Germany?s Six Day races are the latest events to be hit by the implosion of cycle sport in the country following two years of drug revelations.
Positive tests for EPO use following this year?s Tour de France from Gerolsteiner riders Stefan Schumacher and Austrian Bernard Kohl, the withdrawal of German broadcaster?s live Tour de France coverage and cancellation of the Tour of Germany have all contributed to a dramatic downturn in cycling’s fortunes.
Gerolsteiner has now folded, leaving Milram as the sole top-level German sponsored team. And now the Six Day track races ? traditionally hugely popular events ? appear to be suffering fallout from road racing?s nosedive.
Bradley Wiggins was due to partner Erik Zabel (pictured) in Munich in the sprinter’s final race before retiring. Due to the event?s main sponsor pulling out, Wiggins had his contract cancelled in a bid to save money.
Organisers have gone to town with fireworks, BMX displays and a huge video screen ? plus the usual free-flowing beer and sausages ? but the German public appears to be turning against the sport which mushroomed following the success of Jan Ullrich and the T-Mobile squad in the ?90s.
Former Plowman Craven manager Garry Beckett works the Six Day circuit as a soigneur and has noticed the difference this week in Munich. ?There are obvious effects,? he said. ?Munich took a bit of a dive last year in ticket sales and this year is even worse ? they have only sold 9,000 tickets up front. If they don?t break at least even on this one, it could be the straw that broke the camel?s back.?
Beckett has even been approached by German riders seeking a team for next season, an unthinkable situation just two years ago.
?The lads here are genuinely concerned: they are ashamed of what has gone on? said Beckett. ?The knock-on effect from Schumacher is huge, for Stuttgart in particular, with him being the local boy.?