Six days race

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Two-man team driving in the six-day race
Zurich Six Days (2007)

A six-day race is a track cycling event that consists of a cycling race and an entertaining supporting program. Over a period of six days, various competitions between teams of two (in exceptional cases three) male drivers take place, including the two-man team driving as the main competition .

In 1875 the first six-day race took place in Birmingham , UK , and four years later the first one in the USA . These races were contested by individual drivers around the clock for six days until the race with two drivers taking turns was introduced in New York in 1899 . In 1909, the first six-day race in continental Europe took place in Berlin . Six-day races peaked in popularity between the two world wars. From 1934, no more six-day races were held in Germany because the National Socialists changed the rules for ideological reasons to such an extent that both the driver and the audience lost interest and finally no more races were held. From 1949 six-day races were held again in Germany, and in 1954 the first Swiss event took place in Zurich . In the English-speaking countries where the six-day race was invented, the events were gradually stopped. In 2015, the first race took place there in over 50 years in London. In the German-speaking countries today (2016) six-day races are only held in two cities, in Bremen and Berlin. A total of around 1,500 races have been organized around the world since 1899.

The track cycling discipline of two-man team riding (also known internationally as “Madison” or “Americaine”), which has been part of the world championship program since 1995, developed from the six-day race.


The beginnings

Single race for men

Recorded result of the 1879 race in London in Penny Illustrated
The Madison Square Garden (1908)

The early history of the six-day races is partly or incompletely documented. The first is dated to 1875 and took place in Birmingham . The race was originally intended as a product test for high bikes . Initially, there were only single drivers at the start, mainly male professional drivers who drove twelve hours a day around a cycling track Monday to Saturday . Because of the Sunday rest, the races were limited to six days. Whoever completed the most miles in that time was the winner. The cash rewards for these victories were usually extremely lucrative. According to the Memoire du Cyclisme , the winner of this first race is said to have been the Frenchman Charles Terront . This information is controversial, however, since according to other information Terront only started cycling the following year. The six-day cycling races overlapped with the six-day walking races, which also peaked in the 1870s, with world championships and records. When the performance was no longer improved, however, the spectators migrated to the six-day races by bike.

The second individual six-day race took place in 1878 in London's Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington , which was known as the "long-distance championship of the world". One of the participants in this race was the journalist Harry Etherington , who also promoted the six-day race because it gave the newspapers the opportunity to report extensively on this sporting event for several days in a row. The winner was William Cann from Sheffield , who completed 1060 miles and five laps. According to other sources, the first London six-day race took place on September 1, 1876 at the same location, won by the British Stanton, who completed 1,000 miles.

Until the beginning of the 1890s, the races were driven on high wheels . In 1879 the idea of ​​the six-day race was exported to the USA and was initially held there as a one-man event, varying over 12 or 18 hours, and later around the clock. Each driver drove for himself and could decide when to drive or when to rest. At the end of the sixth day, the driver with the most kilometers was the winner. The races were often decided after a few days, as the drivers were 100 kilometers and more apart. In 1881, the first one-man six-day race in Australia was held in Melbourne .

Up to 1891 up to 90 six-day races for single drivers are mentioned, among others in New York , London , Chicago , Edinburgh and Melbourne . The organizers advertised some of these races as "long-distance cycle races" so that their actual character is not always clear.

In 1890, the newly built, second Madison Square Garden was opened in New York, which was financed by William Henry Vanderbilt and William Waldorf Astor , among others . The following year a six-day race took place there for the first time; the location of a six-day race in New York that had taken place four years earlier is not known. The winner of the first race in the “Garden” was US American Bill “Plugger” Martin , who drove 2,360 kilometers in 142 hours.

In 1893, the drivers in New York could decide whether they wanted to contest the race on high bikes as before or on a “ Safety ” that had just come onto the market . Halfway through the race, the high- bike riders all switched to safetys , realizing that they were much faster, although there were concerns about the stooped position over the handlebars . It was the last time that high bikes were used in six-day races, which in the following years also had consequences for the construction of the tracks, the curves of which became increasingly steep.

Over time, a reliable system for counting the laps and displaying the kilometers traveled was developed: an electrician invented a device in which a ring was placed on a steel rod after each lap, which lit up one of ten light bulbs . When all ten bulbs were lit, the driver had ridden a mile (the velodrome was a tenth of a mile long). Each driver had his own "counter" with a large board; when the counter saw that ten pears were burning, it would write the new mileage on this board.

The public topic was repeatedly the effect of the great physical strain on the drivers: In 1894 Albert Schock is said to have finished the race in such a poor physical condition that in the following year no organizer dared to organize a six-day race. In 1896, the American Teddy Hale started the solo six-day race in Madison Square Garden and won with 1910 miles and eight laps in front of 30 competitors. About his condition after the end of the race it was said: “He looked like a ghost. His face was like the white face of a corpse and he stared in front of himself, his eyes terribly fixed [...] His mind was no longer there on the track, he had lost all signs of life and self possession. "(" Er looked like a ghost. His face was as white as the face of a corpse, and he stared straight ahead, with a terribly fixed gaze. [...] His mind was no longer on track, he had lost all signs of life and self-control. " ) He himself later said: "I won, but I gave 10 years of my life for a few thousand dollars." The New York Journal described this form of a bike race as "pernicious for the sensible use of the bike" and the New York Herald wrote of "inhumanity in the name of sport".

The following year, New York Health Authority President Michael C. Murphy tried to prevent the race because it was "an animal event that no white man should watch" and in which athletes were subjected to inhumane efforts. The doctor who examined the driver Charles Miller, who was born in Germany as Karl Müller, after his victory in the previous year, however, assured him that he was in good physical condition. However, his lead over the other drivers is said to have been so great that he was able to treat himself to several hours of sleep in between. The 1898 race went as planned, and Miller won again.

Winner of individual six-day races (selection) 
year place Surname miles
1875 Birmingham FranceFrance Charles Terront (?)
1878 London United KingdomUnited Kingdom William Cann 1060 + 5 rds.
1879 London United KingdomUnited Kingdom George Waller 1172
1879 Chicago United KingdomUnited Kingdom William Cann
1879 Chicago FranceFrance Charles Terront
1879 Boston FranceFrance Charles Terront
1879 Hull United KingdomUnited Kingdom George Waller 950
1880 London FranceFrance Charles Terront 1272
1880 Hull FranceFrance Charles Terront 860 + 5 rds.
1880 Edinburgh FranceFrance Charles Terront
1880 Newcastle United KingdomUnited Kingdom William Cann
1881 Melbourne AustraliaAustralia Jack Rolfe
1881 Adelaide AustraliaAustralia Jack Rolfe
1882 Sydney AustraliaAustralia Jack Rolfe
1882 Melbourne AustraliaAustralia WJ Press
1883 Newcastle Battensby
1883 Aberdeen United KingdomUnited Kingdom George Waller
1883 Sydney Jack Rolfe
1884 London J. Birt
1885 Memphis Morgan
1885 Chicago United StatesUnited States Albert shock
1886 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Albert shock 1009 + 3 rds.
1886 Minneapolis Jack Prince
year place Surname miles
1886 Saint Paul, Minnesota United StatesUnited States Albert shock 923
1886 Minneapolis WJ Morgan
1887 Newcastle Battensby
1887 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Albert shock 1409
1887 Edinburgh United KingdomUnited Kingdom John Dunlop Lumsden
1887 new York United StatesUnited States Albert shock
1888 Newcastle Battensby
1888 Philadelphia I. Dingley 900
1890 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Bill Martin
1890 Wolverhampton United KingdomUnited Kingdom H. Higham
1890 Newcastle English
1890 Melbourne Sam Clark
1890 London FranceFrance Charles Terront
1891 new York United StatesUnited States Bill Martin 1466.7
1891 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Bill Martin
1891 Edinburgh United KingdomUnited Kingdom John Dunlop Lumsden
1891 Boston United StatesUnited States Charles Ashinger 752
1892 Edinburgh W. Parkes
1892 new York United StatesUnited States Charles Ashinger 1022 + 7 rds.
1892 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Bill Martin
1892 Chicago Charles Ashinger 727 + 1 round
1893 Glasgow United KingdomUnited Kingdom John Dunlop Lumsden
1893 new York United StatesUnited States Albert shock
year place Surname miles
1893 Minneapolis United StatesUnited States Albert shock
1894 Washington United StatesUnited States Frank Waller
1894 Pittsburgh United StatesUnited States Frank Waller
1894 Philadelphia United StatesUnited States Charles Ashinger
1895 new York United StatesUnited States Albert shock
1896 new York United KingdomUnited Kingdom Teddy Hale 1910 + 8 rounds
1896 Washington United StatesUnited States Frank Waller 871 + 5 rds.
1896 Boston United StatesUnited States Robert Walthour
1897 new York United StatesUnited States Charles Miller 2093 + 4 rds.
1897 Pittsburgh United StatesUnited States Harry Elkes
1897 Chicago Fred Schineer
1897 Nashville United StatesUnited States Robert Walthour
1897 Detroit George Dench
1897 Cleveland H. Wood
1897 Boston United StatesUnited States Tom Barnaby
1897 Pittsburgh United StatesUnited States Frank Waller
1897 Washington United StatesUnited States Albert shock
1898 new York United StatesUnited States Charles Miller 1962
1898 Houston United StatesUnited States Charles Miller
1898 Dayton United StatesUnited States Woody Headspeth
1899 San Francisco United StatesUnited States Charles Miller
1899 Memphis United StatesUnited States Robert Walthour

Six day race for women

The French six-day skier Aboukaïa

In the 1880s and 1890s, six-day races were held for women, but these are only sparsely and incompletely documented. In addition, it is unclear what type of race was designated as such. There is only information from women's races in the United States and Great Britain; there do not appear to have been any such events in other countries. It is known that six-day races for women were held in the United States from the late 1880s. The first of which reports are known took place from February 11 to 16, 1889, at Madison Square Garden , with eleven female drivers. Among them was Elsa van Blumen, who was announced as "present champion" in the preliminary report, so that obviously there must have been championship fights in cycling for women in the USA before.

In 1895 there was the first "six-day race" with women participating in Great Britain , the following year a twelve-day race and again a year later even two consecutive twelve-day races, the results of which were summarized. The winner of the twelve-day race in 1896 was the Belgian world champion and world hour record holder Hélène Dutrieu , who later achieved fame as an aviation pioneer. Monica Haarwood , who was only 16 years old in 1896 , won several times in London . A very successful driver in the USA was Frankie Nelson , therefore also called Queen of the Sixes . Some drivers did not start under their real names, but carried pseudonyms such as Mlle Grace or Mlle Aboukaïa .

As a rule, the participants only had to drive two to four hours a day, and the kilometers traveled were added up. The winner was the driver who had covered the greatest distance in the given time. The drivers at the British events were mostly British and French, and the races were therefore hyped up as an “England versus France” competition.

In the following years, further six-day races were organized in both the USA and Great Britain, in Great Britain several have been booked in the same year, but no information is available about the period after 1902 that such events continued to be held. The following year, was a popular venue for the women's race, the next to Westminster Abbey located Royal Aquarium , demolished.

As a rule, the six-day races for women were races on an indoor cycle track that lasted several days but only took place a few hours a day. The term six-day race was therefore not really appropriate, even if these races were called "sixes".

Competitions for women have been held at the Bremen six-day race since 2012 .

Two races in the USA and Europe

Charles Miller, Six Day Star from the early years
Preliminary report on the New York Six Days 1913 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The German Thaddäus Robl with Crown Prince Wilhelm at the Berlin Six-Day Race in 1909

Six-day races with individual male drivers have proven to be increasingly unattractive for spectators over the years. In order to create publicity, the New York event organizers spread the news in the press in 1898 that drivers had become insane due to the inhumane exertion. The audience wanted to get their own picture, so Madison Square Garden was well attended the next day. In the long run, however, there was no way to inspire the audience in the individual competition. The following year, concerns about the solo six-day race were taken seriously, and the authorities ordered that a driver was only allowed to drive twelve hours a day. The Impresario des Garden , William A. Brady , then had the idea of ​​having a team of two drivers start instead of one driver, on the condition that one of the two drivers must always be on the velodrome .

The first six-day race with teams of two was won by Charles Miller, together with Frank Waller , a native of Munich and an experienced six-day driver who was 16 years older than Miller, who was also of German descent. In the newspapers the race was Six-day grind (six-day drudgery) announced.

Since the races with two-man teams took place in Madison Square Garden for the first time , the track cycling discipline of two-man team riding has also been called Madison or Americaine since then (which means that the fourth President of the USA and namesake of Madison Square , James Madison , during his lifetime there were no bicycles yet, indirectly named after a cycling discipline).

In Europe, the first six-day race with teams of two was held on March 15, 1909 in the exhibition halls at Berlin Zoo . Although a six-day race had already taken place in Toulouse in 1906 , it is ignored as such by cycling historians because it is held on an open track. In Berlin, 16 teams competed for 144 hours on a 150 meter long wooden track for the 5000 gold mark victory shared by the Americans Floyd MacFarland and Jimmy Moran . A contemporary sports book states:

“Six day race? What's this? Is it sport, is it game, is it a miracle or is it a delusion, a necessity, an evil or a necessary evil? Perhaps something from everyone in their basic form, at least a reflection of the struggle that we consciously and unconsciously wage in everyday life. Everything that we experience in our existence in terms of good and bad, ups and downs, hopes and disappointments, fulfillment and redemption takes place within the framework of a race that, stretching over a working week, demands the last of the one who in this fight against others, against fatigue, against the snake of failure and despair, I want to remain victorious. "

Four years later, the winner of Berlin, MacFarland, successfully organized the first six-day race in Paris . The Vel 'd'Hiv ' , which was sold out with 20,000 spectators, was full of celebrities, including Henri de Rothschild , who received prize money of 600 francs, and the dancer Mistinguett , who offered 1000 francs. Among the drivers were popular racing drivers such as Émile Friol , Émile Georget , the German Walter Rütt , the Dane Thorvald Ellegaard and the French Tour de France winner Louis Trousselier .

Six-day race - “a small, closed sociotope of the representatives of the nouveau riche demimonde and an important social event for an up-and-coming, cycling-savvy proletariat too” - developed into a social event not only in Berlin and Paris, especially the first in the German capital of the Crown Prince Wilhelm had been visited: “Upstairs in the boxes of the Sports Palace the fine company is having fun. The men dressed appropriately in tailcoats, the women in low-cut evening gowns and both together lavishly equipped with champagne. Downstairs in the cheap places, the so-called hayloft, the workers meet and let off steam there. "

In 1907, the journalist and cycling official Fredy Budzinski was upset about the lack of sporting value in six-day races:

“For this reason alone, a six-day race, as admirable as the energy of the drivers is, cannot be seen as a sporting spectacle and we don't want to be angry that the police are keeping us from such a race. […] None of the drivers can sustain themselves for six days with natural forces [sic]. All drivers without exception resort to dopping [sic]. Everything they ingest contains poison. The body is repeatedly whipped up by these irritants and the reaction is of course inevitable. Falls that occur on the fourth or fifth day are particularly bad, because in addition to the consequences of the injury, in addition to the exhaustion of the driver, the after-effects of dopping [sic]. "

- Fredy Budzinski : bike world. Newspaper for the general interests of cycling and motoring. No. 28/18. December 1907

Only a few years later, however, Budzinski had turned into a big fan of the event, and in 1914 he introduced the scoring for the two-man team, which was therefore long known as the "Berlin scoring": In scoring sprints, points had to be fought for Number determined the placement of the teams at the end of the long race. It made the race more interesting and proved to be crucial for the further development of two-team driving from a pure six-day discipline to an official track cycling discipline. This rating system came to the USA through MacFarland. The newspaper Illustrierter Radrenn-Sport described the system: “So in Berlin […] at the end of the race the teams still standing together were allowed to do 10 scoring spurts and in this way the winning team was determined. This procedure [...] was [...] finally expanded in America to such an extent that no fewer than 195 competitions were fought during the last New York six-day race. "

Already at the first race in 1875 there was talk of support through means such as “schnapps, magic beverages made from caffeine, heroin, nitroglycerine and other secret substances”, ie doping . At the six-day race in 1893 a doctor noted:

“The stamina of the drivers is admirable. The cyclist, who took third place, was so exhausted by the evening of the fourth day that he asked for permission to leave the competition. He was refused this, however, and every two hours I gave him half a grain of caffeine, which produced a magical effect. "

- Roundabout & Berliner Luft, p. 82

In 1909, the driver Walter Rütt replied evasively to the question about doping: "However, I cannot swear that my manager has put something in my food that made me more resilient." It was an open secret that people were doped. Fredy Budzinski wrote about the American driver Robert Walthour : “Both he and his partner Collins paid homage to doping to a large extent. Incidentally, the American managers have found a new way of keeping the drivers fit. The remedy is called Oxigen and has served all participants well. ”In later years, Budzinski reported on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in six-day races.

Between the wars

The Berlin six-day race in 1932

In Germany, the six- day races experienced a particular boom after the currency reform in 1924 in the so-called " Golden Twenties ", for whose joie de vivre the six-day races with bike races, music and entertainment seemed to be made. The interest was so great that the coverage in the illustrated cycling sport extended over several pages, on which every single action of the riders was described in detail.

In some years two six-day races were held in Berlin alone because of its great popularity, and even three in 1926. The home of the Berlin six-day race was the “ Sportpalast ”, his hymn the “ Sportpalastwalzer ” and his patron Reinhold Habisch , called “Krücke”, who invented the whistles for music and for atmosphere in the “hayloft” - as the cheapest seats high up were called - took care. The sporting highlight was the "course record" of 4544.2 kilometers set by Franz Krupkat and Richard Huschke in 1924. In 1925, the Bundes-Zeitung reported : "The 13th Berlin six-day race beat all visitor records in the German six-day races on the fourth day and on reached the record of New York (!) for sixth days. ”The tickets were so popular that forged tickets were brought into circulation. However, neither the absolute figures for New York nor Berlin were given.

For ideological reasons, parts of left and right circles rejected professional sports and thus also six-day races as “circus” or “artistry”, as the races also repeatedly resulted in being pushed and bribed. However, the journalist Rolf Nürnberg did not want to attach too much importance to these events: “You know almost instinctively, these six day matadors, that the public sometimes likes to be deceived [...]. But the performances remain […]. ”At the 20th Berlin Six-Day Race in 1928 a scandal broke out when notes were found about the amounts that the driver Piet van Kempen had paid his rivals to let him win.

Public criticism took place despite, or perhaps because of, the massive popularity that the six-day spectacle in the Berlin Sports Palace in particular had. “The unanimous opinion - albeit for different reasons - from bourgeois sports representatives, members of Christian groups and workers' athletes was that the actual qualities of the universal idea of ​​sport to be promoted can only be found in amateurism, but not in capitalist professional sport. There is a risk, through the paid artistry, that the Germans would become more and more alienated from their culture through the 'record craze' propagated in sport and fail to realize that sport has been instrumentalized. ”Budzinski, on the other hand, was of the opinion that strength performance of the The youth impressed the most, and a six-day race triggered a whole series of male virtues, "because courage, determination, energy and drive are decisive here".

The crowd in New York's Madison Square Garden also continued. Around 100,000 spectators came to the six days of the race. The organizer John Chapman lowered the entrance fees as well as the drivers' fees due to the economic situation; Whereas in the 1920s they received between $ 100 and $ 1,000, they were now only paid between $ 50 and $ 300, and the prize money was cut by half to $ 25,000. The entire race was budgeted for $ 75,000. In 1936 Klaus Mann noted in his diary: “[…] met the (magnificent) Vicky Baum , Rolf Nürnberg and Ilse Riess too […] together for the 6-day race, Madison Square Garden. Always a very attractive atmosphere, but not as good as in Berlin. - 3 o'clock."

In Fredy Budzinski's archive at the Sport University Cologne there is a list from the 1920s with bonuses for the drivers who were awarded a total of 100,000 cigarettes, 370 bottles of wine and champagne each, 180 bottles of cognac, 25 boxes of kippers, 20 boxes of Harz cheese, 4 quintals of sugar, 48 roast ducks, a bedroom furniture, 13,500 German marks and 150 American dollars. In 1924 there was also a live pig to be won. These bonuses were advertised for laps, track laps or simple spurts. The organizer partly took over the various prizes, but also sponsors who were able to use this as an advertising platform by donating cash and material prizes for a 6-day race. In addition, there were private individuals who donated bonuses as lovers of the sport. They served to create an incentive for the drivers to make the race more action-packed and exciting.

In Germany, the six-day races - "that strange, questionable hybrid between sport and vaudeville" - were a thorn in the side of the National Socialists , this mixture of ostracized professional sport and pleasure, which was imported from the USA and supposedly mainly organized by Jews. On November 23, 1933, Herbert Oberscherningkat, sports editor of the National Socialist daily newspaper Der Attack, wrote : “Anyone who was allowed to take a look behind the scenes knows that it was primarily Jews who were the organizers. At the time of the greatest spread of Jewish power, the six-day races were the most popular in Germany. ”The claim that the six-day business is mainly run by Jews was incorrect.

Approximately one year after the seizure of power by the Nazis, on 1 January 1934 the issued German Cyclists' Federation (DRV) new competition guidelines for Six Days: The driver salaries have been standardized, it was not allowed to be around down the clock, and shirt advertising was prohibited . Two races that had already been planned took place in 1934: The Dortmund race was quite well attended, but the Berlin race ended in a financial fiasco, as it took place in front of empty grandstands. The stars, especially the foreign ones, who until then had received much higher entry fees depending on their attractiveness, were not ready to start at the new conditions. However, the spectators were not interested in a race with mediocre racing drivers, and they also lacked the thrill of "round-the-clock driving" that had just fascinated them. The “Sportpalastwalzer” was also no longer allowed to be played, since its composer Siegfried Translateur was a Jew.

The organizer of the last six-day race before the war, Director Hoppe, said in an interview that the failure had cost him over 30,000 marks and was mainly due to the new regulations, "which were well-intentioned" but completely wrong, and demanded this abolish again. This did not happen, however, and apparently no organizer dared to organize another six-day race for fear of a deficit. In the end, six-day races were quietly and secretly buried in Germany. There is no evidence of an outright ban, and the question of whether they would not have been officially banned if the new regulation had been successful must remain open.

The Jewish composer of the Sportpalastwalzers , Siegfried Translateur, died in 1944 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp . Reichsradsportführer Ferry Ohrtmann , jointly responsible for the enforcement of the Nazi regulations for six-day races, was director of the Deutschlandhalle after the war until the 1960s , after the rector of the German Sport University , Carl Diem , had confirmed to him that the Reichsradsportführer Ohrtmann had himself during the Nazi regime -Time "not politically active".

Six-day races continued elsewhere in the world, such as in Amsterdam , Antwerp , Brussels , Buenos Aires , Buffalo , Chicago , Copenhagen , London , Los Angeles , Montreal , New York and Paris , but in most European cities only until the outbreak of the second World War . This forced European drivers to compete in six-day races outside of Europe; German athletes, however, had to go abroad as early as 1934 to earn money. Many drivers were drawn to the USA, some to Australia or Buenos Aires, where six-day races were held regularly from 1936. Gottfried Hürtgen from Cologne won three times there alone , and finally settled in Argentina . Another most prominent example is the Gustav Kilian / Heinz Vopel team , which drove six-day races in the USA until 1941 and won 32 victories there (26 of them together). The drivers started in swastika jerseys and showed the Hitler salute . Although the National Socialists rejected six-day races and professional cycling, they adorned themselves with the victories of the duo, which Hermann Göring received and was rewarded in 1938 with 5000 Reichsmarks from the Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation for his “German appearance” in the USA .

After the Second World War

The Berlin six-day race in the velodrome (2011)
Berlin Winter Railway Race in East Berlin (1970)

The first six-day race in Germany after the war took place in Munich from April 1st to 7th, 1949 , started by Heinz Rühmann . Other cities like Berlin, Dortmund and Cologne followed suit the following winter.

In the 1950s, however, spectators lost their interest in tired racing drivers who for a long time only circled the track for the sake of form. The journalist Bernhard Skamper wrote in 1952: "Let people sleep from 6 am to 2 pm, and then they will have something to do again when the audience comes."

“But was that a“ race ”? While the partner slept, the other driver sat on the bike for three hours and drove 'sleeping cars'. He rode in a tracksuit, sat on a wide saddle, cranked one leg and steered with the other. You didn't get off for breakfast, or when the hairdresser came you drove through the interior, the race was neutralized. The main thing: you sat on the bike. No more. The audience had none of it, it wasn't there. "

- Program booklet 61st Berlin 6-day race. Self-published, Berlin 1968, p. 29

From the 1960s onwards, the six-day program, which had previously been carried out continuously, was relaxed, for example through elimination drives , lap record drives, a separately rated team race for an extra price (e.g. a car) and amateur races. These "single races" only interrupted the two-man team driving that continued to dominate.

In addition, the neutralization from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. (once suggested by the National Socialists) was introduced, in which each driver was allowed to sleep for three hours, but the other driver of the team had to continue driving. The hall was cleared of the spectators. Even then, however, there were considerations to extend this period to 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and to take a general break from driving. This idea was implemented successively, albeit inconsistently. For example, in Frankfurt in 1965: “The official neutralization from 5.30 in the morning to 1 p.m. is heralded and ended by the striking of a bell. During the neutralization there is no driver on the track. ”In Berlin, however, one driver still had to be on the track between 5 a.m. and 12 noon during the neutralization. Two years later this regulation was also introduced in Berlin.

From 1954 the first Swiss six-day race was held in the Hallenstadion in Zurich . The winners of the first edition were the Swiss Hugo Koblet and Armin von Büren , the local heroes of the following decades were Fritz Pfenninger , Urs Freuler , Bruno Risi , Kurt Betschart and Franco Marvulli . After the 58th edition in 2014, it was discontinued.

In 1961 the last six-day race was held in the Garden after there had been interruptions before: “Nostalgia led to the mounting of a campaign in September 1961 ro revive Six-Day racing in Madison Square Garden.” Former cyclist Alfred Letourneur signed a top-class field of drivers , including the German Rudi Altig , the Swiss Oscar Plattner and Armin von Büren and the Italian Leandro Faggin . Although the visit was good, the race ended in the red and the 75th edition of the New York Six-Day Race was the last for the time being.

Newer development

A six-day race includes elaborate supporting and entertainment programs, some of which take place in side halls, which is why the saying: "The only thing that bothers you are the cyclists" was coined. For example, the mood duo Klaus and Klaus has been part of the “inventory” of the Bremen six-day race for years. It is common for a celebrity to give the starting shot, be it Emil Jannings , Sonja Henie , Paul Hörbiger , Richard von Weizsäcker , Robert Harting , Johannes Heesters , Semino Rossi , Wladimir Klitschko or Roger Moore . The drivers also contribute entertaining interludes, for example by performing as singers or cheering on the spectators during the balustrade sprint to La Ola . In earlier decades, male visitors were to be additionally attracted by erotic appearances.

In addition to music and other performances, the gastronomic offer is important. The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported in 1967:

“The 30,000 sausages eaten during the six-day race would result in a line 7.5 kilometers in length. The employees […] sold 200,000 glasses of beer, 90,000 bottles of non-alcoholic beverages, knuckle of pork knuckles from 420 pigs, 20,000 Mettbrötchen, 10,000 slices of bacon and 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine. "

- Jupp Müller : Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, No. 3, p. 6

As a counterpart to the West Berlin six-day race, the winter track races were held in East Berlin from 1950 to 1989 in the Werner-Seelenbinder-Halle , but without a show or alcohol and with a focus on the Olympic cycling disciplines . Where the Werner-Seelenbinder-Halle was located until 1992, the Berlin Velodrom has stood since 1997 . The Berlin six-day race, which has over 70,000 visitors a year, still benefits from this location, as a large proportion of the spectators are former visitors to the winter track races - “specialist sports audience” who want to watch cycling for eight hours.

In this day and age, racing days usually start in the late afternoon and end just after midnight; A “family day” is usually organized on Sundays, starting in the morning and offering special attractions for children. The program is a mix of different cycling disciplines and entertainment. In 2014, Die Zeit characterized the Berlin six-day race under the title “Tour de France am Ballermann”: “A hundred years ago, newspapers were already writing about the 'circus of madness'. The Berlin six-day race is still there. Is it sport Is it show No matter".

There have been relatively few spectacular doping cases in six-day races in the last few decades. Organizers of six-day races emphasized again and again that there had been no doping case with them for many years, which may have been due to the fact that the races were not under the aegis and control of the UCI for many years as “private events”. In 1990, the Swiss Urs Freuler tested positive for nandrolone in Munich , in 1992 the French Philippe Tarantini was noticed in two races through doping. Likewise, the German Andreas Kappes in 1997, his compatriots Carsten Wolf in 1998 and Guido Fulst in 2001 and the French Robert Sassone in 2003 were convicted of doping. The Belgian Iljo Keisse was most recently noticed in 2008 for doping. He was banned for two years, although the Belgian federation tried to prevent this ban.

In winter 2016/17, four competitions - Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and London - were combined into a series by the London company Madison Sports Group , in which fixed pairings collect points and a prize of 30,000 euros in a final in the Palma Arena on Mallorca can achieve. The series was partly broadcast live on television.

Implementation and regulations

A derny race during the Zurich six-day race (2007)

For many years it was left to the organizers to decide how a six-day race was designed and rated, but since 2007 the UCI World Cycling Association has laid down rules according to which they are also subject to the association's anti-doping rules.

For example, in a six-day race, at least 24 hours are allowed for the racing program, i.e. an average of four hours per race day. This program consists of various track cycling competitions for teams of two, the sequence and combination of which vary depending on the venue; the individual races usually have the names of sponsors. Two drivers each (at some events, for example Stuttgart, Rotterdam, Zurich, teams of three were also driven) form a team and wear jerseys in the same color with identical shirt numbers, one in red and one in black. The teams often also have the name of a sponsor.

The heart of the race are the “hunts” over 30 and 60 minutes or a certain number of laps (so-called “big” and “small” hunts), which are carried out according to the rules for two-man team driving. Only with these can lap wins be achieved by having a driver drive away from the field and catch up to it again. In addition to Dernyrennen , points race , elimination races and other competitions held. A certain number of points can be achieved in each discipline. The scoring is used to classify teams with the same number of laps. The teams with the largest number of completed laps are in the so-called "zero round"; if several teams are together in this zero round, the number of points decides on the ranking; the same principle applies to the teams with "-1 round" etc.

The further program includes sprint and standing races in which specialists compete against each other, as well as competitions for women, U23 drivers ( UIV Cup ), juniors and for paracyclists . Since UCI points have also been awarded for some of these competitions since 2007, such as those of the U23, juniors and women, these have now been upgraded in terms of sport.


The number of points to be awarded in the individual competitions differs according to their importance and is stipulated in the regulations of the World Cycling Association UCI .

  • Scoring sprints: 5, 3, 2, 1 points; double the number of points with a maximum of six sprints in the final hour of the six-day race
  • Team competitions (Madison, team elimination, team time trial): 20, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 points.
  • Individual competitions (points run, elimination run, lap record run, derny race, scratch , keirin ): 10, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 points.
  • If not all teams can take part in a run (as is the case with derny races in particular), the score is between 15, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 in team competitions and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points in individual competitions.

Round wins can be achieved in the hunts by lapping the entire field of drivers. The winner is the team "in the zero round" with the most points. This means that round wins come before points are won; among the teams that are in the lead with the same number of laps (= "zero round"), the one with the most points wins. A team with 20 round wins and 150 points is ahead of a team with 18 round wins and 300 points. As soon as the latter manages the two missing round wins, it is ahead.

According to the regulations of the UCI World Cycling Association for six-day races, additional lap wins are paid for every 100 points. This regulation only applies until the last “hunt” on the final night, when scores are awarded twice the number of points.

The points from the so-called ratings are added to the points that are achieved in the Madisons and special competitions listed above. Originally, points were awarded in these ratings alone. Point evaluations are carried out at predetermined times (calculated according to laps). The team whose driver reaches the finish line first on the lap concerned receives 5 points, the following 3, 2, 1 points.

In some cases, sprints are also integrated into Madisons.

  • In the case of Madisons within the six-day race, if the number of laps is the same, the team that has scored the most points in the sprints is considered the winner, i.e. not necessarily the team that wins the final sprint. These rating points are only the basis for calculating the Madison and not for the overall rating. However, the best-placed teams receive points according to the above scheme.
  • In the last “hunt” of a six-day race, the scoring takes place with double the number of points (10, 6, 4, 2 points). These count towards the overall rating like normal rating points. In addition, round wins can be achieved here.

Two-man team driving

Removal by a sling handle

Due to the changes in the rules, the two-man team cycling developed from a pure endurance discipline around the clock, which was only about the "experienced" kilometers and which was synonymous with six-day races , to a track cycling discipline - which on a certain number of kilometers and Limited time span - must be contested by the drivers at top speeds of around 50 kilometers per hour. The two-man team race has been held at the UCI track world championships since 1995, and from 2000 to 2008 it was part of the program at the Olympic Games , in both cases only for male drivers. The length of the route is usually 50 kilometers, equivalent to 200 laps, with a track of 250 meters in length. Only a few countries - such as Australia and the Netherlands - hosted national championships for women in two-man team driving. Only after the discipline for the Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo were resumed in the Olympic program, they have become the rule.

In principle, the race works like a relay race in athletics. Only one of the two (or three) drivers is in the race, that is, in the ranking. The drivers take turns; in principle, they can be replaced after any distance. However, since both drivers stay on the track, one driver constantly laps the other and, due to the speed ratio, they are relieved about every two to two and a half laps.

The sling grip for detachment plays a decisive role between the two drivers. The driver coming from behind at high speed pushes / pulls (“slings”) the driver in front, who is holding onto his outstretched hand or “pulls” into the race. The sling grip has its origin in the removal technique used by roller skaters. This grip was later banned because it was too dangerous. In the following decades, six-day races were replaced “on sight”. B. put some drivers on a box. After the Second World War and into the 1970s, the drivers used the "push-on technique", in which they pushed each other into the race using a knob in their pants. They also used the sling grip, but it was controversial: Since there are always many drivers on the track at high speed when driving in teams of two, the risk of falling is great if the detachment is not well controlled. Werner Scharch wrote in his book Faszination des Bahnrennsport in 1977 : “An often seen bad habit [...] is detachment by a sling grip. In the case of amateurs, this type of replacement is forbidden because of its dangerousness ”. Today, the sling grip is used consistently by all drivers in two-man team competitions because it is the most effective.


Interior with the driver's bunks at the Bremen six-day race

Six-day races were hosted in over 100 cities around the world, including Amsterdam , Tilburg , Fiorenzuola d'Arda , Paris , Munster , Milan and Brussels . From a European point of view, exotic six-day locations were Nouméa in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia (1977–2003), around 1500 kilometers east of the Australian east coast, and Launceston on Tasmania (1961–1987). Many events had to be given up, increasingly from the end of the noughties , for economic reasons. Several attempts to "revive", such as that of the Cologne six-day race in 2012 and 2013, failed. Other traditional competitions such as Dortmund , Stuttgart and Munich have also been discontinued. The races in Zurich and Grenoble were held for the last time in 2014 and had already been shortened to four and three days, respectively. In the German-speaking region, only two six-day races are currently being held - in Bremen and Berlin (as of 2015). In Austria only one took place in 1952.

In preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games , a six-day race was planned in London in March 2010 for the first time in around 30 years , but this had to be canceled due to a lack of sponsors. In October 2015, it finally took place in the Lee Valley Velodrome , where the track cycling competitions were held during the 2012 Olympic Games; it was the first six-day race in the motherland of the event since 1980. A few weeks later it became known that the organizer Madison Sports Group had also acquired the Berlin six-day race.

In October 2013, the Velo Sports Center in Carson hosted the Hollywood Cycling Championship , the first multi-day, six-day track cycling competition in the United States in 40 years (the last six-day race was held in Detroit in 1973 ). The organizer was the former US six-day driver Jack Simes , who himself had finished second in Detroit. Among the starters, in addition to young US drivers, were well-known European names such as Franco Marvulli , Christian Grasmann , Leif Lampater and Marcel Barth .

In the 2015/16 winter season, apart from Bremen and Berlin, only the races in Ghent (with interruptions since 1922), Rotterdam (with interruptions since 1936) and Copenhagen (with interruptions since 1934) took place, and in the summer the six-day race in Fiorenzuola d, Italy '' Arda (since 1998) on an open track (as of 2015).

A total of around 1,500 six-day races with teams of two or three have been organized since 1899. Germany ranks first in the country statistics with 438 events in 15 different cities, ahead of the USA with 247 and Belgium with 179 events ( as of 2011 ).

Known drivers

Patrick Sercu (here at the 1967 World Track Championships) won 88 six-day races.

The most successful six-day rider to date is Belgian Patrick Sercu , who competed in a total of 223 six-day races in the 1960s and 1970s, 88 of which he won with changing partners.

The Swiss Bruno Risi and Kurt Betschart formed the most successful team in the six-day business: They competed 130 times together between 1992 and 2006 and achieved 37 victories; after Betschart's career ended, Risi won another 16 times together with Franco Marvulli . Other successful teams were the Germans Gustav Kilian / Heinz Vopel (29 wins) (1930s to 1950s), as well as the Belgian Rik Van Steenbergen / Emile Severeyns (1940s to 1960s), the Dutch-Swiss , with 19 wins each team Peter post / Fritz Pfenninger (1950 to 1970s) and the Australian-British team of two Danny Clark / Tony Doyle (1970s to 1990s). The most successful German driver to date with changing partners is Klaus Bugdahl , who was active from 1957 to 1978 and recorded 37 victories. The Australian Reggie McNamara was the longest active six-day driver with a period of 28 years (1911 to 1939); he started 114 races and won 19 times. Curt Riess later described how McNamara in 1921 "fell off his bike in New York's Madison Square Garden shortly before the end, pumped full of stimulants, manipulated by sinister managers".

Another colorful figure was the Dutchman Piet van Kempen , who competed in 108 six-day races between 1920 and 1939 and won 32 of them. He did not have a standard partner and achieved his success with various partners such as Jan Pijnenburg , Paul Buschenhagen , Oscar Egg , Marcel Buysse , Reggie McNamara and others. His nicknames in the halls were "De Vgende Hollander" or "Zwarte Piet". He was the "six-day boss" who determined the course of the races and took most of the fee for himself. At the 20th Berlin six-day race in 1928, van Kempen, along with eight other racing drivers and his manager Cor Blekemolen, was excluded by the sporting director Walter Rütt because he had instigated and bribed them to postpone the race in his favor. In addition, his racing license for Germany was revoked for one year.

Serial winners were often referred to in the media as “six days emperor”, such as Walter Rütt (1883–1964), six-day rider from the very beginning, Gustav Kilian and Patrick Sercu.

Six-day race deaths

In 1949, the Berlin racing driver Paul Kroll fell in a two-man team race "1000 laps" (not an actual six-day race) in the Berlin sports hall at the radio tower and died of a fractured skull in the hospital. Two years later there were two serious falls at the Berlin six-day race on the same, extremely short track (153 meters), which was therefore also called the “cigarette pack”: The Dutchman Gerard van Beek died after a fall, and a few months later the German had an accident Rudi Mirke also fatally there. According to the Berlin racing driver and later sporting director of the Berlin six-day race, Otto Ziege , there were rumors that the drugs used had not worked because of previous doping.

There were two more deaths in later years: In 1964, the Canadian Louis De Vos died in hospital after a fall at the Six-Day Race in Montreal under similar circumstances as Mirke and van Beek of a skull fracture. In 2006, the Spaniard Isaac Gálvez fell badly after a collision with the Belgian Dimitri De Fauw at the six-day race in Ghent : he broke his neck and a rib pierced his lungs, causing him to bleed to death internally on the way to the hospital. After this accident, De Fauw suffered from severe depression and took his own life three years later.

Six days in art

The six-day race has always inspired artists, especially in the times when the drivers were still driving around the clock. For many intellectuals in the 1920s, it was the symbol of a time when the concept of achievement replaced traditional social hierarchies. The essay Elliptical Treadmill by the writer and journalist Egon Erwin Kisch , who attended the 10th Berlin six-day race in 1923, is particularly well-known : the one who is close to delirium tremens, slurping off the wheel, gave an example of exercise. ”He compared the race with a“ world race ”in which man steers with a“ wormwardly inclined ”spine and thinks God. Worn out by the world of work and economic hardships, the spectators, "who are heated with wishes for external sensations", can briefly react and let off steam in the stadium's cauldron. The fact that this protest will ultimately remain pointless does not, however, level the short phase of "relaxed world exclusion".

Caricature by Paul Simmel (1913)

More than half of the seats, according to Kisch, are “possessed”, but if you wanted to enter the interior with restaurants and jazz bands over a bridge, you had to pay 200 marks “toll”: “Naked women in evening toilets sit there, criminals in professional suits ( Tailcoats and ball shoes), chauffeurs, negroes, foreigners, officers and Jews. "Kisch concluded these considerations with the dry reproduction of a loudspeaker announcement:" On the third day of the race, the speaker announced through the megaphone, right, left, right, left, to the seven thousand spectators : 'Mr Wilhelm Hahnke, Schönhauser Straße 139, should come home, his wife has died!' "

Alfred Polgar saw similar parallels as Kisch: "Even the less educated will not be able to avoid comparing the six-day race with life". He wondered what was going on in the soul of an “unfortunate man” who “became a planet for an eternity of six days and six nights, making the same prescribed journey over and over again?” Admitted, however, that “we because we would feel in the dark ".

Curt Riess , a fellow writer from Polgar, testified to his fascination with cycling around the clock:

“What excited me was the excitement that sport triggered, not in itself, but as an event, sport implemented in life. The excitement that transformed man. The spectators in the hall up to the last row of the gallery, where everything disappeared in the fog and smoke, the elegant ladies and gentlemen, drinking champagne in their boxes lined with the train, but above all the drivers. Their faces were masks of excitement, doggedness, exhaustion, pain - because they fell over and over again, were carried away, and yet a few minutes later they sped around the track with their knees and arms bandaged. This was what I couldn't let go of. "

- Curt Riess : That was my life! Memories. Frankfurt / Berlin 1990, pp. 120f.

The playwright and communist Bertolt Brecht , against all ideology, confessed to the six-day race: "I am for sport because and as long as it is risky (unhealthy), uncultivated (i.e. not socially acceptable) and an end in itself". He was enthusiastic about the poem by Hannes Küpper He, he! The Iron Man about Reggie McNamara and later sought a meeting with this athlete. Brecht was disappointed, however, as McNamara neither knew him nor the poem and did not seem particularly interested.

In Georg Kaiser's stage play From morning to midnight from 1912, the protagonist who embezzled money attends the Berlin six-day race and causes an uproar in the audience with a very high prize money he has given. Erich Kästner had this play in mind when he dealt with the six-day race in a short book chapter in the 1920s, although he said he had never attended one:

“These strange people ride their bikes for a whole week. […] Sometimes I think that you should definitely suffer brain damage. And then again I say to myself: he should already have to sign the contract ... On the other hand: The most unnatural services, as is well known, require the greatest respect. "

- Erich Kästner : The Merchant's Carnival, p. 59

The satirist Walter Mehring made his own way of thinking about the six-day race:

“Six / days / race! / Burning brain lies in wait / Six times two hundred thousand eyes: / Suck the human wall tight! / Six times two hundred and a thousand! Roaring / Snorting from our nostrils Taking breath / Taking our breath away! / Pests in sweat / Hot and bare / Go [...] "

- Walter Mehring

The booklet The Laughing Racetrack was meant seriously . A funny primer from the milieu of the six-day races from 1927, in which stories and drawings about the race were put together, which glorified the race and its protagonists with all the "merriment".

Hemingway corrected his novel In Another Land (published 1929) in a box at the finish line of a six-day race in Paris. Again and again he planned to write stories about this extreme form of cycling, but came to the conclusion: "I will never be able to write one that is as good as the race itself."

In 1922 the story The Night of the “Six Day Race” by the Frenchman Paul Morand was published , in which the cycling fan says of himself: “I am dominated by a single thought, and that is Petitmathieu's victory. I don't belong to myself anymore […]. We have become part of the Velodrome ”. In his story Van Donken, the author Hans Breidbach-Bernau once again described the tragic death of a six-day driver from 1966:

“And he drove so challenging and cheeky - and suddenly, from the height of the track, in the last laps, he shot like a downing hawk into the colorful, hunting ball of drivers - right into the middle - into the flying crowd [...] with such a gruesome, mad, exultant cry. There was a mass fall, shouting, torn jerseys […]. But not much had happened to them, as the doctor soon saw [...] Only him, Pieter van Donken, had it. Smooth fracture of the spine. Dead."

- Hans Breidbach-Bernau : winners, fighters and enthusiasts. Stories and reflections from the world of sport, pp. 38–43.

In the 1990s, Günter Grass created a literary monument for the first Berlin six-day race in 1909 by describing the experiences of a young man who, as the track doctor's assistant, examines the physical condition of the racing drivers: “Of the initial fifteen pairs, there were only in the end nine on the track. [...] And Dr. Willner thought it was remarkable that we were able to detect strong protein excretions from all drivers during the six-day race. "

Painters and draftsmen also chose the six-day race as a motif, including the American Edward Hopper for his picture French Six-day Rider from 1937 or the Germans Max Oppenheimer , Heinrich Ehmsen , Felix Nussbaum and Gino von Finetti . The French painter Lucien Jonas made entire series of pictures of bicycle races and drivers. The caricaturist Paul Simmel was regularly at the Berlin sports hall for six-day races and made caricatures and drawings for newspapers and books.

Six-day races were also featured in film and music. In 1922 the silent film The Seventh Night was made and in 1931 the sound film Um eine Naselänge , which was re-filmed in 1949 with Theo Lingen , Hans Moser and Rudolf Prack . Six Days was a song of composer Harry Ralton of 1932. 2002 was in the ARD of the crime scene: Shadow broadcast, filmed scenes for the Bremen Six Days.

See also


  • Alfons Arenhövel (Hrsg.): Arena of the passions. The Berlin Sports Palace and its events 1910–1973 . Willmuth Arenhövel Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-922912-13-3 .
  • Fredy Budzinski : Six days on the bike. History, seriousness and fun from the life of the six-day drivers. Illustrated by Paul Simmel and Howard Freeman . Ms. Budzinski, Berlin 1928.
  • Roger De Maertelaere: Mannen van de Nacht . de Eecloonaar, Eeklo 2000, ISBN 90-74128-67-X .
  • Renate Franz : Fredy Budzinski. Cycling journalist, collector, chronicler (=  series of publications from the Central Library of Sports Sciences of the German Sport University Cologne ). Sportverlag Strauss, Cologne 2007.
  • Renate Franz, Jan Eric Schwarzer : Prohibition - yes or no? The end of the six-day races in the Third Reich . In: The bone shaker. Magazine for lovers of historical bicycles and members' journal of the "Association of Historic Bicycles eV" No. 46 , 2009, p. 4-9 .
  • Egon Erwin Kisch: Elliptical treadmill . In: The mad reporter . Erich Reiss Verlag, Berlin 1925.
  • Walter Lemke, Wolfgang Gronen : History of cycling and the bicycle . Eupen 1978.
  • Peter Joffre Nye: The Six-Day Bicycle Races. America's Jazz Age Sport . Van der Plas / Cycle Publishing, San Francisco 2006.
  • Peter Ouwerkerk: Op de Rotterdamse latten . de Buitenspelers, Rotterdam 2006, ISBN 90-71359-01-8 .
  • Jacq van Reijendam: 6 daagsen statistics . Self-published, Breda (different years).
  • Gerd Rensmann: 6-day race. History and stories of cycling . Westarp Verlag, Mülheim / Ruhr 1984.
  • Werner Ruttkus, Wolfgang Schoppe : Roundabout & Berlin Air. On the trail of the Berlin six-day race . Self-published, 2012.


  • Heinz Brinkmann : Six days - six nights. 2009.
  • Mark Tyson: The Six-Day Bicycle Races. 2006. (English)

Web links

Commons : Six Day Race  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Six day race  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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