Jack Simes, the CEO of the National Cycling Association, recently unveiled his organisation's plans to bring Six Day racing back to its place of origin - New York City. Simes, a world championship silver medalist on the track and a veteran of European Six Day racing in the early 1970s, has tentatively scheduled the New York 6 Day for May 17-22 within the Bronx's Kingsbridge Armory.
"The short term plan is to do two things," Simes told Cyclingnews. "Number one, to bring Six Day bike racing back to New York City where it was invented and to begin creating this whole new style of American cycling that is unknown here but works really well with television, sponsorship, hospitality and excitement.
"But there's more than just the high-profile event here because I'm also very attuned to youth cycling. We want to enhance the foundation that's there in New York City for kids and perhaps even create some new ones. I'm looking at putting the track up for a two-month period in which time the Six Day takes place for one week and the rest of the time will be used for introducing youth to cycling and doing all types of racing at various levels: local, regional, masters, collegiate - just the total concept of programs to show New York City what this can be."
Simes has enlisted renowned velodrome architect Ralph Schuermann, designer of more than 100 velodromes world-wide including the 2008 Olympic velodrome in Beijing, to design the track. The proposed venue is a fitting locale as Kingsbridge Armory has a history in Six Day racing, having hosted races in the late 1940s as the sport tried to re-establish itself stateside following World War II, but of late the building has been vacant and a point of contention.
"The Kingsbridge Armory has been a political football in New York City for the past 10 years," said Simes. "New York City had plans to turn it into a mall. That went along for six or seven years and then the whole thing fell through. The building became available again, which I didn't know until last winter.
"There are maybe six groups who are trying to do projects in there, the city's looking at all of them, but we're the only group who wants to go in there with a test experience."
The New York 6 Day isn't the only event Simes has planned, as he also has a tentative date for a similar event in October, 2012 at Carson, California's Home Depot Center Velodrome plus plans to have a Six Day at the velodrome currently under construction in Rock Hill, South Carolina. All are part of Simes' long-term vision for the sport in the United States.
"What I want to do with this whole project in due time is to create a NFL or NBA-type group for what I consider American-style cycling. I want to take cycling and put it up on the big screen. We have this element of track cycling which is to me a sleeping giant. It's relatively easy to produce because you don't have the road closures, you're not dealing with as many riders and it's very exciting to see spectator-oriented racing on a small velodrome."
In helping to bring this vision to fruition, Simes has partnered with television producer Kent Gordis, an eight-time Emmy winner who's considered the leading producer of bicycle races on television in the United States. His credits include the Olympic Games, six Tours de France, and the world-wide feed for the 2005 world championships. He's also the producer of ABC's primetime Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve in Times Square.
"He's a New Yorker, thoroughly believes in this program, and is behind it 100 percent," said Simes.
Additionally, New York-based documentary filmmaker Nadia Hallgren has already begun shooting a documentary about the revival of Six Day racing in New York City.
The proposed American Six Day events will not compete with the European season, although Simes has been in communication with European Six Day promoters.
"We're talking to the organisers of the 6 Giorni delle Rose in Italy and the Copenhagen Six Day about doing some cross promotion with advertising and swapping riders back and forth. Getting the riders I don't see as a problem. Many of the top European riders want to come here and race, particularly in a place like New York City. We're also beginning to have our own North American riders who are able to do that type of racing, which is good."
Bringing the New York 6 Day to fruition is a daunting task, but Simes is determined to see the project through.
"No matter what happens, I'm going to keep going with this and get it done," said Simes. "It's a very difficult thing to do to bring something new like this to the United States. There's a cycling culture that's developed over the last quarter of a century, but this is a new type of cycling. When we introduce it when talking to sponsors nobody really has a clear feel for what it is, but that's something that we have to overcome."