1967 - The Race Story
SKOL! THE SIX WAS JUST GREAT
Credit: Cycling 30-Sep-1967
"IT was so hard at the end I couldn't see the track," surely a fitting reflection on the success of the Skol Six as a race from one of its winners, 26-year-old Freddy Eugen of Denmark.
He and his partner, Palle Lykke, at 30 winning his 17th six-day, were victors undisputed by all who saw them ride.
Between them they won devils, sprints, motor-paced racing - in fact every type of racing the six-day formula served up to them.
Only one other result would have been possible, only one other result could have been stomached by the 40,000 enthusiasts who saw it, without accusations of collusions and fixing.
Dieter Kemper and Horst Oldenburg of Germany could well have won - throughout the race their flamboyant riding brought the crowd to its feet, but in the last hour, when the stops really came out, they could not match the Danes for speed and tactics.
Master of the six-day circus Peter Post made his mark, but partner Gerard Koel, comparatively inexperienced, meant the difference between success and failure.
For Britain's own, riders it was an encouraging start - but for Porter's collar-bone fracture one might have seen the Continental domination broken, for partner Bill Lawrie rode far and away above his road form.
Holmes made a contract for Montreal and Antwerp, Lawrie for Berlin, Halls for Antwerp, while both Hill and Bonner gained valuable experience.
" When I started I didn't think I had a hope in hell of finishing," confessed best Briton Bill Holmes afterwards, and he must have been expressing the secret thoughts of all the home contingent.
It was a success from other angles too - sponsors Ind Coope spoke of more than value for money in publicity, and the event as a whole " broke even " before the first pedals were turned.
Television coverage proved a powerful draw, and although some of the Continentals expressed concern after seeing the first-day crowds, they rode to near full houses from Tuesday onwards.
What impressed was that scenes were so untypical of Britain - the fervent crowd, the brightly-coloured spectacle of the racing itself, the board bowl, with track-centre cabins and bars, were international, no different in atmosphere from any of the established six-day races of the Continent.
The London Six has arrived, thanks to Skol and the efforts of Hubert Starley and Charles Ruys - and arrived in a big way, with prizes far greater than on offer anywhere else.
Money, backing, riders, a hard-fought race devoid of corruption and doping scandals - the Skol Six had all these.
“Learn to pedal” is the advice of Palle Lykke
I THINK if they raced on the Continent, your English riders would finish many more laps down," said Palle Lykke, in between spells at the Skol Six.
"They are all strong, but they lack what we call souplesse, the ability to pedal smoothly. not forcing your effort."
Palle himself was undoubtedly the smoothest pedaller on the track, but even he has his bad times.
From a recent operation, the Danish rider has an open scar on his crutch and has to ride with sponge rubber inside his shorts.
"Sometimes there are days when I don't have souplesse," he explained, " when they attack, instead of speeding up naturally, I have to force myself.
"The best of your English boys seems to be Hill - I think he is even stronger than Verstrepen, his partner. But he is still weak and frightened in the changes.
"Yes, if they rode in the Sixes on the Continent they would find it a lot harder - there we have sprints every hour, and the chases are longer and harder - you know of course that we ride on a lower gear here.
"Your six-day is very good for a first time, but I would prefer to race further into the night, three or four o'clock, and not have to go hard first thing in the morning."
Coming up for 31, Lykke is one of the great riders of the current six-day circus, one of the few riders who can give Peter Post a run for his money, and the Earls Court arena rang often to the roars of the crowd when these two duelled among themselves.
"But Peter and I are the best of friends really," he explained. " Remember we have to please the crowd, and it's better that we should act as enemies when we race."
Some of the other riders suggested that the handsome Dane was jealous of Post's position as "king" of the Sixes, all but controlling the development of the races - but Palle was quick to deny this.
"I don't want to be the king, I don't really have time for it. I'm nearly 31, and I've only won 16 sixes - the record is 40.
"I want to ride for at least another two or three years, and I'm happy as I am.
"You see there always has to be a chief among the riders, who passes on the wishes of the promoter.
"Before Post it was Rik Van Steenbergen, and he was the best there has ever been; he could tell the riders in the right way what was wanted.
"Maybe this is the trouble with Post - he can't tell riders in the right way.
"But you know there are some of us who are strong enough to do what we want, whatever he says.
"If we do something he doesn't like, he can't do anything about it.
"Freddy and I made up our minds to try to win this Six - you can't ride to win them all when you have to last through a dozen or so during the winter, you just have to choose the ones you most want to win.".
“TO come out of a six-day race into the midnight air is like taking a cold shower, both physically and mentally.
This was a wonderful event, splendidly organized, acclaimed by public and riders alike, but it ,was only put on at the expense of many of the leading members of the cycle industry and their own factory staffs.
It was delightfully encouraging to hear Hubert Starley tell us that we have not seen the last of six-day racing in this country, but we cannot possibly demand another such effort from him or the members of his committee.
Now is the time to reflect on the needs of future sixes, perhaps to reckon on setting up a permanent organization which could be self-supporting, paid for by a succession of profitable races.
With the track already paid for, one could think of at least four potential areas in which sixes could be run with good support.
Cycle sport has proved its ability to pull the crowds, to pull the stars, to get good television and press coverage, when organized in a thoroughly competent and professional manner.
From such a promising start, if ideas-man Charles Ruys could be given his head, the industry could build to a prosperous future.
Let us not forget that members of the cycle trade who were there reported near-record trading, and this after all is why they are in business, not just to act as Lady Bountiful for the sport.
So, members of the council of the Industries Association, will you accept this plea for a real get-together to build on the foundations so ably laid ?”
AND THE NEXT PLEASE . . .
“There will be another six - in 1968," said Hubert S. Starley, managing director of Champion Spark Plugs, and chairman of the organizing committee, to CYCLING just after the finish.
"I cannot say if we will be able to put it on with the spring cycle show at Manchester's Belle Vue, nor if Skol will be sponsoring again, but there will be another one next year."
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Original material from Cycling magazine