London Six Day
The Spirit of the Six Day - written and photographed by @garethwinter
It’s been 40 years since the iconic Molteni jersey raced professionally, ridden to fame on the back of the greatest cyclist of all time - Eddy Merckx (AKA The Cannibal, as he ‘ate’ his competition).
Why is Merckx the G.O.A.T? His versatility… no other rider in history can boast Eddy’s palmarès. Merckx won all three Grand Tours, all five Monuments, World Championships, track events, held the Hour Record, and he dominated 6 Day events with his partner Patrick Sercu.
The iconic burnt orange jersey sponsored by Molteni - an Italian Salami factory - was resurrected for the London 6 Day at Lee Valley Velodrome. The Velodrome is built on top of the old Eastway Cycle Circuit, which Merckx himself raced on during the Glenryck Cup - 11th June 1977.
Merckx signing his autograph for my dad after racing on the Eastway in the late 70’s
Fellow CHPT3 Ambassador Adam Blythe (AKA The Captain) and 6-day partner, Jon Dibben of Team Sky, had the honour - and responsibility - of racing in the Molteni colours, bringing Ghent to London. However there was no pressure to perform like the Cannibal, and Sercu, this was about honoring and celebrating history, not repeating it.
Adam channeling his inner Eddy, Merckx famously obsessed over his saddle position, he often made mid-ride adjustments
Recently, Cycling has become more about challenging the status quo and being performance orientated (quite rightly so) that’s how the Tour de France is conquered and records are broken, but it's important not to lose sight of our past.
Six Day racing is a great way to pay tribute to cycling history, there’s less pressure to perform, it’s a celebration of cycling, a show for the fans with a party like atmosphere. The racing is full gas and exciting to watch, especially the Madison Chase, with partners slinging each other like a catapult into the relay, while navigating the flow of riders recovering and racing in-turn.
Blythe and Dibben looked phenomenal on the boards, like the Molteni colours were laying dormant, patiently waiting for worthy suitors. The Jersey is usually the only thing that 6 day partners have in common, most riders race for different trade teams, so they ride different bikes, wear different helmets, mismatched shorts, etc.
Madison shorts are one way of keeping 6 day tradition alive, in the past, riders wore high waisted shorts, rather than the modern bib-strapped shorts most of us have come to know as standard issue. Pockets and panels were sewn into shorts as a ‘handle’ to throw your partner, ’hand-slinging’ rendered pocket handles redundant, but using high waisted shorts still has its advantages, riders will change into fresh jerseys for each race rather than stay sweaty, this is a bit easier without a bib (as is nipping to the loo), the jerseys can be tucked nice and tight into the waistband, so its less ‘flappy’.
Aside from practicality, a pair of high waisted shorts on the boards looks classic, a great style nod to the Merckx era. CHPT3 supplied Adam with two pairs of customised Madison Origin 1.11 Shorts (that's for another story - coming soon), one pair in Climbing Ivy, the other in the matching Molteni Outer Space Blue for extra style points.
Due to sponsorship commitments, six-day riders have to use their trade team shorts, which are nearly always mismatched to their jersey and are covered in unsightly logos. One of the reasons the Molteni jersey has stood the test of time isn’t just because Merckx wore it, but because the design is timeless, it has one title sponsor and classic colour paneling.
Nowadays, professional cycling kit has more resemblance to a ‘classifieds board’ than a considered piece of design, logos are squeezed everywhere, all competing for TV coverage and media real-estate.
Adams CHPT3 shorts allowed the Molteni jersey to take centre stage, not clashing or competing but matching, they sat back on the rider, paying proper tribute to the Cannibal, and to 6-day racing.
It’s my third London 6, live sport doesn’t get better than this, the atmosphere and racing are incredible, it makes you love the sport even more.