|November 16th-21st 1999|
Loads of new photos to follow later this week!
The 1999 Ghent six-day bike race was a close-fought thing, action packed from start to finish. Over the first two nights, local heros Etienne de Wilde and Matt Gilmore were leading the race by one lap, although they are threatened by teams lurking one lap down with more points. And bear in mind that one lap at Ghent is just 166 metres! But these two were the hot, hot favourites for this race, with De Wilde looking for his 10th win in the Ghent Six, and his partner Matt Gilmore still smarting at being robbed of the chance to show his home crowd that lovely rainbow jersey last year after his crash in the 1998 Herning Six. In the end, Gilmore and de Wlde didn't quite have the speed or the form to win their home race - but watch out for them in Ghent next year, when Matt should be back to full form and have fully recovered his blistering speed.
There was a battle royal over the last four days between the new pairing of German-based Australian Scott McGrory and Denmark's Jimmi Madsen and the all-Italian team of Adriano Baffi and Silvio Martinello. The Italians were also riding together for the first time, riding in the colours of Baffi's Mapei team - rather to the embarrassment of Silvio Martinello, who as some tactful explaining to do next time he sees his team boss Signor Polti! (Note: In six-day races, each two-man team wears the jersey of an event sponsor for that particular "six"; riders carry the names of their regular team sponsors on their shorts).
Right up to the last night, the Danish/Australian team was swapping the lead with the Italians, almost equal on points and way ahead of any other team on points. Gilmore and De Wilde did well to get back onto the same lap as the leaders on the final night, but they were so far down on points that they could only win by taking a lap over the leaders. Unsurprisingly, the leading teams were unwilling to cooperate in that particular gameplan!
In the end, Madsen and McGrory proved too tough and too fast for the Italian pairing, and took a well-deserved win.
Jimmi Madsen and Scott McGrory looked strong throughout the Ghent Six - very strong. Of course, Jimmi Madsen was second in just about every six-day race last year, so we know he is right up there, but it is nice to see him completely dominating a race. And Scott McGrory wins Fat Nick's prize for "most improved rider" of the new season. Everything seems to have come together for Scott this year, building on the hard work he has put in over the last few seasons. The two of them worked hard, showed oodles of class, had brilliant track speed (McGrory broke Frenchman Laurent Gané's track record for the flying lap on the Friday night - then improved it further still on the Saturday evening!), read the race intelligently, still found time to smile and were generally popular winners of the race.
Andreas Kappes is also very, very fast on this track, but he and Frank Corvers are not really in contention overall. Nearly, but not quite.
One major change to the scoring system this year is having a big impact on the outcome of the race. There are two Madisons each night, and the winner of each of these Madisons is awarded a bonus lap. So to win overall, you have to win these Madisons each night. This is what local heroes Etienne de Wilde and Matt Gilmore are slipping down the field, even though they tried really hard to win the second Madison last night, with de Wilde making out-of-the-saddle efforts with his nose on his front tyre.
There were lots of British fans at the Ghent Six (I met some in a bar) and they were heartened to see young Brad Wiggins (partnered by Rob Hayles) hanging in there, and even winning a Devil race (or elimination race, as our American friends call it) late on the Friday night, then notching up another win in a race on the Sunday. At just 19, Wiggins is already the British Madison champion, has a rainbow jersey in his wardrobe from winning the junior world pursuit crown in 1998, and has a second place in the recent amateur six-days in Munich under his belt.
Bruno Risi and Kurt Betschart are also back on form after their troubles earlier in the week, and may yet surprise the favourites. Kurt Betschart is nursing a beautiful scar at the bottom of his left leg, a souvenir of a skiing holiday that went wrong and resulted in Kurt having a metal plate inserted into his leg to help a broken bone heal.
The other big news is that organiser Patrick Sercu has installed a modern scoreboard at last, giving fans and riders alike a better overview of the race as it unfolds. Better yet, the Ghent Six results are now posted in real-time straight onto their web site at www.kuipke.be
1. Scott McGrory (Aus)/Jimmi Madsen (Den) 587 pts
2. Silvio Martinello (Ita)/Adriano Baffi (Ita) 577
3. Etienne De Wilde (Bel)/Matthew Gilmore (Bel) 327
One lap behind:
4. Andreas Kappes (Ger)/Frank Corvers (Bel) 429
Five laps behind:
5. Bruno Risi (Swi)/Kurt Betschart (Swi) 253
Eleven laps behind:
6. Marco Villa (Ita)/Laurenzo Lapage (Bel) 139
Twelve laps behind:
7. Tayeb Braikia (Den)/Andrea Collinelli (Ita) 189
Seventeen laps behind:
8. Stefan Steinweg (Ger)/Lars Teutenberg (Ger) 127
Twenty four laps behind:
9. Alexander Aeschbach (Swi)/Christian Weber (Swi) 153
Thirty one laps behind:
10. Gerd Dörich (Ger)/Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) 106
Thirty five laps behind:
11. Robert Hayles (Gbr)/Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) 182
Abandoned during final Madison: Juan Llaneras (Spa)/Isaac Galvez (Spa)
Several people have asked me what a typical evening's racing programme is like at a six-day race. Here's the programme for a typical night at this year's Ghent six:
Saturday 20 November
19.00 34th Amateur Six
20.00 Pro riders introduced
20.15 Classification sprints 60 laps with 6 sets of points.
20.35 Team devil-take-the-hindmost
21.00 Madison (45 minutes)
21.45 RDM Cup
22.00 Time trial: Flying lap
22.20 Keirin Cup: 1st heat
22.30 Derny: 1st heat
23.05 Keirin Cup: 2nd heat
23.15 Derny: 2nd heat
23.35 Time trial: Flying lap
23.55 Keirin Cup: 3rd heat
00.05 Madison (45 minutes)
01.05 Derny: 3rd heat
01.40 Derny: 4th heat
To find out how to book tickets for the Ghent Six, check out Roger Hughes' booking info. 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 1997 Ghent Six.
Do you have any news about the Ghent Six? Drop an e-mail to if you do, or send him a fax at 0044 161 476 2914 - Fat Nick reads Dutch (badly, and with a German accent, maar.....), so grotty photocopies of results sheets and local newspapers are gratefully received!
Return to Fat Nick's main page