Just a couple of days ago, no one in Germany even knew the name Nate Koch. After the Berlin Sixdays however, this has changed, especially for the crowd that experienced the phenomenon that is Nate at the Velodrom of the German capital.
Nate Koch is 28 years old, ex-decathlete, a California sunnyboy with a full-beard, an infectious laugh and he was the one at the Berlin Sixdays who animated the crowd like no one before him. His path to track cycling was marked by many coincidences: He had been a pro athlete for more than 15 years, but the only times he spent on a bike were when he recovered from injury. This changed drastically, when some friends of the US Track national team took him along with them to the olympic velodrome in Los Angeles in 2009. After one lap on the track, Nate Koch was in love and hasn’t looked back since.
Even though he has only started track racing in October 2010, he has been more successful than in his many years as an track and field athlete before: He was nominated for the US Team, won the national championship in team-sprint, where he also is national record holder and he trains for the Olympic games 2016, a big dream of his, that will most likely come true next year.
Last Minute invite
He received his invitation to the Berlin sixdays less than two weeks prior to the event. German sprint-star Robert Förstemann had to cancel because of injury and Nate Koch was chosen as his replacement. He didn’t hesitate, booked his flights, without having the slightest idea of what to expect in the cold, German winter. During the first night he already proved to be a more than worthy replacement: Nate is an entertainer in cyclist’s clothes!
“It’s absolutely crazy here!”
After his first sprint on Tuesday night (after the event basically) we sit together – Nate is still rallying up after the exhausting race. However, that doesn’t stop his enthusiasm for the event – even though he still struggles with jetlag as he admits. He got to Germany just one day before the race and didn’t have any chance to adjust his body to the new rythm – the time difference is 9 hours! Doesn’t matter, it’s so crazy here that it works out somehow. I ask him if he ever experienced something like this event and he immediately answers: “No!” The only thing that comes close is the Wolfpack Hustle Drag Race Event in LA. It’s something completely different however: The Drag Race originated in the underground fixed-gear community of LA: Racing, man against man, on a closed off road for 333m. It’s not really something you would necessarily associate with your typical track cyclist but this is one of the things that sets Nate Koch apart from the rest: You can see it in his eyes – cycling is what makes him happy and he enjoys every single moment on the bike. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the track, on a fixed-gear bike on the street or on a tandem with his wife cruising through Long Beach.
Nate Koch rips off his jersey
I ask him what it is that he enjoys so much about the Sixdays: „Oh man… just the energy of the crowd. Like, I can’t believe it’s a Tuesday night and there’s like 10.000, 12.000 people here! It‘s ridiculous. The people… they‘re amazing!“ A little later, we talk about the differences between the track racing scenes in Germany and the US. While pedalling away on rollers, he talks about how the sport in the US is still pretty small and that he would love to promote it, make it more popular and attract a bigger crowd. While we are talking, I can see his gaze trailing off around the Velodrom, as if he still couldn’t believe what is happening around him. Right from the start, he sensed that the people here love him and he enjoys that role as showman, it’s in his blood to entertain the crowd. In the Keirin Sprint after our talk, he manages to make the crowd go wild again: He wins his last race in Berlin and as he crosses the line, he rips of his jersey and just screams out loud. After that, he gets his GoPro and cycles around the Velodrom to capture what’s happening around him. I wonder who’s whose fan here…
Without question did not only Nate Koch gain lots of new fans at the Berlin Sixdays, but the Sixdays also gained a new fan. He definitely wants to come back next year and race alongside Maximilian Levy who has become a good friend during those days. But it’s not only the Berlin Sixdays that he learned to love, but the track cycling scene all over Europe and that’s why he will be back in summer to race some events with Maximilian Levy in Germany. The fans there can expect great entertainment – American style!