Track Cycling in Europe

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The fate of Madison in America made way for its introduction in Europe. The first of which was seen in 1906 at Toulouse, though it was called off due to lack of interest. Three years later, Berlin gave it a shot and succeeded. 1911-12, Germany hosted five races. 1912 and 1913 saw similar events in Brussels and Paris respectively.

Sixes pulled in enthusiasts and celebrities alike. The different well-known fans include Otto Kruger, Knute Rockne, Barbara Stanwyck, etc. While Kruger was known to invite riders home, Bing Crossby was said to pay the hospital bills for injured riders. One of the actresses named Peggy Joyce, whose riches inspired Cole Porter to write one of the songs for Rolls-Royces, is greater in length than Peggy Joyce’s, used to give bonuses or primes of over $200. When a band in the centre of the track played pretty Peggy with eyes of blue, it was of such delight to her that she gave $1000. Racing was really hard with full stadiums, when the tracks were empty, riders would read newspapers while riding or even write letters. But many a times this lenience would be used by other teams as an advantage to speed up in the game.

The six day races fared greatly in Europe. Most of the related activity was seen in Germany, Belgium and France, though during the Nazi rule in Germany the races were banned. Starting from 1936, London saw many races at Wembley. Until the Second World War started in 1939, the series was a huge success. Then later on, it had a shy restart in 1945. After the Second World War, Germany saw its first six day in 1970 after a huge gap of seventeen years. With the revival of six day races in 1967, night racing was dropped in London. In 1968, a retired rider called Ron Webb suggested a race for just the afternoon and evening with an in between break. It could not really impress the organisers in the first go, but the trend caught on later, at present there are no twenty four hour races held. The last such race was held in Madrid. Boston stopped hosting their annual six days in 1933, Detroit and Chicago stopped in 1936 and 1948 respectively. New York kept trying till 1950. Revivals were a failure. The Chicago six’s last night in 1957 was featured in the sporting cyclist with only seven people in the stands.

At present six day racing is a mostly European concept, predominant in Belgium and Germany. The comfort of the spectators is increased with restaurants and bars at hand and live music to enjoy during the event. A funfair around the outside of the track and a nightclub that opened in the track cellar at two pm with the end of the race were the highlights of a six day at Munich. As far as the earning is concerned, an appalling ?333,000 was said to be only the start money for twenty four riders in the six at Ghent. Patrick Sercu, the organizer said that contractual handicaps had bound him into a silence over the pay to the riders.

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