Ghent Six Day 2021: everything you need to know

Our guide on everything Ghent Six Day as the racing returns after a year out due to the Pandemic

Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse at Ghent Six in 2019
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ghent Six Day is a track cycling event taking place every year in Ghent, Belgium.

The 2021 holding of the event takes place over November 16-21.

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

So, why's it called a Six?

Well, to put it simply, it takes place over six days. 

But if we want more flesh on the bones here is some more info on the history of Six Day racing. It started out at Madison Square Garden in New York - where Madison comes from - back in the late 1800s.

This saw teams of two racing for 24 hours over six days and nights with one rider racing while the other rested. Sounds brutal, right?

The 24 hours of racing was stopped in the 1960s with races in Europe being the first to halt this, simply because it was idiotic as well as the fact that riders would neutralise the race in the small hours of night with crowds not exactly keen to stick around.

The Ghent Six Day runs for, well, believe it or not, six days, with the racing starting on Tuesday, November 16 and finishing on Sunday, November 21 with racing going into the late hours of one or two in the morning, 6pm on the Sunday

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).

Start list for the 2021 event


1. Michael Mørkøv (Den) and Lasse Norman Hansen (Den)
2. Yoeri Havik (Ned) and Jan-Willem van Schip (Ned)
3. Kenny De Ketele (Bel) and Robbe Ghys (Bel)
4. Iljo Keisse (Bel) and Mark Cavendish (GBr)
5. Otto Vergaerde (Bel) and Jules Hesters (Bel)
6. Roger Kluge (Ger) and Jasper De Buyst (Bel)
7. Fabio van den Bossche (Bel) and Lindsay De Vylder (Bel)
8. Michele Scartezzini (Ita) and Gerben Thijssen (Bel)
9. Jonas Rickaert (Bel) and Silvan Dillier (Sui)
10. Roy Pieters (Ned) and Maikel Zijlaard (Ned)
11. Marc Hester (Den) and Tuur Dens (Bel)
12. Morgan Kneisky (Fra) and Matias Malmberg (Den).

Women (Begins Fri, Nov 19)

1. Lotte Kopecky (Bel)
2. Shari Bossuyt (Bel)
3. Katrijn De Clercq (Bel)
4. Marith Vanhove (Bel)
5. Aaike Cools (Bel)
6. Febe Jooris (Bel)
7. Amy Pieters (Ned)
8. Marit Raaijmakers (Ned)
9. Yuli van der Molen (Ned)
10. Daniek Hengeveld (Ned)
11. Maike van der Duin (Ned)
12. Amalie Winther Olsen (Den)

U23 (Support programme)

1. Noah Vandenbranden (Bel) and Gianluca Pollefliet (Bel)
2. Mattia Pinazzi (Ita) and Davide Boscaro (Ita)
3. Not a used number
4. Benjamin Boos (Ger) and Malte Maschke (Ger)
5. Yorick Slaets (Bel) and Michiel l'Eau (Bel)
6. Dylan Hicks (GBr) and Euan Woodliffe (GBr)
7. Clément Petit (Fra) and Nicolas Hamon (Fra)
8. Noah Hobbs (GBr) and Josh Tarling (GBr)
9. Fabian Weiss (Sui) and Damien Fortis (Sui)
10. Yanne Dorenbos (Ned) and Noël Luijten (Ned)
11. Arthur Senrame (Bel) and Jakov Beirlaen (Bel)
12. Jasper Bertels (Bel) and Inias Leten (Bel)

What's the racing like?

The joys of Six Day racing can also be incredibly confusing and difficult to follow, especially when riders are looking to gain laps on each other as well as taking points on sprint laps. 

Some of the races include the Derny race where riders follow a pedalled motorbike around the track reaching amazing speeds, the Elimination race, the Scratch race, Madison, one lap time trial.

How do they decide who wins?

So you have to know your maths, so do the riders. Some will be having to watch the big screens and calculate what they need to either hold the lead, take the lead or fight for a better position in the overall.

It's based on points given on sprint laps, with five down to one on those, double on the finish with 20 points available for a lap gain, mainly in the Madison, and -20 points for losing a lap. This applies to most races except the Scratch, Elimination and the Derny where the points are decided on your finishing place. To add to the complication, every 100 points won the team is given a free lap.

By the way, sprint laps are announced by a bell in the middle of the track.

How far do they race?

This is very hard to calculate due to rider being in and out of the race as they take turns racing with their team-mate. 

When they are not racing they are usually keeping out of the way at the top of the track.

Really it's a wonder they don't get dizzy and fall off with laps lasting around 11 to 12 seconds over hundreds of laps per night. If it has been a tough week it is possible that they will be racing around 1,000km.

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

Local sponsors pay to be associated with the teams.

Why the hype?

The Kuipke is unique in the world of European velodromes, firstly due to it being much shorter than the standard velodrome (which is 250m) as this venue is 166-metres long, this makes it a close and intimate venue with incredibly steep banking on the corners.

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.

How long has it been going?

The Ghent Six Day was first held back in 1922 which was won by Marcel Buysse and the superbly named Oscar Egg. Great rider, but he didn’t half cause a mess when he fell off.

The rider who has won the event the most times is Patrick Sercu who claimed victory with various team-mates 11 times. Australian rider Danny Clark has six.

Bradley Wiggins has won the event twice (2003/2016) and come second once (2002) making him the most successful Brit at the event, taking the 2016 event as Madison world champions along with Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish had also come second along with Deceuninck - Quick-Step team-mate and Six Day racing legend, Iljo Keisse in 2014.

The last winners of the event was another Six Day star in Kenny De Ketele, along with new partner Robbe Ghys back in 2019. There was not 2020 event due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Why do they tuck their jerseys into their shorts?

This has become something of a tradition, and we all know cycling and it's traditions. It's basically a nod back to the times where jerseys were quite baggy and needed to be tucked in. 

They look like muppets now and we would not recommend it for a steady pedal round your local roads. Although, saying that, long socks and socks over leggings have caught on, so who knows! Be a trend setter.

More info: Ghent Six Day website

Tim Bonville-Ginn
Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.