Wait, so you just travel around to six-day races?
Yep. Well, I do have a day job, but in the winter of 2015 I spent my vacation time traveling the six-day circuit. I get no money from it, nor do I have much ambition to, but I wanted to share my love for the sixes with the world, or at least, with the internet. The point of all of this is to turn other cycling fans into six-day fans, or at least to be a starting point for those that have never been to a six.
You know these races are fixed, right?
Shit, I dunno, and you know what? I didn’t even try to figure out if and how a six-day race would be fixed. I have to admit that I’m much more interested in the speed and the strategy and the story of the race than I am in the podium.
All of this to say nothing of the atmosphere of the race itself. Have you ever been to a “real” track race? Because even a World Championship, with (or maybe because of) its high-level competition, is comparatively stuffy, quiet, and serious. Too many national flags, not enough music.
And you know what’s not fixed at a six-day race? The women’s events. Yeah, that’s right, women race the sixes too. And the under-23 races aren’t fixed either – in fact, the U23 race in Ghent turned out to be some of the best madison racing I’ve seen all year.
Besides, it’s not like you can’t buy Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Or, for that matter, an Olympic medal. Professional bike racing was invented to be a spectacle, and six-day racing is my favorite spectacle in bike racing.
I bet you’re sorry that you asked. Sorry for the rant, but I’ll make it up to you by linking to my interview with Guy East. If you only read one more page on this website, make it that one.
What’s the best six-day race?
As a spectator, you mean? Honestly, it depends. Ghent is legendary (and the crowd makes it the favorite of the racers), but it’s more sport than show; Bremen is the biggest party, and the racers are very close to the fans, but it’s hard to get a good view of the racing; Berlin has the biggest capacity and the longest history; Fiorenzuola is held outdoors in the summertime in Italy, but on a big, 400m pancake track. See my travel tips page for more.
What’s a madison race?
This is covered on my race rules page, but the short answer is that it’s a tag-team track race: while one rider is racing, the other is circling the top of the track, waiting for the the moment to be slung back into the action. Teams can win points at certain points during the race, and they can try to lap the other racers. After a certain amount of time (usually 30, 45, or 60 minutes) or a certain distance (200 laps, which is 50km on a 250m track), the team which has been lapped the least and has the most points wins.
The final classification of a six-day race depends on all of the events, though; teams must finish well in non-madison races (derny races, team time trials, or elimination races, to mention a few) and stay competitive during the madison races in order to win a six-day.
When’s the next race?
I’m headed to Fiorenzuola d’Arda in July 2015, and my travel plans for the rest of the 2015-2016 six-day season are not yet set in stone. But you’ll probably see pictures and a report here of Barcelona’s Memorial Miquel Poblet in September.
I most likely won’t be at the UEC Junior Track championships in Athens (a shame, because Athens is a lovely city, even in July), nor at the European Track Championships this October in Grenchen, Switzerland. But if you can make it, you should go.