With five months to go until Six Day London 2017 kicks off, we’re taking a look back into the history books at the five most successful Six Day riders of all time.
Before it’s rebirth in 2015, Six Day racing had been absent from the capital city since 1980 – but it was here that it was first born.
After its origins in 1878, Six Day racing became popular first in New York’s Madison Square Garden – hence the Madison title for the modern-day event’s showpiece race – before transferring its success to France, Belgium and Germany.
Six Day London was born in 1923 and has been held at various venues, including Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Wembley Arena and the current home of Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome.
Belgium’s Patrick Sercu holds the record for a remarkable eight Six Day London wins from the 23 events that have been held to date – with his heyday coming in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, as he won his eight of the 11 races held between 1968 and 1979.
The legendary lowlander is not only the most successful Six Day London rider of all time, he is also the most successful Six Day rider in history – so where better to start our top five, than with him?!
Patrick Sercu - Belgium
A three-time sprint World Champion and 1964 kilo Olympic champion, Patrick Sercu is the king of Six Day cycling.
With 88 wins from 223 races, he is 14 clear of his nearest rival Danny Clark – but he does fall down on the best win ratio, with Eddy Merckx dominating that stat.
He also won the Green Jersey in the 1974 Tour de France, won six stages in La Grande Boucle and 11 at the Giro d’Italia, as well as placing highly in cobbles classics Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem – making him one of the most decorated, and versatile, riders of the 60s and 70s.
The great man’s first win came at the famed Ghent Six, in 1965, when he raced alongside Merckx.
And from then on he won at least one Six Day in every year until his retirement, in 1971.
His most productive years came when racing with Dutchman Peter Post – himself fourth on the all-time winners list – as the pair notched up 14 race wins in the years before they split in 1971.
Danny Clark – Australia
Like Sercu, Clark was not just a Six Day specialist and won five rainbow jerseys in a glittering career that also included a silver medal in the kilo at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
The Aussie won seven other World Championship medals during his 26-year career, before extending his time on the Six Day tracks by becoming a Derny driver.
Following his achievements on the bike Clark received a medal of the Order of Australia, in 1986, and a year later was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
Clark won a total of 74 Six Day races from 235 attempts, and did them all in a style and manner capable only of an Aussie.
Sporting a famous moustache, Clark was accustomed to joining live bands on the microphone in the track centre during breaks in the action.
Rene Pijnen – The Netherlands
Another of the Six Day greats to have success on the road, Pijnen won a bronze medal at the 1967 World Championships in the road race, and a gold at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games in the 100km team time trial.
Pijnen won 72 Six Day races from his 233 starts and a record six European Madison titles – a mark he shares with Sercu.
The Dutchman also won four stages of the Vueta a Espana, three of which were in the 1971 edition of the race – although he did admit to being ‘bored’ by the length of road races, despite riding for the TI-Raleigh team that was managed by Post.
His Six Day career actually began alongside Post, as he won his first Six Day title in Antwerp, in 1970, with his fellow Dutchman.
Pijnen’s list of Six Day teammates reads like a who’s who of cycling, having ridden with Francesco Moser, Merckx, Clark, Roger de Vlaeminck and Sercu, among others.
Peter Post – The Netherlands
Nicknamed ‘The Emperor of the Six Days’, Post won 65 races from just 155 starts, giving him an impressive 41.94 win percentage.
Born in 1933, Post competed in the final few US Six Day races, and won his first in Chicago, in 1957, before going on to dominate when the events regained popularity in Europe.
And the form he generated through a winter of riding on the track clearly made for good legs on the road, as he became the first ever Dutch rider to win the Parix-Roubaix Monument, when racing to victory in 1964 in the fastest ever race to the Roubaix velodrome – until this year.
The year prior to that he became Dutch national road race champion and was on La Fleche Wallone’s podium three times, without ever winning.
But it was on the track that Post was most successful, with his final win coming in Frankfurt, in 1971, to end a fine career in style.
Bruno Risi – Switzerland
The fourth nation to be represented in the top five of Six Day riders, Risi racked up a remarkable 61 wins from 178 starts during his career.
Now retired, Risi enjoyed success late into his career and twice won the World Madison title in his 30s – the second title coming in Palma, in 2007, when he rode to victory with Franco Marvulli, aged 38.
In total Risi won seven rainbow jerseys and took his first Six Day victory in Dortmund, in 1992, alongside Kurt Betschart.
Both from the Swiss town of Erstfeld, the duo who grew up together can now lay claim to being the most successful Six Day pairing in history, having gone on to rack 37 wins as a team.
And while his pairing with Marvulli may not have been quite as prolific, the pair did win Olympic silver in the Madison at Athens 2004, with Team GB’s Rob Hayles and Bradley Wiggins picking up the bronze.