The Six Days of Ghent phenomenon
This is Flanders’ point of reference in the change from autumn to winter, an overwhelming party for which you put on your Sunday best during the week; the Lotto Six Days of Flanders-Ghent. It starts on Tuesday 19 November, and is celebrating its 73rd edition no less. Once again, a super-strong field of entrants will be appearing on the track. Following good traditions, over 40,000 spectators will attend this show.
After the very first official six days was ridden in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1899, no one would have suspected that such a track race would still exist more than a century later. A six days is ridden on a covered track between teams that are each made up of two cyclists. The duo that has ridden the most rounds after six days and/or has scored the most points in the various auxiliary competitions wins.
The six days was introduced in Europe in the early 20th century, and the first edition took place in Ghent in 1922. A new track was put into service in 1965 – “Het Kuipke”, after the previous one had been destroyed in a fire three years earlier. Winners in Ghent include major “Six Days Kings” such as Rik Van Steenbergen, Patrick Sercu and Etienne De Wilde, often linked with the famous road racers of the time like Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck.
From the very beginning, the Six Days of Ghent – later renamed the Lotto Six Days of Flanders-Ghent – was a true crowd puller. Ninety years after the first edition, the popularity of the Six Days of Ghent has never been higher. Most tickets are sold out weeks in advance. Every Fleming wants to go to Het Kuipke, whether or not he or she is a cycling connoisseur. The Six Days is and remains a place for the famous and not so famous to meet and greet, and there are many fringe activities set up every evening.
The success of the Six Days of Ghent lives off of tradition on the one hand. It is a sentimental question, as well as a social occasion, that everyone marks in red in their calendars. In a manner of speaking, many peoples’ winters cannot start until they’ve been to Het Kuipke first, which is known for its conviviality – it seems like the start of the year’s end celebrations. It is a party around the race track, every single evening. But it also undoubtedly has to do with the location itself. With a length of 166 metres, Het Kuipke is one of the shortest cycling tracks in the Six Days circuit. This means that you as a spectator can see the entire track. You sit in a sort of theatre as it were, close to the cyclists, and watch the “performance” because Het Kuipke always guarantees a spectacular show. At 52%, the bends are exceptionally sharp, which means that Ghent also has one of the fastest tracks in Europe. There is amazement and admiration every time you watch the cyclists reach speeds of up to 70 km/h, and you have to admit that this really is all about sport.
The 73rd edition of the Lotto Six Days of Flanders-Ghent is once again bringing together many of the biggest names on the track. The Memorial Noël Foré or the Future Six Days for U23’s cyclists are part of the daily pre-show programme. Then it is the professionals’ turn. The team event, the Madison, is the main event, but in the meantime there is also the point trial, the elimination races and a time trial scheduled for every evening. But most people are charmed by the Derny races; the hum of the engines, the pacers who ride high in the track, nearly shoulder to shoulder, slanted through the bends, pulling the riders behind them at high speeds. Thrills galore!
Come to Flanders and experience the amazing atmosphere of the Six Days of Ghent!