The Madison – Part Of Australia’s Cycling Heritage

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Summer is upon us and for many cyclists and enthusiasts track season is here. For over 30 years the Madison has been a mainstay of Australian cycling. Once you understand what’s going on and how to follow it, it’s one of the most thrilling races in cycling.

A variety of Aussie riders have seen international success in the Madison including:

• 1979 European Championships: Danny Clarke and Don Allen- Gold

• 1988 Europen Championships: Danny Clarke and Tony Doyle – Gold

• 1996 UCI Track World Championships – Stephen Pate and Scott McGrory – Silver

• 2000 Olympic Games – Scott McGrory and Brett Aitken – Gold

• 2004 Olympic Games – Stuart O’Grady and Graeme Brown – Gold

• 2009 UCI Junior Track World Championships – Luke Durbrige and Alex Carver – Gold

• 2009 UCI Track World Championships – Leigh Howard & Cam Meyer – Silver

• 2010 UCI Junior Track World Championships – Caleb Ewan and Jackson Law – Gold

• 2010 & 2011 UCI Track World Championships – Leigh Howard & Cam Meyer – Gold

Australia currently has Madison World Champions Leigh Howard and Cam Meyer, recent World Cup Winners Glenn O’Shea and Alex Edmondson, and Junior World Champions Jackson Law and Caleb Ewan. The honour role from the Australian Championships reads as a “Who’s Who” of track cycling including big names such as:

• Stuart O’Grady (1994): A Year after winning his first Rainbow Jersey (Team Pursuit)

• Scott McGrory (1995): 2000 Olympic Madison Gold Medallist

• Mark Renshaw (2001): Bursting onto the scene as a 19 year old to take the title with Stephen Wooldrige

• Stephen Pate (1995, 96, 97, 98, 2000): 5 Straight Victories for Pate (1999 was a wash out)

• Jack Bobridge (2007 & 2011): Bobridge took his first title out as an 18 year old with Glenn O’Shea.

• Baden Cook (2000); Two years prior to winning the GC at the Herald Sun Tour and Bronze at the Commonwealth Games.

• Franco Marvulli (2009): As World Champion, Marvulli along with with Leif Lampater won the Australian Championship. It was the third time an international team won the Championship.

While Meyer, Howard, Bobridge have seen domination in the discipline it was years before this that riders like Danny Clarke, Don Allen and Shane Sutton who took on the European contenders and usually won.

The History of the Madison

The Madison began as a way of circumventing laws passed in New York aimed at restricting the exhaustion of cyclists taking part in six day races. Numerous press reports alerted officials to the strain put on riders and the result in New York and Illinois ruled in 1898 that no competitor could race for more than 12 hours a day. The promoter of the event at Madison Square Garden, reluctant to close his stadium for half the day, realised that giving each rider a partner with whom he could share the racing meant the race could still go on 24 hours a day but that no one rider would exceed the 12-hour limit. The result was the first “Madison”, named after Madison Square Garden in New York (also known as “course à l’américaine” in French and “Americana” in Italian and Spanish).

click to watch video


The Race

Since the turn of the century the Madison has evolved into a more conventional race where riders in each team riding part of the distance, “slinging” the other member, resting, and then returning into the race. The race is known as the “Teams Race” of track cycling and is the most colourful track event using skills of sprinting, pursuiting, bike handling and race tactics. I’ve only done a Madison in training but have never done a race. I’d love to give it a go one day.

The Madison has come into the modern format of 200 laps of racing with both riders on the track at the same time. One rider racing on the short line around the bottom of the track and the other idling higher up recovering until his turn comes. A team wins by either gaining laps on the field or by accumulating the most points in special sprints that are designated every 20 laps.

Despite its history and excitement, it took until 1995 to add the Madison to the UCI Track World Championships and yr2000 was the first time the event was competed at the Olympic Games. Unfortunately the 2008 Olympics were the last time the Madison would be raced at that level. Let’s hope sense prevails and the Madison comes back to the Olympic program.

Major Australian Madison Events

The Madison in Australia has seen a number of incarnations from former six-day races taking place in Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Maryborough and Townsville. While many some Madison events still exist throughout the country there are two key events in the summer: the Australian Madison Championship and Bendigo Madison.

Australian Madison Championships

The Australian Madison was first raced in 1986 with separate professional and amateur race occurring that year. The inaugural amateur championships were hosted at the Northcote Velodrome, which had been run previously as the Melbourne Madison, these saw the New South Wales pair of Mark Fulcher and Eddie Salas take out Dean Woods/Rik Patterson and Shaun Wallace (UK)/Peter Steiger (SUI). The professional event was held later in the year at the Cobrug Velodrome in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Austral Wheelrace. Current Derny World Champion, Danny Clarke and 1984 Olympic Team Time Trial Gold Medalist Michael Genda teamed up to lap the entire field. By 1990 the event had become a Pro-Am seeing the best riders within one extraordinary night of racing. The event found its feet at this point with starters including O’Grady and Aitken (starting as team 15 in 1992), McGrory, Pate, Renshaw to today’s stars of Bobridge, Howard and Meyer.

The 2012 Australian Championships will once again be hosted at DISC velodrome this Saturday, December 17th. The event will see no shortage of the best including recent GreenEDGE recruits Cam Meyer and Leigh Howard, Glenn O’Shea and Alex Edmondson, Jackson Law and Caleb Ewan, the international pairing of Franco Marvulli, Marcello Barth, New Zealand pair Jason Allen and Cameron Kawowski. This will be the big hit-out before Meyer and Howard defend their World Championship later this year in Melbourne at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships.

The Bendigo Madison

The Labour Day Cycling Classic known as the The Apex-Lions Bendigo Madison saw it’s inception in 1972 and would see the 1969 Herald Sun Tour winner Keith Olivier pair up with Bob Whetters. The duo dominated the event winning the first three Madisons. By 1979 Bendigo was seen as the top Madison in Australia with Don Allen and Danny Clark dazzling the crowds after their international success respectively winning 4 and 2 international six-day events. By this time the event was attracting significant international interest with riders such as Rene Pijenen (Netherlands). It would take until 1988 to see an international victory at the Bendigo Madison with Stan Tourne teaming up with Max Rainford, who represented Australia throughout the 80’s. The win helped Tourne penetrate the international scene where he went onto win 4 Antwerp six-day and numerous podium places at Ghent.

I’d like to thank Cycling Victoria for helping me with the facts, figures and historical references in this post. I hope to see you there at DISC this Saturday night for the Melbourne Cup on Wheels and the Australian Madison National Championships starting at 6:30pm.


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