It’s St George’s Day here in England, and with Six Day London little more than six months away, we’re going to be very self-indulgent and look at just why London is so great.
Six Day racing originated in London back in 1878, but it disappeared from the cycling landscape for more than 30 years until Six Day London resurrected the grand old tradition back in 2015.
In just two editions of the re-formed race it has already gone from strength to strength, with the field that gathered to race in 2016 one of the most decorated in Six Day history, with multiple Olympic and World Champions taking to the track – in both the men’s and women’s field.
So, with this being April 23, let us run you through just a few of the things our riders and cycling luminaries had to say about this fair city, and the world-class Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome – that also played host to the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
And where better to start that the king, or rather the knight, of the track, Sir Bradley Wiggins – who enjoyed his Six Day London experience so much he even considered delaying his eventual retirement.
“I’ve enjoyed it that much that I just don’t know at the moment. Madison Sports Group have got big plans for this kind of thing and I’d love to still be a part of it in the future,” he said.
And his racing partner from London, Mark Cavendish, was just as effusive about the place – especially as it was where he and Sir Brad won their second world Madison title together earlier in 2016.
“It’s been brilliant,” said Cavendish after finishing second overall. “Crowds have been phenomenal every night and that’s what it’s about.
“The noise was just like when we won the World Championships back in March. We fought and we’re happy we could be in this position.”
The London love is not just reserved for riders who won a world title there, though – with even Katie Archibald (yep, we said it, a Scot!) professing her love for the venue and the event.
“I had a fantastic time,” said the Six Day London women’s omnium champion. “I feel like I had some really iconic moments racing against the fierce rivalry there was there.”
While the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) also admitted to being a fan – not just of London, but also the rebirth of Six Day racing in the city.
“It’s brilliant to be back here after the World Championships and the Olympic games, of course, and to see a full house,” said Brian Cookson.
“The crowd’s full and the atmosphere is absolutely electric and we’ve seen some brilliant racing.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant line-up. You’ve got all the specialists here as well as the world champions of the different disciplines.
“You’ve got the great women’s riders here too, it’s an absolutely brilliant event.”
Even fashion designer Sir Paul Smith was getting all doe eyed about the racing, with the Nottingham style icon having been invited to the event by both Cavendish and Wiggins.
“I’m old enough to have gone to some of the Six Days from a long time ago,” he said. “They were all so exciting and it was a shame that we lost it from London for a while, so it’s really great to have it back, and obviously for it to be part of a Series as well, going to other countries.
“Obviously it’s a bit more theatre than a lot of cycling on the road or World Championships, which is good.
“It’s about entertainment, it’s about a night out for all the spectators, and how great to see such big crowds - it’s amazing.”
But we’ll leave the final word to another knight, the retired Sir Chris Hoy of all people, who admitted to more than a touch of jealousy at seeing the sprinters getting to do their thing in front of a packed crowd for six nights in a row.
“When you get out of the tunnel into the track centre the atmosphere hits you,” the six-time Olympic champion said. “As a rider it brings back the memories of racing in the Six Days and, yeah I’ll be honest with you, I’d love to be out there - it’s amazing.
“The reception these riders are getting every time they get on the track, it’s really special.
“The second best thing is being in the track centre, though, with a beer in your hand, having a bit of fun.”
So, what are you waiting for? You heard the man. If you can’t ride there, the next best thing is to get your tickets and witness the best in the business riding their hearts out for Six Days in a row.