By Peter Hymas
Professional Six Day style racing will make an re-appearance in the United States at the 2008 Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Six Day racing had its heyday in the U.S. in the early 20th century, but faded from prominence after World War II. The last professional Six Day bicycle race in the United States concluded nearly 35 years ago in Detroit, Michigan on October 2, 1973.
Not coincidentally, an American who finished the 1973 Detroit Six Day event in second place, Jack Simes III (while teamed with John Vande Velde, father of CSC professional Christian Vande Velde) is an instrumental figure in the sport's return to the United States.
Simes explained to Cyclingnews, "We haven't seen Six Day racing in the United States since the early 1970s. The last pro international races were run in 1973 on a very, very low scale in California and Detroit. Previous to that, it was 1961 in Madison Square Garden. To make a long story short, after looking at all of the options, what I'm planning to do is bring over the whole pro show and produce that in the United States.
"We have dates now in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to do it during the time of Interbike. It's going to be three-days and not six-days to start with. It's pretty difficult to book six days of racing in an arena plus two days to move in and another day to move out. An event like this, which is relatively new in modern times to the U.S., it's better to start with three days and it's easier to get the arenas. It doesn't take up so much time on the calendar, so that's the way it's being planned."
Simes continued, "It's important to produce a very successful event from the beginning. You're not going to get a second chance. The European professional riders are very excited to come to the United States. Some of them actually know more about the history than you might think. Top guys like [Bruno] Risi and [Erik] Zabel are historians of the sports themselves. They're all very interested, and of course they're professionals and they have to get paid for what they do."
Simes is looking to achieve the type of environment typical of the Gent Six Day. "That type of event goes back to the style of events that took place in the United States [in the early 20th century] where you have wall to wall people standing on the infield, the infield bar, the packed stands, the great racing," Simes explained. "The Gent Six is on a smaller track, the type of track that we will use in the United States because that's the only thing we can put in our arenas. That's kind of a similar atmosphere to what you'll see in the United States with a little more Las Vegas zip into it."
Jack Simes III is no stranger to competition at the highest level of track cycling within both the United States and Europe. Raised in a family of elite cyclists (both Simes III's father and grandfather raced professionally in the early 20th century during the heyday of American cycling), Simes III competed in three Olympics (1960, 1964, 1968), earned silver medals at the 1967 Pan-American Games and the 1968 World Championships, competed in eight world championships, earned multiple American national titles, and competed professionally on the track in the early 1970s.
Simes later became the executive director of USPRO, the governing body of professional cycling in the United States, as well as the first executive director of the Lehigh County Velodrome.