Our quick guide to the Ghent Six Day track event, which takes place in Belgium every November

The Ghent Six Day is an annual track cycling event held in the Belgian town of Ghent. The 2016 edition of the event takes place over November 15-20.

Six Day races consist of a series of track events contested by pairs of riders, which can leave the casual observer bemused as to what is going on and who is winning.

>>> Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish confirmed for Ghent Six Day

Here we present an easy-to-follow guide to the Ghent Six Day.

So, why’s it called a Six?

It’s called a Six because the races last for six days. Six Day racing first gained popularity in the late 19th Century at New York’s Madison Square Garden – hence the Madison – and for many years the racing really was 24-hour a day stuff. Teams of two raced round the clock for six days and nights, with one member of the team racing on the track at any one time, the other resting.

Twenty-four-hour racing? That’s bonkers

It certainly is but it survived in Europe until the 1960s until finally common sense prevailed. It had become common for teams to neutralise the racing in the wee, small hours and the crowds didn’t hang around either.


Watch: London Six Day, day six highlights


So how long does it last these days?

The Ghent Six Day runs for five evenings from Tuesday to Saturday, and a Sunday afternoon. The racing finishes at either 1am or 2am (6pm for Sunday’s afternoon session).

Who’s on the start list in 2016?

The start list is dominated by the big British names of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, with the Ghent Six Day probably being (but also perhaps not being) Wiggins’s last ever professional race.

The British duo’s main opposition will likely come from Moreno De Pauw and Kenny De Ketele who beat Wiggins and Cavendish to victory at the London Six Day in October, while Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson will also put up a fight having finished third in London.

Expect a challenge to also come from the all-star pairing of Iljo Keisse and Elia Viviani, with Keisse having won the Ghent Six Day last year with Michael Morkov, while Viviani’s all-round talent should be well-known to British fans after he beat Mark Cavendish to the Olympic omnium gold medal in August.

1 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) / Mark Cavendish (Gbr)
2 Iljo Keisse (Bel) / Elia Viviani (Ita)
3 Moreno De Pauw (Bel) / Kenny De Ketele (Bel)
4 Cameron Meyer (Aus) / Callum Scotson (Aus)
5 Marc Hester (Den) / Jesper Morkov (Den)
6 Mark Stewart (Gbr) / Ollie Wood (Gbr)
7 Robbe Ghys (Bel) / Christian Grasmann (Ger)
8 Morgan Kneisky (Fra) / Otto Vergaerde (Bel)
9 Jonas Rickaert (Bel) / Roy Pieters (Ned)
10 Trisan Marguet (Sui) / Nick Stöpler (Ned)
11 Youri Havik (Ned) / Alex Rasmussen (Den)
12 Leif Lampater (Ger) / Lindsay De Vylder (BEL)

Live TV Guide

Sunday Nov 20, British Eurosport 2: 13.00 to 17.00

What’s the racing like?

Exciting but it can also be complicated to follow. There are a combination of events including:

  • 60-lap points race: Points on offer every ten laps
  • Flying-lap time trial: One team member winds up the pace and then hand-slings his team-mate who is timed over the last lap
  • Elimination races: Raced as pairs and individuals, last man over the line on the designated sprint laps is eliminated
  • Derny races: Large men on motorcycles pace the riders
  • Scratch: races A basic free-for-all, first over the line wins
  • 500m time trial: Fairly self explanatory
  • Madison: Racing as pairs, one rider in the race at a time, the riders swap over by hand-slinging each other into the action. Aim is to lap the field to increase the chance of winning the final sprint

GHENT SIX DAYS

How do they decide who wins?

It can get complicated but basically it’s about trying to gain laps on the rest of the field, typically in the Madison races.

Points are awarded for every race, as well as sprint laps during the races. But there’s no point being half a dozen laps down with a stack of points – you’ve still got to keep up. For every hundred points won, the team is awarded a free lap too.

How far do they race?

It’s difficult to calculate as the riders are in and out of the race so frequently. But it’s a wonder they don’t go dizzy, lapping at around 11 or 12 seconds, covering hundreds of laps a night. In a week each rider will have covered not far off 1,000 kilometres – it’s a tough week.


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I can’t understand Flemish, how will I know when the sprint laps are coming up?

Don’t worry, there’s a loud siren to signal sprints and the scoreboard should keep you in the picture.

Why are some riders listed on teams that they are not usually sponsored by?

Local sponsors pay to be associated with the teams.

Gary Wiggins and Don Allen in the Ghent Six

Gary Wiggins – Sir Bradley Wiggins’s father – and Don Allen in the Ghent Six in the 1980s

Why the hype?

The Kuipke velodrome has an aura no other velodrome in Europe possesses. For a start the short 166-metre track makes it a tight, intimate venue, and its tumbledown, slightly worn-around-the-edges feel only adds to the charm.

Then there’s the aroma – broiling hot dogs, beer, cheap perfume… And that’s just the riders!

The Ghent Six Day may not be the slickest but it’s the most authentic and the fans turn out year after year to pack out the arena. It’s noisy, boozy and exhilarating.

SIX-DAYS OF GHENT

How long has it been going?

Since Tuesday night… Oh, I see what you mean… the first Ghent Six was held in 1922 and was won by Marcel Buysse and the man with the greatest name ever, Oscar Egg. Great rider, but he didn’t half cause a mess when he fell off.

The legends of Ghent are Patrick Sercu (who won it 11 times), Aussie Danny Clark (six wins) and the more recent hero Bruno Risi.

Isn’t the racing all fixed?

How dare you suggest such a thing! Look, arrangements may be made and start money may depend on a team getting a certain result but the racing is too hard to be fixed.

The fans know too much to be conned by a team deliberately easing up too much. Of course the suspense has to be retained but it’s not as pre-determined as some would have you believe.

Why do they tuck their jerseys into their shorts?

It’s a tradition nowadays, harking back to a time when jerseys were baggy and had to be tucked into shorts to aid aerodynamics a little.

It looks ridiculous – we wouldn’t recommend it for a Sunday club run, you’ll be laughed out of town. Mind you, long socks seem to have taken off.

More info: Ghent Six Day website

The original version of this article was written by Lionel Birnie

  • Mike Holland

    Unfortunately, its very obvious that the person who wrote this article has either never been to to the Ghent 6, or not for a long time: in a Derny race the motorcycles do not pull over at the end, I’ve never seen a keirin a Ghent (I’ve been about 25 times), smoking was banned many years ago.