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SixDays; history relived
By Anita van Crey
Date: 10/28/2002
SixDays; history relived
When googled to six-days this season a whole list of races is found. Old well known track events in Munich and Berlin accompany the ones for instance in Amsterdam and Gent. On the calendar the following are planned:

2002 October 21-26: Amsterdam - Holland
2002 October 31 - November 05: Dortmund - Germany
2002 October 31 - November 05: Grenoble - France
2002 November 07-12: München - Germany
2002 November 19-24: Gent-Gand - Belgium
2003 January 09-14: Bremen - Germany
2003 January 17-22: Stuttgart - Germany
2003 January 23-28: Berlin - Germany
2003 January 31 - February 05: Copenhagen - Denmark
2003 March 04-09: Moscow - Russia


Long before Amsterdam got to know the phenomenen Six Days the first races like this took place. Not before 1932 the first Amsterdam Six Days was a fact. Six nights and days on a bike, a thing that found good soil in the States. The US is the birthplace of the six. In 1895 a group of English riders crossed the ocean to New York to compete in the earliest Six Days. The riders in those days raced individualy, not on couples and the winner then was Plugg Bill Martin, who rode for 142 hours in a row before he could not go any further. Without sleep, because who went to sleep lost many many rounds. This Martin roda a wooden bike with iron wheels, tyres with air where still unknown in this past. In 1897 for the first time a race took place in the infamous Madison Square Garden. In the very heart of New York City Charly Miller won, as he would do the year following. To only race in couples was decided in 1899, the madison was born. It became the name of the race for couples, bringing the track into a new area. Years and years later Dutchmen John Stol and Piet van Kempen reached in Euope as well as in the Sates to many successes and helped the Six reaching Amsterdam as well in 1932.


The main dish in the Six Days still is the Madison. In those days in the Madison Square Garden in New York a duo or a trio rode six day, 24 hours a day. All the time one of the teammembers had to be on the track. In the sixties this was diminished to four to five hours a night. In this Madison-race a duo can take a lead of one or more rounds. The duo with the most raced rounds at the end wins the SixDays. A lap lead beats a total of points. These points are to be won in several sorts of disciplen like points-race, derny-race, fastest lap etc. The SixDays became populair in offering more than cycling at its best. The ever surprising mix of topsport and entertainment let the public live an eveing full of action and ambiance. Show and amusement belong to a SixDays as a racer belongs with his bike. A SixDay not only is a race, a competion, it too is an event of meeting people, talking, laughing, drinking. A true meetingpoint for spectators.

During the last few decennia cycling developed a great deal. A rider who competes over the year in classics as well as in for instance the Tour de France has become very uncommon. Therefor the roadvedettes barely race at the track, can not compete in like the European track circuit. A specialisation took place. A SixDay racer has to devide his strengths and powers over six evenings, over one season.


At this 21st of October two brothers started their six days of racing in Amsterdam. The Pronk-brothers raced in their fathers spirit. With the popping of the startinggun at this tenth six-days on the RAI both Matthé (28) en Jos Pronk (19) climbed their bikes. Brothers who above all the following days would race for the honour of their deceaded father, who in 1999 died of cancer. In the seventies this Matthé Pronk senior was one of Hollands best trackracers.

His son Matthé Pronk jr. can remember the first time his dad won the worldtitle stayer in 1979 in Amsterdam. : "All of the sudden their was my dad, standing on the podium while the national anthemn was played. That really was something. I will never forget that!" In the same city in 2002 the two Pronks compete in the European Championships, finishing fifth.


Allmost every race his father raced, little Matthé came along. Matthé, next season riding for the Dutch Bankgiroloterij team of Arend Scheppink and Johan Capiot pictures: "I saw all those motors on the track, a fascinating sight. Then I knew, this is what I want to do too. In that perspective I really can not tell why I became a roadracer, eventhough thats one great job too. But the love for the track is still present, because of my father. The atmosphere in the halls is really unique in itself.'' . His brother Jos, first year amateur rider and last year in the Rabobank-youth team, did live his dad career less consious. He was to young, has to relive it through tv-images. Eventhough not live he still gets goosebumps when he looks at the broadcasts. "Unfortunately I never been there live when my dad raced. What I remember well are the races of my brother. Matthé allready did track at the age of ten.'' Matthé tells: ''But that was totally different. I rode at the track in Alkmaar (an uncovered windy track in the province the Pronks live in, Noord-Holland). Together with my dad I went in thos big bigger halls, all covered, heated and all sold out. Really special.''

Their competing at the Amsterdam six-days for the brothers is a salute of honour to their dad. Next to this their father always races together with them. "Since he died I allways carry him with me in my heart." Matthé says. "When for instance at home in Belgium I am mowing the grass he is there behind the mower, in a way of speaking. He is always and everywhere present, even the more this six days.'' Matthé stops talking for a minute, memories are vivid. "I just wish he could have been here. He really would have loved this, two of his sons competing on this track. But unfortunately he is not here, he can not be here anymore.. That hurts, but you can not change it one bit. We have to live with that. It hurts, the hurt will never go away totally, he was my big example, my idol. Still, when I have to make decisions, I think 'what would dad have done'. I still let him more or less make my choices. I still know how he thought, how he looked at things. And I really would like to follow those footsteps."


It was not more than logical both Matthé and Jos ended up on a bike. ''That is not only because of our dad,'' according to Matthé. ''No,'' Jos adds, ''my dad really dod not like it at all that we bought a racingbike at that young an age." Dad Pronk thought it wiser his sons started speedskating first. Matthé: ''I tried that, but the technique got the better of me. When not I would propably have become a speedskater. Why he gave us that advice? I do not know, I guess he too started that way too." Jos: '' His dad was totally mad about skating. With him that came first. I think it has to do with that.''

Being present at the second home of their dad, the brothers chat up with lots of people who knew their father." Matthé points out the former companion of his father Nop Koch. "Trackracing is a small world of its own. I bet following days we will run in to lots of people whoe knew my dad." Koch warmly greets the brothers and tells about Pronk senior :"Matthé was as stayer that good because of me.", followed by a more serious ''He always adapted himself real quickly. All things went well, that much he made sure of. We cooperated really well, added up to the other and connected great.'' Jos and Matthé do not have him think of Matthé senior he tells when being asked. ''What these guys do is not to compare with what their dad did. He had an ordinary job, fourthy hours a week. And next to that he rode fast behind those heavy motorbikes on the track. Unfortunately that is one thing of the past. This sort of stayering does not excist anymore; everything that came later, derny and BSA is, in my opninion nothing more than surrogate. Stayering, with over hundred kilometres and hour over the track, that was the real thing.''


Nop Koch leaves the brothers to it and walks towards his appointment with other people from his past. Matthé follows him with his eyes: "Great to again see him." His words mix with the earkilling sound of the derny-motors. ''Marvellous sound", Matthé shares, "it comes with the charm of trackracing. The speed, the spectacle. The public really can live it, sits in the middle of it. Not that roadracing not is spectacular, but during a race there are dull death moments. At the track you don not have such moments. This is show, it appeals to me and I think it appeals to more people."

Last year, when the six-days for the first time in twenty years returned to Amsterdam Matthé would have loved to compete. But the management of his team in those days , Rabobank, would not agree in him riding the track. They thought it best for Matthé to just rest in the winterperiod between seasons. Matthé: ''In my point of view track is good to be combined with roadracing. And I am glad my present team Bankgiroloterij agrees in that." For himself he sees more possibilities at the Bankgiroloterij-team, even though the team in most opinions has less status than the Rabobankteam. ''Off course it can be told as no good you have to go to a smaller team. But I see in this team more prospects. I will be riding less big races, but I do not have to ride anymore for one rider. At this team I will get more chances to go my own chance, to show myself and my abilities. Therefor I look at it as a step back to make in future another sportive step up on the ladder." His younger brother is in a totally different phase in his racingcareer. Jos has been an amatuer for a year now and does not think about professional contracts what so ever. He is not ready for that at this moment he knows. Upcoming season he will be aiming at worldcupraces and hopes to be selected for the Olympics in Athens. Jos: ''That is my goal. By than I am older and stronger and hope to be ready to be a pro-racer."

Results SixDays Amsterdam 21.10.2002-26.10.2002
1. Silvio Martinello (Ita) - Marco Villa (Ita),361 points
2. Danny Stam (Ned) - Robert Slippens (Ned), 351 points,
3. Matthew Gilmore (Bel) - Scott McGrory (Aus), 312 points
4. Bruno Risi (Swi) - Kurt Betschart (Swi), 286 points
5. Jimmi Madsen (Den) - Marty Nothstein (Usa), 3 laps, 300 points
6. Jean-Pierre van Zyl (Rsa) - Robert Hunter (Rsa), 5 laps, 221 points
7. Servais Knaven (Ned) - Leon van Bon (Ned), 202 points
8. Gerd Dörich (Ger) - Franz Stocher (Aut), 149 points
9. Robert Sassone (Fra) - Roland Garber (Aut), 6 laps, 105 points
10. Mario Vonhof (Ger) - Francis de Jager (Ned), 12 laps, 136 points
11. Matthé Pronk (Ned) - Jos Pronk (Ned), 15 laps, 100 points
12. Lorenzo Lapage (Bel) - Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel), 19 laps, 46 points
13. Wilco Zuijderwijk (Ned) - Anthony Gibb (GBr), 21 laps, 90 points.

Sources: Het Parool 21-10-2002,

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