24 Hours of Gent (or Ghent, if you prefer)

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Part business part fun I’ve just spent 24 hours in Gent. In the 24 hours I managed to meet the new Belgian Prime minister, Johan Museeuw and catch some track riding at the six days.

It’s difficult not to like Gent. As a University City it is brimming with life and energy that only those Towns and Cities have. The brush of the temporary residents against those who have lived there for generations creates a natural and harmonious relationship. It’s a city of great food, beer, wine and shopping and lest we forget it’s a CYCLING city.

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It was my first trip to the 6 Days and in many ways it seems right that Gent should be the first one as it has a close ties with English speaking riders, especially those from the UK.

As part of the evening we had a formal dinner. Arriving in jeans we looked out of place in the world of stripped shirts and formal wear. Within a few minutes it is all forgotten as the subject naturally spreads onto cycling. I am keen to get track side and I find myself clock watching and hope that the service is quick so I can make a speedy exit. Unfortunately the service was slow (there must have been a couple of hundred people in there) but the food was excellent. Eventually I got track side at 10:30, although it felt like 7:30.

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Our tickets where for section B and my seat 86 right opposite the finish line, I couldn’t have wished for a better view. Upon ascending the stairs the first thing that hit me was the singing (a lady called Wendy), I’d come at a break point in the evenings entertainment and second was the heady smell of sausages cooking (everywhere!).

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Having waited for what seemed an age (but was probably 15 minutes) the racing started again. The format is slightly different from a world cup event and at first was very alien to me. You can see how the racing was set up around betting as the multiple disciplines makes sense in that context but less so in the form of the Olympic version that we excel at. The derny racing was my favorite as I enjoyed the physical and motor aspect of it.

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Gent Track is a tight beast and shares some of it’s madness with Calshot near Southampton. Both are short tight steep banked mini tracks that look out of place in the modern era of longer less steeped beasts like Manchester.

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Track viewing was interspersed with trips back to the bar for vital fluid replacement. My highlight of the evening was watching the my final derny race of the evening. These are monster 60 lap dogfights with the lead changing hands multiple times until the critical 20 laps to go point. Once this is in sight the action really hots up with both the pilot and rider knowing that a slip in concentration could cost them the race.

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The 6 Day racing is a great event to attend, even with some rides being a little scripted. I’d recommend you to put it on your to do list as you should experience cyclings wide and colourful church.

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