Exciting, fun, and eccentric, each Winter for over 100 years the Berliner Sechstagerennen has been the de facto meeting point of the Berlin cycling scene, offering a warm-hearted mix of party and sport which has survived two World Wars, Biopace chainrings, and the fixed gear trend. The 2017 event, rechristened Six Day Berlin, has been supporting the local cycling scene this year, the latest evidence of which could be witnessed this past wet and gritty Sunday where a brave group of riders took to their saddles for Alle Gegen Kalle, a Strava RAID event organised by Six Day Berlin, and presented by Standert Bicycles and supported by Wahoo Fitness and GRAN FONDO Cycling.
Strava is bringing passionate road cyclists closer to their heroes than ever before. But rather than bringing them “down to earth”, the admiration has risen to greater heights. And as the fans have grown closer to riders, the riders too have grown closer to their fans, a wonderfully symbiotic relationship which inspired “Alle gegen Kalle”, an excuse to liven up the cycling scene one month before the next Sechstagerennen in January.
Cycling history defines itself through bike technology, rider style, and the champions who personify each era. Track cycling today is now entering a new age, with giants of the last generation like Robert Bartko, Guido Fulst or Bruni Risi being replaced by new legends. One of these is Marcel Kalz.
Along with Six Day Berlin PR manager Juliane Boetel, I met up with 10 die-hard Berlin cyclists and fans of the Standert Feierabendrunde who, enticed by a digital badge, event t-shirt, ticket to Six Day Berlin and swag from Wahoo were coaxed to come out on a disgustingly cold (3°C) and rainy Sunday morning for a 75km ride over flat Brandenburg asphalt in search of KOM’s held by Marcel Kalz, with the man himself as companion.
Like every Feierabendrunde, the vibe was friendly, the riding disciplined and the atmosphere merry as we rolled out of Berlin led by the famous Team Standert van, helmed by the honourable Maxe Faschina with propaganda minister Constantin Gerlach hidden in the boot to record the days suffering, for which there would be plenty. No sooner had we set out, than the rain picked up steadily and soon I found myself running through a checklist of items forgotten or badly selected before accepting the hand fate had dealt me.
Since in a larger group, a rain ride without a puncture has never happened in the history of cycling, our first one came at km16. Without flinching, Marcel himself sprang to assist the stricken rider whose fingers were no longer operational through the wet and cold. A planned manoeuvre for his sponsor, Roeckel gloves? Of course not, Marcel is just cool like that.
Back on the road, after occasional hamming in front of the camera, we came to the first of two segments for the day, the 10km “Bernau->Wandlitz TT”, which runs over 3 roundabouts and skirts the majestic forest of Liepnitzsee, a popular summertime destination that on this day was to be used for a public demonstration of prussian waterboarding.
Shortly after a chaotic start (“Is this the start, what? go go go! OK!”) my world devolved into pain, noise, and spray as I grasped to maintain pace with the first chase group while Marcel, Rolle 55 and Bernd Köhler disappeared off into the distance. Each inn the grupetto took his turn on the front, and I for one gnashed my teeth to latch on after each pull, terrified to lose contact. Like war, it was appalling and glamorous in equal measures, and all attempts to ride delicately out of the spray went out the window. Somehow we stuck together, and after a short eternity, we regrouped at the final roundabout, faces caked, dripping wet, and looking every bit as heroic as we felt.
After a short stop, on we continued at a good pace, enjoying the pleasant distraction each other’s company provides in such inclement conditions, with Marcel impressing us by going “full steher” and rubbing his front wheel on the bumper of the van at 30+ km/h.
Finally we came to the remarkable KOM held by Marcel, the “Tankstellensprint” for which the light phase did not cooperate for an all-out assault. A Strava KOM, though coveted, is not worth risking your life for, after all.
(For anyone wondering, Marcel did not motorpace that KOM. Witnesses include current german champion Max Beyer and former world champion Werner Otto)
Back at Standert, ten happily destroyed riders returned for mulled cider courtesy of Bulleit Bourbon , and sat among the assorted well-wishers (including Roger Kluge!) basking in that special glow only a punishing December rain ride can create.
Words: Bregan Koenigseker Photos: Constantin Gerlach