Six Day racing comes to Melbourne: What you need to know
Australia’s international road season might be over, but the Aussie summer of cycling is not. Six Day Melbourne is set to kick off on Thursday February 7, with local cycling fans turning their attention to the boards.
A modern take on a traditional track cycling format, the Six Day Series is fast growing in popularity, and with the Melbourne event, ventures onto Australian soil for the first time. Six Day Racing combines a party-like atmosphere with some of the world’s best track cyclists, creating great entertainment in some of the best velodromes around the world. It’s a spectator-friendly event, with the lights turned down, a DJ in the infield spinning tunes and beer flowing freely.
The events – predictably enough – tend to run over six days, but for the Australian legs of the event the ‘six day’ descriptor is more about the ethos than the duration. The Melbourne event for instance runs over three nights, from Thursday February 7 to Saturday February 9.
Melbourne Arena (formerly Hisense Arena) plays host to Six Day Melbourne. It’s a truly world-class venue, having hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, in addition to the 2006 Commonwealth Games track events and numerous rounds of the UCI Track World Cup.
The track itself is 250m in length, 7m wide and features a cambered Siberian pine surface ranging from 13º on the straights up to 41º on the bends.
How the race is won
The format for the Six Day Series is relatively simple; 30 of the world’s best track cyclists make up 15 teams of two who compete across five disciplines over three days until one winner is announced on the final night. Each team accumulates points over the course of the event with events carrying between 3 and 30 points.
There will be five track cycling events contested at the Six Day Series. Read on or click the links below for more detail about each.
The endurance races on the roster at Six Day Melbourne require strength, stamina and rely heavily on tactics. It’s common to see time trial specialists and strong road cyclists compete in track endurance events as the physical demands are not far removed from those required on the road.
Teams of two compete over a set time with a similar set of rules to the Points Race. The Time limit varies between 20, 25, 30 and 45 minutes on days one and two, with the final Madison Chase contested over an hour. Each team must have one rider racing at all times, while the other rests. Changeovers can only occur via touch, normally in the form of a push or, in modern times, a ‘sling’ motion to help propel the riders along the track. Sprints are held every 15 minutes with 5, 3, 2 and 1 point awarded for the top four finishers.
Riders start together and are eliminated if they are the last across the line on specific laps. Unlike in most races, the action in the elimination race tends to take place at the back of the pack. A rider is eliminated every two laps until there are only two riders left. At that point the remaining riders sprint it out for the win. It’s not possible to “take a lap” in an elimination race.
The elite women contest the Omnium. The ultimate event for all-around track cyclists, the Omnium is raced over three days and comprises five different events that require a mix of power and endurance. It’s cycling’s equivalent of the decathlon or heptathlon.
The events in the omnium include:
Scratch race: The simplest of all the track events. The rider who crosses the finish line first wins. The distance for the men is 15km, while the women race 10km.
Elimination race: As above, the riders start together and are eliminated if they are the last across the line on specific laps. The field is cut down until there are only a few riders left to sprint for the win.
Madison: As above.
Points race: The Points race is one of the hardest to follow for newcomers to track cycling due to the large number of points up for grabs and the number of cyclists on the track at one time. The men race over 40km and the women 25km. Every 10 laps there is a sprint and 5, 3, 2, 1 points given to the first four riders across the line. On top of those points, if a rider manages to lap the field they are awarded 20 points. Tactics play a huge role in the Points race because some riders will contest every sprint, while others will sit back, wait for riders to get tired and then try to lap the field to earn big points.
The Omnium is a complicated event and requires consistency from the riders to achieve a good result. The rider with the highest point total at the end of the events will win (a rider has to finish each event of the Omnium to win overall.)
Riders receive points based on their placing in each event. For the Scratch, Madison and Elimination race, the winner receives 50 points, second place receives 44 points, third place receives 40 points and so on. This pattern continues down to the 24th-placed rider and below, who all receive one point for finishing.
Points from the Points Race — the final event — are added to an omnium rider’s total points. If the scores are tied at the end of the Points Race, the places in the final sprint will be used to decide a winner.
A different roster of riders contest the sprint events. These events are short in duration and require raw power rather than endurance and strength. Tactics play a large role in the Sprint and Keirin competitions, requiring riders to play cat-and-mouse with their opponents to gain the upper hand.
Riders line up vertically on the track and start from a stationary position. The Sprint is won in a best-of-three race contest and riders will alternate their riding start position.
The lead rider often dictates how the race will play out, not wanting to provide a drafting opportunity for the rider behind. As a result, the lead rider will often try to slow down, forcing the following rider to the front or riding slow enough to not provide any advantage. Riders will often come to a complete stop to make this happen.
Rules in the sprint stipulate there must be no backward movement, so riders will ‘track-stand’, holding themselves in a stationary position on the track waiting for the other rider to break first and roll to the front. Officials can call a truce on this and either re-start the sprint or tell the riders to move on if they feel the race is being hindered by these negative tactics.
Riders compete against each other one on one, the first across the line wins the sprint.
Also contested is the 200m flying time trial, where sprinters will take to the track solo, building up speed over 800m before launching into an explosive sprint for the final 200m. The fastest time wins.
The Keirin is one of the fastest track cycling events thanks to a motor-pacer that sets the pace before releasing the riders to sprint for victory.
Riders perform eight laps of the 250m track initially following the motor-pacer, typically a small motorbike or electronic bike, that starts slowly (approximately 25kph) and gradually increases in speed (to approximately 50kph) while riders line up behind, ready to attack when they are released.
Riders cannot attack over the top of the motor-pacer and have to wait until it exits the track, which happens with three laps to go. Strong riders on the final lap of a Keirin can reach speeds in excess of 70kph approaching the finish line.
The Six Day Melbourne roster is stacked with some of track cycling’s biggest stars, so there are quite a few riders worth keeping your eye on over the course of the event:
Fifteen teams of two will battle it out for overall honours in the Elite Men’s category and there’s no shortage of Aussie talent on the start list.
Sam Welsford / Cameron Scott (AUS) – Arguably the strongest local outfit entered in the event, the All-Australian squad represents the future of Australian track cycling. For two riders in their early 20s, a combined total of two UCI Track Cycling World titles, two Commonwealth gold medals, an Olympic silver and an Under-23 National Criterium Championship title is certainly impressive and sure to place the pair in good stead.
Chris Latham / Andy Tennant (GBR) – With a long and storied career, English track cycling veteran Andy Tennant is slated to team up with up-and-coming young gun Chris Latham at Six Day Melbourne. With a combined palmares including UCI World Titles, European Championships and Commonwealth Games gold medals, expect the British duo to feature at the pointy end of the standings.
Shane Archbold / Aaron Gate (NZL) – Nicknamed “The Flying Mullet”, cult cycling icon Shane Archbold is set to team up with fellow Kiwi and strong track cyclist Aaron Gate. The pair have a string of results on the track and in the world of road cycling with both riders currently riding for UCI Continental squad EvoPro Racing.
Henning Bommel / Kerstein Thiele (GER) – A pair of Six Day Cycling specialists, the German duo of Henning Bommel and Kersten Thiele both cut their teeth on the European leg of the series. The duo comes into the Melbourne event full of confidence after a strong showing at Six Day Berlin where the pair consistently featured in the top five of each event.
Shane Perkins (RUS) – Now riding under the Russian flag, former Australian track cyclist Shane “Perko” Perkins comes into Six Day Melbourne as one of the outright favourites to take out the sprint competition. Perkins impressed at the recent Six Day Berlin event, taking out the individual sprint and finishing third overall.
Tom Clarke (AUS) – Representing the new wave of Australian track sprinters, Tom Clarke enters 2019 and the Six Day Series on the back of success, having taken out gold in the individual sprint at the recent UCI Track WorldCup event in Hong Kong.
Azizulhasni Awang (MAS) – The small-statured sprinter Azizulhasni Awang – nicknamed the “Pocket Rocketman” due to his small stature – became the first Malaysian sprinter to take out a UCI World Track Cycling title in 2017 after winning gold in the Keirin. With an impressive turn of speed and solid racecraft, expect him to feature strongly in the standings.
A total of 24 women complete the roster for Six Day Melbourne, and unsurprisingly, some of Cycling Australia’s brightest stars feature on the start list.
Annette Edmondson / Alex Manly (AUS) – Arguably the strongest-credentialed pairing on the entry list, the pair come into Six Day Melbourne riding a wave of success after the recent UCI Track World Cup event in Hong Kong where “Nettie” took out gold in the women’s Omnium. The pair has also tasted team success in the past, taking out gold in the team pursuit at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Kristina Clonan / Amy Cure (AUS) – Another strong homegrown pairing, both Cure and Clonan feature on the Australian Track Cycling team and excel in points and scratch race disciplines. Expect the pair to challenge strongly for overall honours.
Abbie Dentus / Manon Lloyd (GBR) – Relative newcomers to the Six Day Series, the British Pairing of Abbie Dentus and Manon Lloyd is expected to have a strong showing at Six Day Melbourne. Riding under the British Track Cycling banner, the pair has impressed in recent times, taking out a host of medals at UCI Track World Cup and European Championship level.