Derny Driver Joop Zijlaard and Rider Iljo Keisse

Gent Six-Day

Gent Six-Day

by / / 33 posts

I have a huge capacity for watching bike racing on TV. I’ll watch hours of it even when nothing is really happening. I’m certainly not bragging. So I’m quite certain I could sit in the cramped, possibly smokey, noisy, Gent velodrome and watch an evening of six-day racing. I bet the ratio of men to women (who actually want to be there) is 10,000 to 0. Add the availability of beer and frites and I’m sorry to say, we have a pretty damn fine night out in Belgium.

I have never been to a six-day event. It’s on the big list. It will take considerable alignment of the planets for it to ever happen but I sure hope it does. If one goes on the Keepers Tour in April one could ride in two velodromes, neither of which are the Gent velodrome and by April the six-day season is long over.

But right now, while Bjarne is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Boonen is clubbing in Monaco and the rest of us are months away from Milano-Sanremo, many people just like us went to bed at 3am and will be back in a velodrome by 6pm tonight to do it again.

Here is a brief explanation of a modern six-day race.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=692eX0LhbFg[/youtube]

// Racing

  1. Likewise Gianni, it’s on the bucket list, but I aim to make this one happen. Perversely, much as I loathe second hand cigarette smoke, having beer spilt on me and being abused in Flemish, it would be a price worth paying to experience a six. Back when I first started on the path, an English Guy named Tony Doyle was making a good living during the winter in Ghent. My first Cycling Weekly had a great shot of him getting a hand sling ( NOT a euphemism) Awesome days.

  2. Gianni, I agree completely. I could stare at cycling all day, even if was recorded earlier, which I can’t do for the ball sports. However, thank Merckx I know a little bit about what a 6 day race is, that piece was quasi-worthless. My take away from the video about 6-days: great place to drink a shit load of beer (refer to them later as “mineral waters”), watch a bunch of guys ride around a great big oval while other dudes poop in buckets in small tents, a “hang sling” is not something that is on the price list in Amsterdam. On the plus side, there is a link to “Ten best gifts for Cyclists” that I’m gonna leave open for my VMH to see.

  3. @gilly

    Yeah, my tolerance for smokey places and for staying up until 2am have waned as I turn into an old bastard. Still, I’m more than ready to find out. Somehow, a six-day in Zurich or Copenhagen just doesn’t have the same cache as one in funky Gent. I wouldn’t even care that I couldn’t understand the announcer as long as the beer server and I could reach an understanding.

  4. @Ccos

    Yep, that video is a bit lame. Better to be there in person.

    This is a better bit for getting the feel for a six day race.

  5. @Gianni Sounds a bit like test cricket (five day matches). Not everyone has the endurance to sit through them either in terms of the mentality or alcohol consumption.

    As an easily amused simpleton with a proclivity for all day sessions, the Ghent Six has been on the list since I first heard of it.

    Can a Cogal be a Cogal if it doesn’t include throwing a leg over a bike?

  6. @Gianni . That understanding with a barman you refer to. I was recently in Bruges for a day and the beer was unbelievable, not necessarily in a good way. Small, medium or large, or you can try a sample tray of six from the menu. We’re talking about 150 ml tasters and by the end of the tray, to my great embarrassment, I was wobbling like I’d just removed my stabilisers.some of the beers were 14%!

  7. @Chris

    @Gianni Sounds a bit like test cricket (five day matches). Not everyone has the endurance to sit through them either in terms of the mentality or alcohol consumption.

    As an easily amused simpleton with a proclivity for all day sessions, the Ghent Six has been on the list since I first heard of it.

    Can a Cogal be a Cogal if it doesn’t include throwing a leg over a bike?

    Like cricket but with excitement! But yes, it is a test for the spectators, I actually would only be good for one session.

    Wasn’t that your idea of a Cogal with city bikes, pub to pub, each pub near a bike stand? It is still a genius idea and needs to be followed up somehow. Do it in Gent, ending up at the velodrome. That would work.

  8. @Gianni

    @Chris

    Wasn’t that your idea of a Cogal with city bikes, pub to pub, each pub near a bike stand? It is still a genius idea and needs to be followed up somehow. Do it in Gent, ending up at the velodrome. That would work.Between us, there’s some insane, evil genius going on. If you weren’t so old I’d suspect we’d been separated at birth.

    Between us, there’s some insane, evil genius going on. If you weren’t so old I’d suspect we’d been separated at birth.

    Lets make it happen.

    Does Ghent have city bikes or are we going to have to appropriate them from some other European city and have them back in the rack every twenty four hours as per the London to Ventoux Boris Bike Escapade?

  9. @Chris

    @Gianni

    @Chris

    Wasn’t that your idea of a Cogal with city bikes, pub to pub, each pub near a bike stand? It is still a genius idea and needs to be followed up somehow. Do it in Gent, ending up at the velodrome. That would work.Between us, there’s some insane, evil genius going on. If you weren’t so old I’d suspect we’d been separated at birth.

    Between us, there’s some insane, evil genius going on. If you weren’t so old I’d suspect we’d been separated at birth.

    Lets make it happen.

    Does Ghent have city bikes or are we going to have to appropriate them from some other European city and have them back in the rack every twenty four hours as per the London to Ventoux Boris Bike Escapade?

    I’m up for it

  10. @Chris Not sure if anyone in Ghent needs a bike.

    I spent a couple of days in Ghent one spring and I have never seen so many bikes in one place in my life. The scene at one train station was like this:-

    I think if Descartes was from Ghent he would have written “I ride therefore I am. (But I obliviate with beer).

  11. I live in Ghent and have visited the six a few times. First time was a school trip, I was 10. Merckx teamed up with Sercu that year. We all went to the Prophet’s tent and got his autograph. I don’t have it anymore. The only thing I rember vividly are his legs and the huge veins on them. Happy days.

    Het Kuipke is a non smoking venue, Ghent has no city bikes.

  12. Derny racing….WTF!!!!

  13. Het Kuipke is definitely non smoking, everything is here.

    There will definitely be 1 women at the zesdaagse who wants to be there (and 1 man who doesn’t).

    There are city bikes (Blue bike), but you have to bring them back to the same location you took them (different from most other cities). A more common approach if you want a bike, is yelling at any student that he’s riding your (stolen) bike and chances are high he will give it to you…

  14. @Juliana

    Het Kuipke is definitely non smoking, everything is here.

    There will definitely be 1 women at the zesdaagse who wants to be there (and 1 man who doesn’t).

    There are city bikes (Blue bike), but you have to bring them back to the same location you took them (different from most other cities). A more common approach if you want a bike, is yelling at any student that he’s riding your (stolen) bike and chances are high he will give it to you…

    Brilliant all around. Glad to hear you are dragging your “man” out to give him a dose.

  15. @Steven

    I live in Ghent and have visited the six a few times. First time was a school trip, I was 10. Merckx teamed up with Sercu that year. We all went to the Prophet‘s tent and got his autograph. I don’t have it anymore. The only thing I rember vividly are his legs and the huge veins on them. Happy days.

    Het Kuipke is a non smoking venue, Ghent has no city bikes.

    Wholly Molly, Merckx AND Sercu – that just boggles the mind the combined number of wins for 365 days is off the charts! No need to ask who won that six…

  16. Man, I’d love to experience a 6 day… if only they had them in Spring.

  17. 20 odd years ago I took my dad to the Ghent 6 day – a brilliant evening. Had tickets right on the finish line in the home straight. Ghent apparently is one of the shorter indoor tracks that adds to the noise, excitement etc.

    It was only a few years before he died, and I was so pleased we went as one of my earliest cycling memories is of going him taking me to see the Skol 6 day at Wembley for a few years in the 70s.

    Full circle, as it were.

    Gent will be revisited one of these years.

    David

  18. Considering I’ve given up on most American sports, but do love going to the local auto track a few times each summer ($5 entry, BYOB, always a fight in the crowd)…I could easily spend some time enjoying a six day race.

  19. Yeah… as a dedicated trackie I would love to see a 6-Day in person. Thankfully internet streaming allows me to watch a few of them live as they happen.

  20. @Ron

    Considering I’ve given up on most American sports, but do love going to the local auto track a few times each summer ($5 entry, BYOB, always a fight in the crowd)…I could easily spend some time enjoying a six day race.

    American sports are losing their appeal to me, not completely, but I don’t make an effort to watch unless it’s the home town team. Even then a bike ride or family time will win. Track racing and spectating bike events though… I find the time.

  21. I have a soft spot for Iljo Keisse ever since seeing him crash on the final corner in that Tour of Turkey stage with the peloton bearing down on him, calmly get up, put his chain back on and still ride his ass off to take the win. I don’t recall ever shouting at a television set so much as I did during that stage.

  22. @Steven

    I live in Ghent and have visited the six a few times.

    @Gianni

    Gent Six Day

    So is it Ghent then?

    I remember reading about 6 day races. I seem to remember then ended up banning them… to dangerous or something but that was back when they actually raced for 6 days.

  23. @puffy

    It is Gent in Dutch and Flemish, it is Ghent in English, Gand in French, I could go on and on

  24. Looking forward to this

    http://www.sixdays-zuerich.ch/index.php?id=102

    Once a year and live, only the program in between the races is a little annoying.

  25. As if you need another reason to go – you can use all that spare time on Saturday (between getting home from Het Kuipke at 3.00am on Saturday morning and rolling up again at 8.00pm – no one gets there early) to take a trip out to Koksidje the second round of the UCI cyclocross world cup.

    Het Kuipke is often a sell out (certainly for good seats by September) – save for the “floor”, i.e., the flat bit in the middle of the track which is standing only or unless you buy entry to the VIP tent. For EUR90 (from memory) you get all the beer you can drink – although you have to leave trackside – plus preferred seating. Plus a massive mountain of cheese and white grapes. And slabs of pate. And ice cream. Or put another way, the most random selection of foodstuffs you could possibly imagine.

    Ghent is always the best racing but Munich was the best cultural experience. All the locals turn up for the Friday evening in lederhsen and dirndles (and they mean it, i.e., worn wholly without irony); the year I was there they had a band doing well intentioned but pretty poor Springsteen covers and a trampolining dwarf. (I shit you not.) Sadly Munich doesn’t happen any longer.

  26. Come up to Burnaby to our 4 day. We have beer!

    http://www.burnabyvelodrome.ca/racing/burnaby-four-day/

    I’m only racing the last two days this year, due to being away for the holidays.

  27. @TBONE

    Come up to Burnaby to our 4 day. We have beer!

    http://www.burnabyvelodrome.ca/racing/burnaby-four-day/

    I’m only racing the last two days this year, due to being away for the holidays.

    Come up to Milton to check out the brand spankin new Mattamy National Cycling Centre. Not sure about the beer (you might have to apply for a permit–this is Ontario after all!)

    Our local club has booked an afternoon next month. This will be my first time on the boards. I’m going to channel my inner Niki Terpstra.

  28. It was great! You guys are missing something!

  29. @freddy

    Café Domestique should have a kiosk in the Milton velodrome. Delays in construction mean my certification for the track got pushed back to January. The consolation is that I was given free tix to the national track championships. Also this: Just ordered a track bike.

  30. One of the most successful riders in six-day racing in the 1970s and 1980s, winning an amazing 74 races is making a comeback at age 63!

    http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/12/danny-clark-making-a-comeback-at-the-austral/

    Saw Danny win the 1990 Austral. A bullet on the track! Hope he makes it through the heats!

  31. I realize this comment is late and shamelessly self-promotional, but this year I’m going (or have been) to all of the Sixes, minus Zürich. Have a look at http://www.sixdaze.net if you have a minute, I’d love some feedback. Happy as well to share opinions and tips, for those of you planning on traveling to a six, drop me a line!

    In fact, the header image of this post is one I took in Ghent in 2012. That was Mr. Zijlaard’s last race as a derny driver – that doesn’t make up for the poor photograph, of course, but it still makes me smile to remember the show.

  32. What TV program shows the Ghent six day cycling in Belgium I can’t find any

  33. Resurrecting this thread – I took my son to Gent a fortnight ago and it was superb. We had the hospitality tickets, and yes the food was random (but plenty) as was the beer and wine. The atmosphere was superb, especially as it was basically the brits (with support in the thousands) v the local hero Keisse (who’s sister runs a cycling bar in Gent that we visited).

    We’ll return next year – how about a Cogal of sorts? We used Sports Tours International and they were excellent.

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