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The Time Capsule: Colby Pearce – An American Team in the Six Days

"There is a point when you stop asking questions and just do whatever Bruno Risi does."

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The experienced American rider Colby Pearce was one of the guys looked after by Kris, Martin and Ed at some of this winters’ Six Days, including the recent event at the Ballerup Stadium in Copenhagen.

Having raced at elite level on the track at the Olympics, at World Cups and in the World Championships, as well as being a National Champion 14 times and holder of the US Hour Record (50.191), together with a spell working as the US Track Coach, Colby had seen most of what track cycling had to offer.

One element was missing though: Six Day Racing.

Keen to see how he fared in this small and atmospheric world, he got his first start in a Six a couple of years ago.

Colby has written his experiences up into a superb behind-the-scenes look into the “Six Day Sarcophagus”, and here at VeloVeritas we’re very lucky that he offered to share it with us; it’s a great insight into the scene. Enjoy!

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The Time Capsule: An American Team in the Six Days, by Colby Pearce

This winter I was launched head first into the world of European Six Day racing. My partner Daniel Holloway and I were the first American team to be offered contracts in the pro Sixes since 2001. We have had the onus of proving ourselves to the skeptics and measuring up to the high physical and technical standards of these events.

These races are one of the last old school pillars of bicycle racing, and as such, we entered into a microscopic universe which has been trapped in time and is filled with ancient traditions, rich culture, and a strong sense of fraternity. I have probably learned more about what it means to be a professional bike racer in the four Sixes I have done than in the rest of my twenty year career.

Being offered a contract for the Six Days is not something that happens without good reason.

Riders must either be of extremely high pedigree (usually a World Champion or Olympic medalist) or have someone in the right place making recommendations.

There has been a demand for an American team to race the events. After all, the event did originate in Madison Square Garden at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is in the interest of Six Day promoters to have an international field on the start line for their events.

However the race promoters are very skeptical of anyone they are not familiar with, and even though I had a dozen World Cup medals in my quiver, it took some convincing to give us a shot.

This is where American Velodrome builder Dale Hughes came in.

Dale’s company, Velo Track, built the portable velodrome used in the Zuidlaren Six Day. Dale contacted Wim Jansen, the promoter of Zuidlaren, who on our behalf negotiated some contracts for other Sixes. This opened the door for new opportunity, so we owe a big thanks to both Dale and Wim.

Colby Pearce
Colby is an experienced track man. Photo©Ed Hood

For myself, after nine years learning track cycling on the World Cup circuit, competing in World Championships and other big boy events, it was time for a change.

Six Days are the final missing piece in my track racing puzzle. This was the last aspect of elite level track racing I had not experienced.

I would have taken the opportunity to race some Sixes a few years ago, but for various reasons the opportunity was not there at the time. I am fortunate it has finally come together.

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The other 50% of the team

Holloway proved himself ready for a winter of strenuous racing after passing the bar this summer in various forms.

First, we traveled to the Madison Cup in Trexlertown and won the event by a large margin; he raced the Tour of Missouri as a stagiaire for Garmin/Chipotle and helped Christian Vande Velde defend his jersey against a brutal onslaught by Columbia; we raced US Track Nationals and won every event we entered between the two of us.

So when Dale began to help me with Six Day contract negotiations in the fall, Daniel and I agreed to give it a shot. It’s maybe a bit of an odd pairing, since I am 36 and in the twilight of my career, and at 21 he is just at the beginning of the real substance of his. But I believe this season we have proven ourselves to be a solid team, in spite of the fact that he plays T-Pain endlessly on his laptop.

Colby Pearce
Colby and Daniel in Copenhagen last year. Photo©Ed Hood

Traveling to our first event in Dortmund, Germany, I expected to be challenged and to discover unkempt corners of the basement of track cycling, and I was not disappointed.

When we made our first training ride in Dortmund on the newly assembled track, I was shocked at how bad the track surface was.

Some tracks are permanent fixtures (such as Copenhagen), and some are completely portable (such as Milan or Zuidlaren).

Some tracks are inbetween; with permanent corners, but removable straights, so that the facility may be converted to use for other events.

The resultant gaps between the removable sections are about one inch deep, which may not sound so big, but with 170lbs in your tires at 60km/hr, they are pretty much like an inverted speed bump in the world’s fastest criterium.

Riders told me that their seasons had been ruined from racing at Dortmund, because they left the event with open saddle sores from the track, which are really difficult to heal in a continuous season of Six day racing.

Colby Pearce
Soigneur Martin with Colby as he warms up. Photo©Ed Hood

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Each One is Unique

The atmosphere of a Six Day is a must see experience for any true cycling fan.

The color changes from city to city, but the palate is the same; the racing is fast, the crowds are large, cycling