ROTTERDAM (VN) — Nick Stöpler and Yoeri Havik (CT De Rijke) are the new leaders in the Rotterdam Six after the second night of racing.
For Stöpler, who crashed out of the tournament in 2012, it was a particularly sweet evening.
“I am very proud of myself that I showed will power in coming back after such a heavy injury, that I did what I promised the public last year,” he said. “To be here and ride that final victory lap gave a really good feeling.”
The Dutch pair is not out of the woods by far, however. Iljo Keisse and Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Peter Schep and Wim Stroetinga (Koga-Ubbink) sit at one lap down, but top the Dutch pair in points. Both are near the 100-point mark that will earn them a bonus lap.
The overall started to take shape on day two in Rotterdam. Four pairs were ranked within the same lap before the start: leaders Stroetinga and Schep, Keisse and Terpstra, Stöpler and Havik, and Kenny de Ketele and Gijs van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen). Their points therefore defined the ranking and points are what de Ketele and van Hoecke lacked. In the first race of the night, the short Madison, they immediately made clear that the race was theirs by winning the very first sprint.
Just like on day one, there were crashes on the track of the Ahoy Arena. Marc Hester was the unlucky one to hit the timber in the run towards to penultimate Madison sprint. Officials cancelled the race with 20 laps to go and de Ketele and van Hoecke were declared winners.
“It’s busy on the track. Maybe I went down a bit too fast and then hit Hester,” Stroetinga said after the race.
“It happens,” Hester said. “My arm suffered burns, but it’s my knee that bothers me the most. You always have to be very careful with that. I put ice on it and call it quits now. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Just like Hester, Michael Vingerling, who crashed on day one, abandoned the race for the night. Both riders hope to be back on Saturday.
The big chase, or long Madison, was a delight to see. The overall was tight before the start with Schep and Stroetinga at 86 points and Keisse and Terpstra at 87 points. Michael Mørkøv and Pim Ligthart were in third position, but they had to make up for one lap after a bad start on Thursday. The Dutch-Danish pair, winners of the Amsterdam Six in October, gathered a substantial amount of points on Friday in the events leading to the long Madison. They were very active in that 45-minutes race, gaining two laps in the opening 10 minutes, but the competition never sat idle.
It was action and reaction in a very attractive race. Robert Bartko and Sylvan Dillier distinguished themselves in a positive way. Dillier, a young talent from the BMC development squad partners with the 20-fold six-day winner Robert Bartko. When seven pairs were ranked within the same lap, Dillier placed a destructive attack and quickly gained that very desired lap. But they didn’t take into account the young guns Stöpler and Havik. They took advantage of a quiet moment and lapped the field. De Ketele and van Hoecke had to attack, but their effort stranded.
“We rode at 50 meters from the bunch for 20 laps or so,” van Hoecke said. “It’s very hard and you can’t go on like that. You just break.”
Stöpler said he was at maximum trying to take the lap.
“The pace was very high. I really rode at maximum speed and am very tired but it was worth it,” he said. “Last year I crashed on day three and sustained a really serious leg injury. The surgeon told me I had to recover at least one-and-a-half years before I could even think of the bike again. But here I am, leading the race after two days.”
The competition is fierce and the 22-year old Stöpler and his 21-year old mate Havik are by no means safe.
“There are some very strong riders here,” said Stöpler. “We have to try and keep taking those laps but also focus on the points Stroetinga and Schep and Keisse and Terpstra take too. I usually tend to get better during the week so that’s a promising thing.”
The sprinters also were involved in a crash. After a spectacular showdown between Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy in the match sprint, Kenny crashed into world sprint champion Grégory Baugé in the final event of the night, the keirin. It was cancelled and Kenny keeps the lead in the overall ranking of the sprint masters.