In pre-war Europe the success of American Six Day Racing didn’t go unnoticed and across the continent races sprang up drawing stars from across the Atlantic to pit themselves against the elite of European racing. In an age suffering under the weight of depression, Six Day racing provided cheap, thrilling, mass spectator entertainment, nowhere more so than Germany where there were events in Bremen, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Hannover, Cologne and Berlin. The scale of Germany’s Six Day calendar was soon equaled by Belgium, Holland, Italy and France with just a single annual event taking place in the sports birthplace, Great Britain.
Whilst the Second World War temporarily halted the sport, Six Day events soon began to reappear. The formula of spectacular and affordable entertainment for the masses being just what war-ravaged Europe craved. America meanwhile had entered the more affluent age of the automobile and the sport failed to reignite, with Madison Square Garden finally closing its doors to Six Day racing in 1950.
Six Day events were organized in Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Grenoble, Ghent, Copenhagen and Milan, in addition to the raft in West Germany, and as the sport continued to mature through the 1960’s and 70’s it hosted many of the world’s top professional road stars including Britain’s Tom Simpson, Rudi Altig of Germany, the Dutchman Gerrie Knetemann and the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx from Belgium, drawn by large sums offered as start money.
With more money available on the lucrative winter Six Day circuit than on the road during the summer, specialist Six Day riders began to dominate. The most successful of these was the great Belgian Patrick Sercu, although he was by no means the only rider to make a fine career as a Six Day racing expert.
In 1967 Six Day racing finally saw the reintroduction of a London Six Day at Earls Court, ushering in significant format changes. Racing deep into the night was scrapped and a shortened, more spectator friendly programme was favoured.
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