THE race you are now witnessing is the fourth Six Day Race to be held at the Wembley Pool. In 1936, when the first race was staged, this class of racing was new to the British public, and many thought that a race of this description would not make an appeal.
The first hour of that race dispelled any doubts in this respect, as there were sufficient action and thrills packed into that short space of time to satisfy the most ardent critic.
Since that day Six Day Cycle Racing has never looked back, and while the Wembley management continue to bring such teams of world renown into the race, then the "Six" is here to stay.
In bringing over these famous riders, Wembley have rendered a great service to English Cycling sport, in that they have given the fans the opportunity of seeing in action the champions they have heard so much about. Their wonderful and colourful riding have in addition been an inspiration and education to many of our aspiring speedmen.
This year the management has given us even a greater feast of talent by bringing such famous riders as Van Vliet and Scherens into the race. Never before have two such world's champions been brought together in a "Six". Their presence will bring an added interest into the sprints, which, with their clear cut results, make a special appeal to many of the Wembley fans.
With these two famous sprinters in the race many of the sprints will be literally world's championship revenge matches.
In addition to these famous world's champions, popular favourites from other branches of the sport have been engaged to make up what should prove to be one of the most evenly matched fields of any Wembley Six.
There is a greater Empire interest this year, with three Englishmen, an Australian and one Irishman in the race. This is the first time that we have ever had a complete English team which shows so much promise as do Cozens and Clare, who were the moral winners of the Sydney Six. The Wembley management has to be complimented on their initiative in bringing home this promising pair from Australia to keep our colours to the fore in this race.
Lack of Tracks
Those who are not conversant with cycle racing conditions in this country may well ask why there are so few English riders in the race. The reason is the complete absence of suitable banked tracks for our riders to develop. When England possessed cycle tracks, then this country was supreme in International Cycling.
Tracks, owing to the valuable building sites they occupied, have disappeared one by one, so that to-day there is not a track in the country to compare with those on the Continent.
The Wembley management do, however, take steps to develop English riders by sending Six Day aspirants to the Continent to train on a suitable track in company with professionals in the hope that they will develop into the class of rider so necessary to give you the thrills of speed and adroitness for which you have paid admittance.
It would be useless to engage all the best riders unless there was a good track to put them on, so that they could give of their best. In this respect, Wembley have year by year, built better and even faster tracks, capable of carrying with safety the world's record speeds that these riders are capable of producing.
Last year, for instance, Karel Kaers broke the 27 year-old one mile record of 1 min. 51 secs. by clipping 3-5 sec. off those astounding figures.
Speed and Safety
This year this Belgian phenomenon will again attempt to set up world's record figures, this time for the 1,000 metres. In his attempt he can be happy in the knowledge that the track offers him every advantage in respect of speed as well as safety.
For those who are witnessing Six Day Racing for the first time, let me say that a "Six" is not difficult to understand. There are two riders to each team, wearing the same coloured jersey, each with a number on his back which permits you to pick out any particular team quite easily. The rules of the race state that one rider of each team must be on the track at all times of the day and night during the whole of the 143 hours. This permits the riders of a team the opportunity to eat, have a few hours sleep and provide for their necessary comfort in turn, while their partners are holding the teams' position in the race.
You will get quite a thrill out of the sprints on this small track, which you will be able to follow with their clear cut results. The greatest thrills however will come in the "Jams". A "Jam" is the confusion which results from an attempt by one or more teams to gain a lap on the entire field. This may continue for an hour or more, and you will be watching what appears to be a confused tangle of riders whirling round and round the track without apparent reason, narrowly averting colliding at every lap by miraculously steering clear of danger.
As soon as the rider who has broken away from the field succeeds in catching the last rider or tail of the field - then he has gained a lap, and an announcement over the "mike" will be given to this effect, with a further announcement of the next rider who is leading the field. When a rider gains a lap he virtually becomes the tail or last man of the field unless he rides right through it, so the rider who was following him in the chase automatically becomes the leader when the rider in front has caught the tail and been awarded his lap.
As teams gain laps they are credited with them in the Referee's box, where a complete score sheet is maintained. When the "Jam" dies down the announcement to the exact placings of the different teams is given.
At the end of 143 hours riding, the team which has ridden the greatest mileage is declared the winners of the race, but should two or more teams be equal on mileage then the team with the greatest number of sprint points gained during the week, are declared the winners.
A Six Day result can remain in doubt right up to the very last moment, as a team with a less number of sprint points yet equal on mileage, may in the very last few minutes of the race, steal a lap and snatch the race from a team that appeared to be the certain winners.