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Six day racing returns to London

Jordan Gibbons
16 Oct 2015

Six day racing first came to London in 1878 and it’s back this week at the Lee Valley velodrome.

We’ll forgive you if you’ve never been to a six-day track event. We might even forgive you if you’ve not heard of six-day racing but the important bit is that it’s coming back to London, so we spoke with the people behind its return to get the low down on what to expect.

Six-day racing is a type of track racing that has been around for nearly 150 years but it’s fallen out of favour in many places. It’s still popular in the cycling heartland of central Europe, with the Ghent six-day the biggest and most well known.

As the name implies, a six-day takes place over the course of six separate days. There are many individual races that take place over the course of an evening, which all earn points. These points are added up over the six days to crown an overall winner. Despite the length of the competition, the short individual evening events deliver fast, action packed racing.

“Cycling is in the middle of a huge boom in the UK with participation at an all time high,” said Mark Darbon, CEO of Six Day, “so we thought now was the right time to bring it back. The Grand Depart in Yorkshire was a huge success with 4.8 million people going to watch it at the roadside.”

“Six-day racing first came to London in 1878 and it was raced on a specially built track in Islington. This year we’re holding it at Lee Valley velodrome as it was so successful at hosting the Olympics and other events like the Revolution track series.”

When you look at photographs from the 1960s and ‘70s, when six-day racing was at it’s peak, you’re often greeted with images of dimly lit races, revolving around brass bands – the air thick with cigar smoke. Mark said he wants the London even to be a little different: “We’d like to create our own feel. We’re going to be drawing on the heritage of the big European events but we’d like to give it our own spin – more modern and edgy. Think Madison Square Gardens.”

Six Day has arranged a few partnerships, including one with Eurosport who will be broadcasting the event. The riders are all from various different backgrounds: there are a few WorldTour pros such as Niki Terpstra and Iljo Keisse (winner of the 2013 Ghent Six-Day) and homegrown talent from the likes of Germain Burton and Adam Blythe.

What can you expect if you head down? “The most dramatic racing there is,” said Darbon, “There will be in the region of 10 to 15 races per night all with a backdrop of electric entertainment.”

The London six-day begins this Sunday 18th and runs until the 23rd October and tickets are still available from sixday.com

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