by Steve Penny
The United States is of course embedded in Six Day racing tradition, the main race of a Six Day Ďthe Madisoní was named after the discipline evolved during Six Day races at New Yorkís legendary Madison Square Garden. There were 70 Six Day races in all, held at Madison Square Garden, but the last time was 1961. There were 31 American and Canadian cities (add link to US Cities 6 Day list) that hosted Sixes, many during the golden era of the 1920ís and 30ís. Those races, whilst always having a European and Australian presence, were how many American and Canadian cyclists of the time made their living.
In modern times, North Americans have made their mark on the European road scene, those riders being among the most famous and successful in the history of the sport. But what about the track and that Ďtraditionalí American form of racing Six Days?
The only American rider in recent times to have had any impact at all is Marty Nothstein. He converted from a match sprinter and Keirin specialist to a track endurance rider after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He actually won the Moscow Six with Ryan Oelkers in 2002, but with all due respect that event didnít have a top level (Six Day) field. Marty rode his last Six Day in 2004.
Despite this brief interlude, the one thing we havenít seen at major Six Day races in 50 years is a regular American pairing. The Union of International Velodromes (UIV) President, Henrik Elmgreen told us in Berlin earlier this year that heíd love to see a regular American team in Europe. In fact, Colby Pearce and Daniel Holloway rode the Dortmund Six earlier this month and have a contract for the Zurich Six in December, but they are far from being established.
This winter young Americans Guy East and Austin Carroll have embarked on a European adventure of their own racing in the ĎUIV Under 25 Cupí, the series took the place of what were formerly the amateur Six Days. The amateur Sixes have traditionally been a prelude to the main events with a view to unearthing riders for the future.
They are riding the Ghent Under 25 race, called the Toekomst or future in Flemish. It consists of a nightly 200 lap Madison preceded by either a flying lap or 500 metre time trial, with the final day Ďjustí having a 250 lap Madison. The two 21 year olds are currently in 2nd place and before Saturday eveningís races I caught up with Guy East (and later Austin Carroll) to hear the story:
Steve Penny: So where did you grow up Guy?
Guy East: Indianapolis.
SP: And how did you get into cycling?
GE: Well, my Dad was the one that got me into cycling, taking me out on rides when I was like 13. At first Iíd be yelling after him asking him to wait for me but of course I improved!!!
SP: So was your Dad a cyclist?
GE: Yeah, well, he was a tri-athlete.
SP: So how did you get into the track?
GE: Well, there is a track in ĎIndií (Indianapolis) and I kinda got started there. I soon realised that the track was a good path to the national team and of course riding on the road and track helps you a lot. Iíve really learned a lot from racing on the track and it has also helped me for the road.
SP: So is it an outdoor track at Indianapolis?
GE: Yeah itís pretty big at 333 metres, a lot different from this one here in Ghent!!!
SP: So are you guys based in Europe now?
GE: Yeah, the national team has a house in Kortrijk Belgium, so we race in the spring and summer on the road and then the guys who do track or cyclo cross stay here for the winter.
SP: So are the riders all young guys?
GE: We are all under 23 and compete in that category of racing.
SP: Have you enjoyed living and racing in Belgium?
GE: YeahÖ absolutely. The racing here in Belgium, particularly in the spring and summer, is just unbelievable and the amount of stuff Iíve learnt -- riding inter club races, some kermesses etc., itís a hard school.
SP: So ultimately are you working with the programme to race at World Championships on the track or do you see your future on the road?
GE: I mean our goal is to go to the 2012 Olympics on the track, but also to try and get into the pro Sixes, but I just take it one day at a time and hopefully itíll all fall into place.
SP: So you are working towards the track and the Sixes? I find in Belgium, UK etc., once anyone shows any real promise they go off and race the road with small teams.
GE: Well, I want to keep things open, but I do really love the Six Days. The atmosphere is incredible and not many Americans have experienced it. Weíve loved our time over here and I hope it can continue and eventually we can get to race among the pros!!!
SP: So is the Madison your speciality?
GE: Yeah, itís such a dynamic race. Iíve just fallen in love with it.
SP: Have you raced other track disciplines back in the States?
GE: Yeah, absolutely, but the Madison is just such a hard but exciting race and the Six Day crowds get a thrill from it too, so it is now my favourite event.
SP: So how many UIV Cup Sixes have you done this year?
GE: This is actually our 5th, as weíve done one in Italy, Amsterdam, Dortmund, Munich and now here we are in Ghent.
SP: Italy was the summer Six in Fiorenzuola on the big outdoor track?
SP: So was this your first season at the UIV Sixes?
GE: No. We did some last season and that was a really big learning experience, but weíve got a whole lot better since then.
SP: Which ones did you do last time then?
GE: We did the same autumn / early winter block- Amsterdam, Dortmund, Munich and Ghent.
SP: So all the others are 200m tracks arenít theyÖ how do you find this smaller (166m) track?
GE: This is my favourite track, itís a thriller rideÖ thatís for sure!!! Dortmund is very bumpy, not a bad track, but this one is a dream.
SP: Is this your last Six for this season?
GE: Yeah, we finish after this race and are in fact due to go back to the States this week, although we may get back for Copenhagen at the end of January, not sure yet.
SP: With all the cycling media coverage being about the road, especially in the States with the success of a certain Texan, how and when did you become aware of Six Day races and their history in the States?
GE: There was a book that came out by Mark Tyson (The Six Day Bicycle Races: Americas Jazz Age Sport. ed) and it outlined a lot of history and that kind of squared me out a little bit with the history in the States. It certainly got me interested.
SP: I know that the UIV President is keen on getting an American presence in the Six Days again.
GE: Yeah, that is our goal and there is a team doing 3 pro Sixes this year, Holloway and Pearce. Hopefully one day we can follow them in and being based in Europe is the place to be. Itíd be great eventually to get a Six back in the States and I know some people are working on that so hopefullyÖ
SP: So do the real hardcore Ďtrackiesí at Indianapolis follow the Six Day scene?
GE: Yeah, and when I was living in Pennsylvania they are really into it, guys like Jack Simes (senior) who actually rode some Sixes.
SP: His son is racing here isnít he, is he with the US programme?
GE: Yes, he is here, but no he is not with national team, he is independent. I raced with him for a few nights last year after Austin crashed out.
SP: Ok, thanks Guy Iíll let you get ready to race.
I also caught up with Guys partner Austin Carroll for a short chat:
SP: Where are you from?
Austin Carroll: I live in the city of Orange close to Los Angeles
SP: When did you start riding?
AC: Well, Iíve been riding bikes forever!!! BMX etc. and I started racing Mountain bikes when I was about 15. When the LA velodrome was built (2004 ed), I started riding there and got into more of a cross training between road and track, but I got hooked on the track. Itís been an awesome thing to do and since Iíve been taking steps from level to level and now Iím racing these UIV Sixes, doing well and competing to win these things which is really cool.
SP: Was your family into cycling?
AC: My folks did triathlon and stuff, so that was part of the influence.
SP: Cycling is not a big sport in Southern California though is it?
AC: No, but there is a cycling community who do it on a competitive level.
SP: Do you get to train on the track in LA?
AC: Well, I get there 3 or 4 times a week, so I do get some good track time in.
SP: I was asking Guy about getting into the pro Sixes, do you harbour similar ambitions?
AC: I mean, the pro Six Days are just amazing, awesome!!! You know the fast racing, the spectatorsÖjust the whole thing. That is a goal for me, but Iím trying to do something on the road as that is also important. Track and road complement each other pretty well as of course you canít race the road in the winter and there are no track races in the summer.
SP: So how do you split up your year percentage wise between road and track?
AC: Well, itís like the summer is all on the road with one or two track races, although without any real focus on them. Then towards the end of the road season weíll do all the proper preparation for tracking racing, as you canít just hop onto a track bike and go race, you have to get the leg speed which takes a little time when switching from road to track.
East and Carroll finished 2nd overall in the UIV Cup event at Ghent. It will be interesting to see if they are able to fulfil their ambitions in the years to come. We wish them all the best.