The season has been mixed – some glorious moments and some not so glorious. Needless to say, as in any top sporting world, inevitably things almost never seem to go fully according to plan (except, of course, with your competitors; the lucky bastards). Sometimes though, your plans do work out and the taste of success is very sweet.
By Nick Stöpler
Christian’s superb win in the Six Days of Rotterdam
As with a good French wine, ‘’Grasi’’ seems to only get better with age. Though he has been riding for some time, he has only lately been collecting the big prizes, in a rapid tempo to say the least. I can remember the first time I met him when we were racing the Bremen Six Days together and I was thinking ‘’this guy can do way better’’. Over the following years, he has proven me right!
Rotterdam was his second Six Day win (after Bremen 2016 together with Kenny De Ketele) and I think it was a special one. Just days before the event, the Pushbiker family got a new member: a son for Christian and Anne. I told him before the start that having a first-born child works the same as falling in love for the first time: you get minimum 50 watts average extra (with an extraction off 5 watts per day). Seeing him ride like a devil, ripping up the boards, he apparently believed me, even though I have no track record in such cases.
Rotterdam Six is a classic in the sense that right after the ‘’winter break’’, everybody is well rested and trained and the racing is full on. There is not a whole lot to say about the race itself, except that in order to win in Rotterdam you need to have some serious horsepower. Obviously the fast racing suits the racing specs of Christian very well.
Christian and Roger (Kluge) were simply the strongest this year and won with two laps in front of everybody. One highlights of this year’s race was the moment when they attacked solo on day 5 during the early chase; it literally took 12 teams (maybe 10 because 2 got dropped) doing a team time trial to get them back. Important to add: the rest of the week every other attempt to bring them back… failed.
Marcel shows character in Bremen to take the title once again.
Already a two-time winner in Bremen, Marcel was surely one of the favorites. He was teamed up with the one and only, Iljo Keisse, an expert in riding on a 166 meter track. Even though ‘’the machine’’ almost cracked in some races, and the tough competition was smelling blood and tried to break the Belgian-German tandem, Marcel showed some serious grip and never gave up. During the last chase the duo was simply sublime and won the overall a lap in front of everybody.
3th place for the team at the Revolution Champions league
This year the Revolution series introduced a new concept: The best team of the regular Revolution series would qualify for the final round called the Champions League, where eight World Tour teams would compete against each other alongside the qualified track teams. Since the Pushbikers have competed in the Revolutions races for many years, the goal was clear: qualification with the big teams! The hard work of riders like Bobby Lea, Marcel, Christian, Max and Nick resulted in a third place overall – in front of teams like Team Sky and Cannondale.
Illness and crashes
Although this is an unavoidable part of being a cyclist, it’s never fun. This year Christian has had his fair share of mishaps with illness during Ghent and fever in Bremen, and later, a serious crash in Berlin which forced him to check ups in hospital and withdrawal from Copenhagen 6.
I also crashed in Rotterdam (or was it a launcher?), Marcel was unable to finish his home sixdays in front of the Berlin crowd.
Marcels bike got stolen
We have to admit though that the thief has got good taste in taking one of our beautiful Fuji bikes (we are still mourning… it has not been found).
Gear restriction in Copenhagen
At times, the new racing concept of Madison Sports Group has resulted in some races with very little ‘’laptaking’’. With the introduction of prize money, rider insecurity went up, and along with it, the gears they used on their bikes. The Copenhagen Six Day were clever to make an intervention by restricting the maximum gears that riders were allowed to use. At first I was hesitant, one should be allowed to ride the gear they want to ride – ‘don’t take away our guns!’ – but then I believed it might affect the racing in a positive way. With the smaller gear, you couldn’t respond immediately if competitors attack and being more in the back of the bunch, you just missed the move and had to go yourself as well. It limited your top-speed, thus preventing you from managing a strong enough sprint to close the gap and neutralize the attack. By this time your competitors would have long taken off. In the end everybody was forced to attack, and the races were very enjoyable to compete in and also to watch. Could gear restriction be an idea for the future? We vote yes.
Other memorable moments
Jan Freuler, new Pushbikers member from Switzerland, had a great six days at Bremen, finishing in fifth place – and it was only his second Six Day with the pro’s. Youngster Moritz won the UIV Cup in Bremen and Berlin. National titles for Nick in the Dutch national Madison championship, and Max won the German Omnium title in Berlin.
New family member: can we imagine that Christians son will become anything else but a good bike rider, being born during his six day high season? We will see if he can join the Maloja Pushbikers Future Stars soon.
Great outdoor experience: Just before the six days started, we had the pleasure to go camping with our camper Carlo and friends and the Weinsberg crew – just proving the fact that camping is great not only in the summer time.
On television: all our families and friends at home could join the Pushbikers this autumn and winter on Eurosport, with live coverage from Revolution and the Six Day series.
Other note worthy events include: Wiggins retired. And we must not leave out, Donald Trump got elected as the 45th president of the United States……just in case you were too busy focusing on the racing and missed the news.
Whats coming up?
The Great Finale of the Six Day series in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on 17. March
– you can watch it again on Eurosport!
Pushbikers in Australia is a familiar concept. The 12th of March its time for an annual classic again: the Bendigo Madison. The race takes part at night on a 412 meter track with low bankings. The crowds will be packed as usual and excited to see how the race will develop this year. The great thing about this race is that it`s very open, even if you are a ‘’smaller’’ team, with some luck, you can take a lap at the right moment.
Christian already had the pleasure of winning with Leif Lampater, and finished on the podium multiple times, still keeps coming back for more. Last year Bendigo Madison was one of the greatest races I have ever done – an exciting thriller. We took 3 laps (it took us no less then 25 kms to take the lap!) and we had the race firmly under control until the end where the Australian national Madison champions successfully got in the same lap during the very last five laps. The spectacular thriller became a “Greek tragedy” and so we have some unfinished business there this year!
Last but not least, in April we have our team meeting. It’s always exciting to have a set-up where sponsors, staff, old, new, young, male, female riders enjoy a couple of fun and productive days. I am also excited to see the new design of the next year of the Pushbikers – If only there was a price for nicest design!
Stay tuned and #beapushbiker!