As a three-time British champion and someone who beat the legendary Eddy Merckx, Maurice Burton knows a thing or two about cycling and he believes the return of Six Day London came just at the right time.
Burton was one of those who competed in London’s last Six Day race of the 20th century before a 35-year hiatus.
Six Day London was introduced in its current format in October last year and proved to be an instant hit.
Burton was there once again – this time at the Lee Valley VeloPark – as he watched his son Germain Burton impress alongside Mark Stewart.
“Six Day is an event that can hopefully continue on a yearly basis and it came at the right time,” Burton said.
“Last year’s event went well and I think the fans enjoyed it. For me, I enjoyed watching my son riding around the track and also watching the other British cyclists, who did well.
“I have always found the derny races exciting as well.
“I am now looking forward to this year’s event to see any changes to the format and the new riders that come along.”
Six Day London saw some of the world’s best cyclists race in a number of different events during the course of six days.
Burton’s son Germain and Stewart ended up finishing last year’s event in tenth position and the 60-year-old revealed he is also particularly fond of one of the winners – Kenny De Ketele – who claimed the title alongside fellow Belgian Moreno De Pauw.
“Kenny knew about me before I even knew about him because I knew one of his mentors quite well and used to stay in his house. Kenny is one of my favourites and so is Moreno De Pauw,” Burton said.
“I suppose what makes Kenny de Ketele and the other Belgian riders so good is that they have a very strong history with Six Day racing and it is part of their DNA over there.
“The biggest challenge with Six Day racing is to keep it going from one day to the next. You could do a good ride on one day but then you have to maintain that performance over the six days.
“The second thing is the speed and the third thing is the tactical sense and reflexes that you need.”
The format of Six Day racing was different in Burton’s day as a professional. The riders would compete for 12 to 16 hours a day and there were far more events in the calendar.
Burton proved himself to be one of the toughest competitors on the Six Day circuit as he based himself out of Belgium for the best part of a decade, before an injury at the Buenos Aires event in 1984 forced him into retirement before he had even reached his 30th birthday.
Burton, who has owned the Streatham bike shop De Ver since 1987, recalled: “I got into Six Day racing after being three-time British champion and I needed to move on further so headed for Belgium.
“In the past it was one rider on the track day and night, now they have cut it down but it is still a unique event with the spectacle, the speed and the thrill of it all: it is something special.
“One of my favourite memories in cycling was when I came up against the greatest rider of all time: Eddy Merckx. Racing against him and actually beating him was a special memory for me.”
Six Day London takes place between 25-30 October 2016 at Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Half term fun, with or without the kids. Tickets on sale now at www.sixday.com
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