On This Day | 15 March 1909: The first Berlin Six-Day cycling race begins

15 March 1909: On this day in Berlin history the first six-day cycling race was started in the exhibition hall at the Zoologischer Garten.

Start of the Berlin Six Days Race
The Berlin Sixdays starting line, 1909 | Image from: picture-alliance / dpa

The great success with the public in New York had helped to introduce this type of cycling event in Europe as well. Still to this day, it is the most frequently held six-day race in the world.

From 1911 onwards, the Six-Day Race was held in the Berlin Sports Palace in Potsdamer Straße. Famous cyclists such as Piet van Kempen (the “Flying Dutchman”), Walter Rütt, Karl Saldow and Walter Lohmann were here.

In 1924, Richard Huschke and Franz Krupkat raced to the legendary world record of 4544.2 km, still valid today. In 1934, Berlin hosted the last six-day race there before the Second World War which was not staged again until 1949. In the 1960s and 1970s, prominent German riders such as Rudi Altig, Klaus Bugdahl and Dietrich Thurau left their mark on the traditional cycling event, the Belgian “six-day emperor” Patrick Sercu won five times in Berlin alone.

The Berlin six-day cycle race was also a social event
The Berlin six-day cycling race was also a social event. Dancers, 1927. | Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-05044 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Berlin “Sixdays” were not only a sporting but also a social event and were sometimes held twice a year because of the large crowds. They had their first heyday in the “Golden Twenties,” when well-known artists and later sports celebrities such as Max Schmeling, Karl Mildenberger, Bubi Scholz or Wladimir Klitschko made a public appearance. Egon Erwin Kisch coined the term of the “elliptical treadmill” in a report on the Race.

Since 1997, the Berlin Six-Day Race has had its home in the new Velodrom on Landsberger Allee, located on the site of the Seelenbinder Hall, where the East Berlin Six-Day Races was once held. Every year, some 75,000 visitors come to the spectacle, which was held for the 100th time in 2011 – more often than anywhere else in the world.

Chiara Baroni

This edition of On This Day in Berlin History was written by BBS Member Chiara Baroni.

It’s one of four events she has chosen to remember this March. Follow Our Blog to see what else she chooses.