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 2017 edition of the event takes place over November 14-19.

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.

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.

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 2017?

With Mark Cavendish putting his feet up after the London Six Day and Bradley Wiggins now concentrating on life with two oars rather than two wheels, there are no defending champions at the Ghent Six Day, but the second place pairing from 2016, Moreno De Pauw and Kenny De Ketele, are in attendance.

Leif Lampater is another former winner who will be taking part in 2017, as is Elia Viviani, who finished third with Iljo Keisse in 2017.

Also among the favourites are likely to be the Australian pairing of Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson, who triumphed in the London Six Day a couple of weeks ago, while Morgan Kneisky and Benjamin Thomas both have Madison World Championships to their names, so are bound to be a threat.

The sole British pairing in the men’s races will be Mark Stewart and Ollie Wood.

In the women’s event, the star attractions will be the home pairing of Jolien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky, who will face a stiff challenge from the Dutch team of Kristen Wild and Amy Pieters.

Younger riders are also given a unique chance to experience the atmosphere of the Kuipke velodrome and entertain the rowdy crowd between the elite race, with five British riders in Ethan Vernon, Will Tidball, Oliver Moors, Conor Davies, and Nick Cooper given an opportunity to shine.

Men

1. Morgan Kneisky (Fra)/Benjamin Thomas (Fra)
2. Elia Viviani (Ita)/Michele Scartezzini (Ita)
3. Moreno De Pauw (Bel)/Kenny De Ketele (Bel)
4. Gerben Thijssen (Bel)/Leif Lampater (Ger)
5. Cameron Meyer (Aus)/Callum Scotson (Aus)
6. Otto Vergaerde (Bel)/Nick Stöpler (Ned)
7. Mark Stewart (GBr)/Ollie Wood (GBr)
8. Robbe Ghys (Bel)/Lindsay De Vylder (Bel)
9. Yoeri Havik (Ned)/Wim Stroetinga (Ned)
10. Roy Pieters (Ned)/Jonas Rickaert (Bel)
11. Christian Grasmann (Ger)/Marc Hester (Den)
12. Tristan Marguet (Sui)/Louis Pijourlet (Fra)

Women

1. Jolien D’Hoore (Bel)/Lotte Kopecky (Bel)
2. Gilke Crocket (Bel)/Saartje Vandenbroucke (Bel)
3. Clara Copponi (Fra)/Typhaine Laurance (Fra)
4. Mylène de Zoete (Ned)/Marit Raaijmakerst (Ned)
5. Rachele Barbieri (Ita)/Alisa Balsamo (Ita)
6. Amy Pieters (Ned)/Kirsten Wild (Ned)
7. Trine Schmidt (Den)

Under 23

1. Jules Hester (Bel)/Brian Boussaer (Bel)
2 Matthias Vanbeethoven (Bel)/Arne De Groote (Bel)
3. Vincent Meyers (Bel)/Maths Heinderson (Bel)
4. Mathias Lefeber (Bel)/Michael Steyaert (Bel)
5. Ethan Vernon (GBr) Will Tidball (Gbr)
6. Vincent Crabos (Fra)/Florentin Lecamus-Lambert (Fra)
7. Filippo Ferronato (Ita)/Matteo Donega (Ita)
8. Bas Ottevanger (Ned)/Oliver Moors (GBr)
9. Moritz Malcharek (Ger)/Rico Brückner (Ger)
10. Andreas Kron (Den)/Arne Birkemose (Den)
11. Nils Weisspfennig (Ger)/Moritz Augenstein (Ger)
12. Conor Davies (GBr)/Nick Cooper (GBr)

Live TV Guide

Unfortunately there is no live TV coverage of the Ghent Six Day in the UK in 2017. However with Eurosport holding the rights for coverage, there may well be a chance to catch up with the highlights after the event.

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.

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.