by Peter Schurman
Peter Schurman shares his memories of racing track in San Jose, Encino, Portland, Northbrook, Kenosha, Detroit, Mexico City, Montreal, from 1973-1976.
A recent Velo Logic article reminds me of the the USA Six-Days. They were before my time, but there were tracks, indoors and outdoors, all over the country!
The Madison: Carefully Choreographed Chaos
The style of racing is called Madison Racing: 2-man teams, one man racing, hell bent, along the pole line, the other racer riding up on the rail, catching his breath and gauging when to dive down the bank, getting slung by the team-mate into the race, sprinting for points!
It was carefully choreographed chaos and the craziest thing I ever did!
I have an old black & white photo from a Clement tire advertisement from the 30s or 40s, showing Madison Square Garden, packed to the rafters with people. The infield was jammed with people, wearing big, old topcoats and floppy fedoras!
The racers were just a blur on the banked oval.
I’ve heard it said that Madison Style racing was so popular, that a venue had to be built to hold the races… it was called Madison Square Garden.
But there was a growing problem: gambling. The odds were played and the payoffs were huge. Human nature prevailed, and some teams were “on the take”.
Doping was a problem then, too; not too surprising. Problems grew exponentially. It became a scandal and the powers that be squashed the Six Days.But Madison Style racing continued where ever there were velodromes.
The sanctioning body for bicycle racers and racing events became the Amateur Bicycle League. And they meant amateur. No cash money awarded, no professional affiliation.
Track Cycling in the 70s
In the early 1970’s, I was chasing my dream. I loved bicycle racing; I ate and slept bicycle racing.
I had always been a big guy, and I found my niche on the velodrome. My home track was in San Jose, and in those years, the legend Jack Disney was a fixture at the track.
In the late summer of 1974, Jack suggested I pair up with another rider, Larry Swantner. The way Jack saw it, we would make a great combo for Madison racing, a regular event which closed out the weekly races.
That year, at the National Track Championships at the Northbrook Velodrome, Larry had finished seventh in the Kilo, and I had finished seventh in the Pursuit.
Jack worked with us during the week, always pushing us faster and harder. And later that week at the Saturday meet, I can remember hearing Jack shouting “Don’t slow down!” as I was high on the bank, about to dive into the fray! I kept my speed and yes, Larry and I won that afternoon. I can also recall hearing the yelling and cheering from the crowd watching in the bleachers. It was the best!
As I recall, Larry and I each won a gift certificate from a local bike shop for $25.00. Amateurs don’t get prize money!
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