The lights are low, flashing red, white and blue as the riders fly past, arms length away, circling the top of the track. More and more join as they pass, lifting their hands into the air, playing up to the crowd. While never reserved at the Lee Valley Velopark, the crowd cheer and stamp with an energy a step up for events I’ve been to in the past. In part due to the dance music blasting from the live DJ in the centre of the track, and in part to the excitement of the first six day track event to be held in London for 35 years.
As the house lights come back up, the riders dive down into the organised chaos of the first Madison of the evening. Knowing members of the crowd lean in to their friends or partners and try to explain what’s going on, but it doesn’t matter. The energy is electric; six day racing is back in London.
The London event managed to achieve the one thing it needed to. It brought the classic format of 6 day racing back to London with all the atmosphere and excitement of the team track competition, but it also made it feel fresh.
The Lee Valley is an undeniably beautiful venue. There is a great sense of space while still allowing the crowd to feel close to the action at all times. We saw riders on proper Derny bikes rather than the electric bicycles that have used this track previously. Their low hum buzzing under the sound of the music and the crowd. But they were also fitted for the first time I know of, with onboard cameras.
Seeing the facial expressions of riders as they fought to keep up with their pacing bikes at 50 kilometres an hour was reminiscent of the fantastic footage from the Team Giant-Alpecin YouTube channel during the Tour De France, only this time it was fully integrated into the coverage. On board video of the mass of riders competing in the Madison projected across the huge stadium screens.
I went to the Lee Valley 6 day London event expecting to get geared up for next month’s Gent Six. It has become something of a pilgrimage for track cycling fans, particularly as I never had the pleasure of attending a six day event in London during the 80’s. Instead it has me counting the days until next year. The six day racing is back in London, and long may it continue.