It turns out derny racing isn't so hard. Or at least the concept is simple. It's like drafting Big Ben, but not quite as effective. I'll give you the quick run-down on strategy:
1. Drink lots of espresso. Way more than you think is reasonable. I'm beginning to realize this applies to most forms of bike racing in Europe.
2. Put on the largest gear you've ever raced. In this case, a 52 x 14. Quite a shock to the legs after racing a 49 x 15 for everything else.
3. Stand on the homestretch until someone rambling on in French points to you, then points to a spot on the fence. Go there.
4. Try to get your massive gear turning, and get behind your respective derny driver in the line.
5. Hold on for dear life, occassionally shouting "Allez!"
6. 90 laps laters, try to figure out what just happened.
In my case, what happened was that I had fortune on my side. I got one of the more rotund drivers, who also happens to drive in the pro 6-days. Not a bad draw. Going against my luck was that I started second to last, which means that when everyone is rolling onto the track, with 10+ riders and motors, you're more than half a lap down on the leader. This is not where you want to start on a 167 meter track. Almost immediately I could see across the turns that a separation was happening, but a few allez's later, Jean-Jacque had me across the gap. From then on, he just did his thing, and I did mine. His thing was navigating through the other riders, picking the speed, and deciding the strategy. My thing was counting down the laps and wondering at what he was doing. I'm still not entirely sure, but I do know we lapped the field, and I think the number of fingers he would occasionally show me had something to do with how much he was going to speed up to pass someone.
Another thing about derny racing is that on a track this small, the fastest line isn't in the pole lane, but somewhere just below the blue. This means the riders who are going slower, getting gapped by their drivers, or just generally suffering end up at the bottom, tempo goes on in the middle, and those of us unfortunate enough to have a driver intent on passing are doing motor-paced hill repeats at the rail.
When we finally finished, Jean-Jacque was clearly pleased. Physical state not withstanding, I was pretty happy too. We had passed a bunch of people, and more than that, I was still alive. It turns out I took second, which made me even happier. Jean-Jacque, on the other hand, was suddenly pissed. He thought we had won. Rene Shibely, one of the riders who had started at the front attacked while the race was still neutral and bridged the 50 or so meters to the back forming field and taking a lap, which the officials (rather dubiously) awarded to him. The more I think about it, the more I feel robbed. I took a lap from the tail end of the group, passed everyone a second time, and finished at the front, while Shibely snuck a lap before the race actually started, lapped again behind me, then started to blow at the finish and drop off the pack while I was accelerating away. Not cool. I missed out on picking up my first Euro win because of that. Granted that a derny race is a bit of an anomaly, a win is a win, and I'll take it.