents for the privilege of using the facilities. I mumbled something
about not paying for washing and walked in without encountering
further resistance. My wife informed me that she had done the same
when she went to fill her water bottle, and had managed to avoid
paying the second time by first removing all but a 50 Euro note from
her purse and flashing this at the guy guarding the door to the
toilet. My wife proposed the theory that this was a very lucrative
scheme based on the diuretic effect of beer. Anyway, if you
plan on going to the Ghent six day, be prepared to pay for the
bathroom.

OK, about the track itself. My wife had never seen an indoor track, so
I told her to be prepared for a shock when seeing the banking for the
first time. She wasn't disappointed, as it is really steep here, at
least 48 degrees. The track looked smaller than a 250 track, but not
too much, maybe because the actual stadium (the number of seats, etc)
is also fairly small. I was guessing that it was about 180 meters
when I saw that riders were doing flying laps in about 9 seconds. In
fact, it is 166.66 meters long so far shorter than any I've ridden or
seen (250 meters). The track surface isn't new and looks a little beat
up and there are numerous marks on it. However, there aren't any noisy
loose boards like there were at the Montreal track in 1982. There is
one spot outside the track where you can stand underneath the banking
and can actually see the light of the track between the wooden planks
and watch them giving in as the cyclists ride by.

The racing was fairly easy to follow since there was a very good
timing mechanism which was easily visible. Standings were given on two
screens and were somewhat hard to make out, as they were broadcasting
in low contrast from the screen of a laptop computer. At one point,
you could see the file manager for windows, and I was on the lookout
for some e-mail to pop up. This made it especially easy to follow
points races, as the standings were clearly marked with laps and
points in separate columns.

The P.A. system was good, as was the choice of music. Unlike all of
the track racing I've seen in the US, there was very little commentary
for the races. It seems that US tracks need to find the local David
Duffield to provide constant banter (I learned the word "fatuous" when
the announcer at Marymoor was described to me), with the common
feature that the drivel mostly consists of most significant personal
impressions of cycling, making it fairly easy to date them, e.g.,
constant reference to "Fignon-like poney tails". Commentary, when it
was given, was almost exclusively in Dutch, though the announcer
fairly often made remarks in fluent English or French.

The organisation was impressive, and when I took a picture of the
banking during the warmup, one of the people working immediately told
me to put the cord around my wrist in case I lost hold of the camera
causing it to fall onto the track.

The seats were the most expensive and 10 rows from the railing. Cost
of these tickets was 27 Euros each for the entire evening's racing
from 7 pm to 2 am. You could make out the racing quite well, except
that, due to the steep banking (even on the straight), riders were
hidden in turn 4 and the few meters coming out of it.

There was a VIP section, which was in the infield. However, it seems to
me that this was not necessarily a better place to view the race since
there were no seats at all for these spectators. Add to that, the
possibility of getting dizzy by having to continually turn around
to follow the racing.

The Spectators
--------------

In fact, all of my conjectues about the spectators were wrong.
There were very few fat people, almost no smokers, and lots of
people were drinking Coca Cola instead of beer. To add to this,
at least 1/4 of the spectators were from the UK, and of these,
most of the men were currently racing or riding, so looked fit,
even though the majority of these were middle aged or older.

I found out that track racing is doing very well in England, and
someone told me that a new track was just inaugurated a few weeks ago
in Wales. Given this large turnout, one wonders why there isn't a six
day race in Manchester.

Apart from the racing and the English participants, the centre
of English racing was a statue of Tom Simpson which was put there
in a campaign to refurbish his memorial on the Mont Ventoux.
His daughter, who now lives in Belgium was there to get signatures
for a petition.


The Racing
----------

Racing started promptly at 7 pm. In fact, the schedule was
adhered to extremely closely and no event was more than a few
minutes late, if at all.

I had never seen a Six Day race before so wasn't quite sure about the
events. I knew the race mostly consisted of madisons, and various
individual races with points total and laps added up a team win. I was
expecting to see lower category racing in order to allow the pros to
rest between events. In fact, this was not at all true. I also
realised that in Six Day racing, they take the team concept very
literally.

This was made clear in the first event, which was part of the Junior
version of the six day, run in the hour preceding each night's pro
racing. This first event consisted of a flying 500 meter team time
trial, sort of like an Olympic sprint, but in fact, totally
different. The riders wind up and go off at full speed, but instead of
the front rider pulling off halfway, he sits up and gives a handsling
to his partner who does the rest of the distance. Also, riders can
exchange at any time.

These Juniors proved to be quite good when I later saw that their best
time was about the same as the second and third place times in the
professional event. After that, the Juniors did a Madison, which was
fairly similar to what I was used to, lots of attacks, breakaways, and
mostly lots of confusion. Rules also seemed to have changed "since my
day" because riders were doing exchanges in the last lap, when
previously you weren't allowed to exchange in the last 200 meters.
Anyway, the guy who won the final sprint was pretty funny. He got
his bouquet of flowers and did a victory lap, then rode up to the rail
in front of us and handed them to his girlfriend, who was sitting in
the front row. When he rode back down to the infield, and, before getting
off the bike, gave her a look which suggested: "This was the last
round of this event, but later tonight will be the first round of
another event..."

After this race came the professionals. The 12 two person teams were
presented by having them ride in reverse order of team number, with
teammates riding side by side. As I figured out later, teams were
seeded, with team 1 being highest and 12 being lowest, so this made
sense.

OK, the first race was finally off and I got to see what pro track
racing was all about.

This may sound trite, but the first impression you get from pro
racing is that it is so...professional. The first race was a
points race with sprints every 10 laps (2 kilometers). What I saw
here was different from any other points race I've ever seen. Instead
of the usual individual attacks and splits in the pack after each
points sprint, what happened is that one person would lead for
9 laps with the field completely strung out, and he would slowly accelerate
in the final lap with only the front three or four riders contesting
the sprint.

This pattern kept repeating until halfway into the race when the 12 riders
in the race got off the track and their 12 team mates got on and
finished up the race. Aha! So that's how they handle rest between
events! You had one rider for each team do the first part of the race,
and the other rider would complete the second half.

I had genuine questions about the way this race unfolded. Was
the field strung out because of the higher pace of the pros, or
was there some other explanation... In any case, I did get to see
some great points race sprinting by Bradley Wiggins who was clearly
trying to do the minimum amount of work in each sprint while gaining
maximum number of points. In fact, he, as well as most of the
other riders, were so smooth in these sprints that one could
come to the conclusion that such racing might be less exciting to
someone who didn't know a lot about track racing.

After this, and every other race, the winners got a bouquet of flowers
and did a victory lap (no helmets), then got their pictures taken
with a number of suit people who were no doubt executives
of the company sponsoring that particular event.

The next race further reinforced the concept of team racing. It was
a "madison miss and out". That is, it was a miss and out in which
the last rider to cross the line every 10 laps was eliminated
(make that 5 laps after a while), but "rider" meant "team" as riders
were doing exchanges like in a regular madison.

This race highlighted a further property of pro racing. These guys
know exactly what is going on, but unlike top amateur racers, they
don't make a big fuss about it and no decision is ever questioned.
So, every single time someone was eliminated in this miss and out,
he immediately dropped out, no matter what the margin was, even
before his name was called (I have *never* seen this happen before).
In fact, no result was ever contested the whole night.

The next event was the flying lap individual time trial, and once
again, the team concept was applied. The rider doing the ITT was
led out to near maximum speed then given a handsling right before
the start/finish line. The first impressive moment of the night
came when Marty Nothstein was the first rider to go under 9 seconds,
his higher speed being clearly perceptible. The second impressive
moment came soon after when team 12 did its ride. Now, this was
somewhat strange, because the time trials were done in reverse
order, with team 1 going last. However, it was team 12 that came
last, and amazingly, came up with the fastest time by .02 seconds.
This produced a big audience response, as the rider in question
was Belgian, someone named Dimitri Defauw that I had never heard of,
but who must be good if he can beat Nothstein.

For this event, all the teams put on a rear disk. To my surprise,
in the rest of the racing, only one out of the 24 riders had a
rear disk. Oh, and all of the riders had clipless pedals, that is,
no toe straps for any riders.

After this was the first Madison of the night, and this race also
seemed somewhat strange to my eyes. The format was to run 40 minutes,
then do 10 laps. Unlike any Madison I've seen, it wasn't a points
race, but a scratch race (technically, I suppose it can be called a
points race but with only one sprint). This race was somewhat similar
to the first individual points race of the night, with the field
mostly being strung out with a single team leading for numerous laps.

The pattern in this race became quite clear: One team would attack
and quickly gain a lap, then one team after another would attack,
either alone or in a group of two or three, and gain back the lap
(except for team 12 which kept losing laps). I saw that teams were
consistently gaining back laps with 1:40 efforts. After a while,
one could tell fairly easily which team would do the next attack
and gain back a lap. This brought up the following question:
In the second version of this race, the Sassone
team gained a lap in the first five minutes, and after another
5 minutes, no one had got back a lap. OK, so it was clear that one
of the leading teams, e.g., Gilmore and Wiggins would be sure to
try to gain back the lap, which they did next. But why didn't the
Sassone team mark them?

I don't know what the answer to that is. Maybe it's harder to mark a
team on this small track. I suspect the reason is that it might be
considered "unprofessional", that negative racing might not make a
good show. Unfortunately, darker alternatives did occur to me, and,
though I may be wrong, it is my impression that not so long ago, six
day racing was fairly fraudulent. Anyway, those concerns were
resolved when the second madison (which I observed more closely) was
won with teams managing to gain laps in the last few minutes.

By now it was 10 pm and time for the half time show. Once again, this
went completely against my expectations, as it consisted of a real
cycling race, not some off the wall attempt to entertain the audience.
In fact, it was a derney race with female racers. I didn't recognise
any of these riders who were from Belgium, Holland, and England.
However, the official starter for the race was Leontien van Moorsel,
whom I did recognise. I believe that the image of Leontien dressed in
black, with stilleto heel boots, and holding a gun, might cause some
of my readers to have to take a quick but necessary pause. I got a
little bit closer to take a picture of Leontien, and I noticed that
the Junior rider was now in the stands sitting next to his
girlfriend. He was holding a beer in one hand and a cell phone in the
other. He had a warmup jacket with lettering that identified him to be
young kid from Haarlem. A little while later, he contradicted
my previous impression by letting his girlfriend leave without him
while he stayed to hang out with his buds.

Anyway, back to the women's race: They were off, and this type of
racing proved to be quite interesting. There were six riders on the
track each paced by an ancient but immaculately clean moped. It's
unclear how these machines work, but driver would slowly pedal, and
basically never look back at their riders. One driver stood out by his
corpulence, he must have weighed at least 250 lbs. This was Joop
Zijlaard and in the program it says: "...Om de renners maximaal uit de
wind te houden, is een indrudkwekkend 'postur' van de gangmaker
uiteraard belangrijk, het ligt voor de hand waarom de populaire
Nederlander Joop Zijlaard zo vaak met verschillende partner wint..."
You probably have as much of a shot at understanding what that says,
but it seemed obvious from watching the race that riding behind him is
like being behind a barn door, as opposed to his thin homologues. One
giveaway is that other drivers' jerseys were flapping in the breeze,
while his fits him like a skintight glove. Anyway, of the 4 derney
races we saw, his rider won 3 and he came barely second in the
other. OK, so his chick nearly lapped the field after he strongly
attacked halfway through. By the way, these motorcycles don't have
speedometers, but it's easy to tell the speed by listening the note of
the engine.

Right after the women's race came the first men's derney race. There
was much more of a battle in this race and one can only wonder how the
driver decides where and when to attack and how fast he should go at
any time. There are rear view mirrors, he very rarely looks back,
mostly to check competition, and he never looks down, that is, to
check if rider is on his wheel, or even to look at shadow of rider. I
suspect that rider and driver have a little talk before the race to
decide when to launch an attack, with rider giving the final OK at
that juncture (there were signals exchanged at some key points).

One important aspect of this racing is that passing is difficult,
since you have to cover more distance than the person you are passing
below, so it is not a good idea to attempt a pass unless you can do it
quickly.

I watched the Wiggins derney race fairly carefully and noted that he
let a number of riders get a quarter lap lead, then caught up very
slowly to get quite close, then attacked at exactly the half-way point
of the race and got a good gap. He was reeled back in and passed by
one rider but was within striking distance with three laps to go. You
could see that he was chomping at the bit and was making signals with
his head that he wanted "faster", but Joop refused to speed up until
the last lap when he made a clean pass. It seems that Wiggins did not
understand the race as well as his driver. By the way, that race took
almost exactly 14:00 for 75 laps. Since the riders have to go above
the stayer line, that is, two or three meters from the pole line, they
rode much further than 12.5 kilometers, so the average speed must have
been very close to 60 kph. I don't know if a taller gear was used
for this race.

After this was an individual miss and out then the second derney race
and following that was the 500 meter team time trial. As I said
before, the best times were comparable with the Juniors, except for
the best time of 27.7 seconds set by team 12, which once again went
last, contradicting the usual order. To add an extra note in this
race, on the final lap for each rider (except the final one, de Fauw),
the P.A. system would play the classical trumpet charge.

Crowd was jubilent, and it was about this time that I realised that
Six Day Racing was reminding me of hockey matches that I had seen in
the Montreal Forum when I was a kid. Yup, it seems to me that this
type of event is more akin to a basketball or hockey game than any
cycling event I've ever seen.

At midnight, there was a "midnight sprint" which was a combination
miss and out and scratch race which I had trouble understanding.
Then the second madison which my wife enjoyed a lot more than the
first, since she finally figured out what was going on in the race.

After this came the "Supersprint" which is no doubt the most bizarre
bike race I've ever seen in my life. Officially, this was a 20 lap
scratch race with only one rider from each team, as you could deduce
from witnessing the final result. However, the first 19 laps of the
bike race consisted of the racers riding in a pace line and doing the
wave. That is, they would ride the turn up the banking and bend down
low, and coming into each straight away, raise themselves up and sling
both arms up in the air, exhorting crowd to do likewise, all this set
to loud rythmic music. Leading the line was de Fauw who took on
responsibility of leading the procession as well as the spectacle. He
would ride the whole banking no handed arms down low and reach up high
on the straightaway, trying to stir the crowd to a higher level of
frenzy. In the last two laps, instead of raising his arms, he raised
his jersey to reveal his bare torso. Coming into the last lap, he
pulled off and let the other riders contest the sprint.

After this, we watched the third derney race and decided to call it a night,
as it was 1:20 and there weren't any events coming up that whose
format we hadn't seen already. We got back to the car just in time
to see Junior with his buddies. He seemed a little drunk and was
trying without success to do a moonwalk...

Conclusion
----------

Well, this experience once again convinced me that the best way to see
bike racing in person is at the track. It's the only type of bike
racing in which you can follow the whole race in person. It seems that
TV can't capture the atmosphere, and it definitely can't do justice to
the racing. Maybe this explains the demise of this sport in some
countries, France for example.

For all those people who want to come to France to see a stage of the
Tour de France in person, I suggest that you instead come and watch a
six day race. You will see a lot more bike racing.

As I said this experience pretty much shattered every preconception I
had about flemish racing, so my wife are planning to go to other six
days to search for the fat, smoking, beer guzzling fans.

Finally, the incredible speed and difficulty made me grateful that I
was never remotely close to becoming a professional.

Disclaimer
----------

This story recounts my personal impression of my trip to the Ghent Six
Day and is not meant to be a factual account or objective report of
racing. For this reason, it is riddled with personal bias, opinions,
as well as totally irrelevant digressions. If you don't appreciate
this kind of report, then the best thing to do is to go see the race
yourself. In fact, if you did like my story, then you should figure
out that the best thing to do is to go see the race yourself. Oh, and
don't come to Europe to watch the Tour de France in person.

-ilan
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  #2  
Old November 24th 03, 12:29 PM
Van Hoorebeeck Bart
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

I realised
that travelling round these parts consists of two distinct modes:


It's far more difficult than you describe. Ghent inner anicent city is about
totally car free, and around it there are single directions almost everywhere. Even
to me they are always a challenge (and a pleasure.)


So, when we finally got to the general area
of the hotel,


I dont get this, later you say the hotel is in St-Martens-Latem (LOL), which is a
small town south of Gent. Getting off the E17 a bit earlier would have kept you
from entering Gent without reason at rush hour. I can't imagine net-based
roadfinders send you into the city.
And yes, your hotel is situated in a red light district which is 50 kms long.

. I was wondering whether Museeuw's
accident in which he was rammed by a car while starting his motorcycle
parked on a sidewalk was all that unusual.


It was Museeuw's mistake , while clumsily taking a turn, being on the road.
That said, yes we score bad in road safety and accident statistics. But not worse
than France....
Most people are f*cked up about speed, and yes, one can have a hellufatime riding
around at the max. speed with a dozen of honkers on your tail.On motorways, outside
rush hour, 140 kmh is the normal speed (120kms is max. allowed). Police cameras are
being demolished all over the country.


walking off a curb onto a crosswalk immediately cause traffic to halt in
both directions.


if all goes well... I think it's more of a genocidal plan towards assertive
pedestrians.


To my surprise there was a woman at the door requesting 50
cents for the privilege of using the facilities. I mumbled something
about not paying for washing and walked in without encountering
further resistance.


How rude. really. if you were an incomeless teenager OK, but now....
Paying for the loo is normal at paying events here. even in railway stations it is.
those people try to keep the place in order
If you've seen toilets at mass events where there is no such personnel, you's pay
50 cents with pleasure.

By now it was 10 pm and time for the half time show. Once again, this
went completely against my expectations, as it consisted of a real
cycling race, not some off the wall attempt to entertain the audience.


That's more the tradition in Germany, Ghent likes to maintian a connaisseur image.

B.


  #3  
Old November 24th 03, 09:41 PM
Kenny
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

By now it was 10 pm and time for the half time show. Once again, this
went completely against my expectations, as it consisted of a real
cycling race, not some off the wall attempt to entertain the audience.


That's more the tradition in Germany, Ghent likes to maintian a connaisseur image.


I've always liked the atmosphere in Het Kuipke. It's nice and cosy
around this smaller, more technical track.
  #4  
Old November 24th 03, 10:23 PM
Ewoud Dronkert
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

On 24 Nov 2003 03:59:45 -0800, Ilan Vardi wrote:
Chad Hedrick. [...] everyone was wondering whether
he could transfer this technique to the ice


They did keep talking about the "Hedrick swing", not sure if they
meant some subtle double-push translation, or just his general flakey
technique.

Hedrick looked kind of uncomfortable, because
the cap of his skinsuit didn't fit too well and was sticking up.


He always has that, and looks quite the moron for it.

9. One guy takes his shirt off and the others staple it using a staple gun.


How about, one guy doesn't take his shirt off and the others staple
him to a door 2 ft free from the floor?
http://www.phys.uu.nl/~dronkert/etc/geniet.jpg


Thanks for the great report. Funny, too.
  #5  
Old November 25th 03, 03:25 AM
Tom Kunich
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

"Ilan Vardi" wrote in message
om...
Of course, I welcomed this over-sensitivity as an opportunity to
annoy people, which is one of my favourite pastimes.


Geez Ilan, why don't you tell us something we don't know?

I do have to admit that I haven't wasted a more precious 15 minutes
reading in my life.

You really made a mistake when you went back to France. You were made
for Palo Alto.



  #6  
Old November 25th 03, 03:29 AM
Tom Kunich
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

"Van Hoorebeeck Bart" wrote in
message ...

To my surprise there was a woman at the door requesting 50
cents for the privilege of using the facilities. I mumbled

something
about not paying for washing and walked in without encountering
further resistance.


How rude. really. if you were an incomeless teenager OK, but now....
Paying for the loo is normal at paying events here. even in railway

stations it is.
those people try to keep the place in order
If you've seen toilets at mass events where there is no such

personnel, you's pay
50 cents with pleasure.


That is one piece of information I'll file away for sure. I never mind
paying a reasonable price for someone to keep the loo clean.



  #8  
Old November 26th 03, 12:06 PM
Van Hoorebeeck Bart
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion



Ilan Vardi schreef:

However, the most interesting program by far was from British
MTV (rebroadcast on Dutch TV with subtitles): ...
r.b.r.). The episode we saw was their top ten funniest videos.

1. One guy volunteered to have his penis nailed into a block of wood using
a "u" nail. That is, the nail is in the shape of an inverted "u" about
2 cm wide, and then nailed into a board of wood. When hammering the nail,
you of course make great big swings: "It's called 'u nail' because
u got to trust me."


If the guy has enough bicycle mileage, it isn't that scary. At least that's one of
the things I learnt on RBR.


The first impressive moment of the night
came when Marty Nothstein was the first rider to go under 9 seconds,
his higher speed being clearly perceptible. The second impressive
moment came soon after when team 12 did its ride. Now, this was
somewhat strange, because the time trials were done in reverse
order, with team 1 going last. However, it was team 12 that came
last, and amazingly, came up with the fastest time by .02 seconds.
This produced a big audience response, as the rider in question
was Belgian, someone named Dimitri Defauw that I had never heard of,
but who must be good if he can beat Nothstein.


Defauw (22) and Keisse (20 !) are the local guys, they need some more time to get
there. For this contest the order was changed as it is the one where the locals had
winning chances. If you've seen Defauw at work you know he's a bomb.
I post again as I saw images of it yesterday on the local station AVS which
sponsored them.



  #9  
Old November 30th 03, 08:03 PM
Ewoud Dronkert
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Default Ghent Six Day Excursion

On 24 Nov 2003 03:59:45 -0800, Ilan Vardi wrote:
Hedrick looked kind of uncomfortable, because
the cap of his skinsuit didn't fit too well and was sticking up.


Jen Rodriguez has the same problem.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp...bcz10411231621

 




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