18 January 2011

Bremen Six Days

I left work early and went to the LBS to fetch the Peugeot Galibier. Nothing had been done and they promoised me to finish the setup today. All nice guys but German service .... another night out in the rain on the yard for my bike...heartbreaking.

My son hat some surprises for me when I came home afterwards: An A in mathematics (thanks to the engineering genetics of his father) and a F in German (probably thanks to his mother). Anyway, as promised I took him out to the Bremen Sixdays race.

The race is hold at Bremen Arena, a trade fair and event ground and now in its 46th year. According to the announcer, it is the biggest sixday race in the world, whatever that means. The track is 166,67 m long, made completely out of wood and only manufactured for the event; afterwards it is dismantled and recycled (perhaps). German carpenters in their trademark black work clothes were constantly checking during the race if everything holds up.

Due to the short length and the tight curves the banks are very steep. The straights are short and the riders are mostly moving in curves. When I came in a German Enka band was playing so we were forced to leave immediately and enjoy some mediocre food. Yes, eating out in Germany, what a mess. Even my son, when asked yesterday what he misses most from life in Japan answered "restaurants" as his first thought.

Somehow naively I thought that during a six days race the riders are riding continously for six days. The impression was left on me by Erwin Kisch, a famous journalist from the twenties, who rode about the six days race in Berlin and called it the "ecliptial treadmill". Yes, before the war the ride was continous but this is now a thing of the past, thanks to the efforts of the six days riders labour union. By the way, ecliptical, what nonsense to engineering ears! The from of tracks is of course clodoidical (x'''=constant) in order to avoid sudden centrifugal accelerations.

Yesterday night we saw three events. The first one was a point race. Every 10 laps the first to forth placed riders were given points based on their ranks. This continued for 60 laps. The interesting part is, that the changes between the riders are very frequent, say, every 3 or 4 laps. And the way these guys changes is amazing: The rider on the track is overtaking his teammate on the inner, lower side in the curve, the new rider is accelerating than overtaking him on the outside and while doing so their hands lock in and the previous rider is giving him a big push so that he comes up to speed. This is amazing to see just as a single event but when you see 4 or 5 teams changes at the same time with all 24 riders of 12 teams on the tiny track and how to manage to manouver around each other without crashing it is really amazing. I wish I would have the same amount of control over my bike. No, actually over my family or even better my life.

The second event was a 166.67m time trial. Each of the 12 teams had the stronger rider going alone, but as in the first event, the other riding was drafting him first and gave him a big push just before the start line. The resulting speed was well over 60 km/hr average for one lap and the fastest rider did it in less than 9 seconds.

The third event was the longest one, called "Big Wild Hunt". The teams were riding for 45 minutes and it was their goal to escape from the "peloton" and catch up the peloton from behind again, thus having made one more lap than the rest. The lap count is the decisive factor at six days races, even today; but for 100 points gained one get 1 extra lap and within the same lap count the team with the most points wins, so it is important also to look out for opportunities to save points. That event was the most interesting, as escape groups were constantly formed and again, as in the other events, the change between riders of the same team was constantly going on. Interesting to see an escape group of say, three riders in front (or in the back?) and then one or two riders are exchanged from within the group.

For me it was very exciting and even my son managed to look up from his Nintendo DS from time to time. By now it was 10 PM and "Middle of the Road" threatened to appear and perform their timeless pieces of middle of the road music. It was as pleasant as seeing the Fuehrer rising out of black ashes in Berlin again and we left in sheer terror. We also missed the second showhighlight "Klaus and Klaus" (an Enka Duo that had one hit in the seventies"On the shores of the North Sea"), which is similar to the return of Stalin and Beria.

Nice event, photo taking was not allowed, security everywhere. Sorry for the poor quality photo.

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