The full photo essay is here
On a trip to Switzerland this year I found this beautiful book in a flea market. The book was commissioned by Editions Palais in Paris to commemorate the last days of the great Six Day races at the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Winter Velodrome). It was France’s first indoor track, and the name stuck for all covered velodromes built since that first six-day race took place on the 13th January 1913. The track was designed by Gaston Lambert, and was 253.16m round at the base. Their were two tiers of seats which towered above bankings so steep for their day that they were considered cliff-like and the space was lit with 1,253 hanging lamps. That first race set a very high bar. Included in it were the Tour de France winners Louis Trousselier and Émile Georget. Racing began at 6pm and by 9pm all 20,000 seats were sold. Among those who watched was the millionaire Henri de Rothschild who offered a prize of 600 francs. A tradition also started of electing a Queen of the Six, whose job included starting the race and giving out the prizes, the most famous being Édith Piaf.
The last six-day race at the Vel’ d’Hiv’ started on 7 November 1958. The stars of the series were Roger Rivière, Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, and André Darrigade and the race was run in teams of three. Rivière had to drop out after a crash with Anquetil in the first hours on 5th night, and Darrigade won the biggest prime ever offered at the track of one million francs. The overall winners were Anquetil and his partners, Darrigade and Terruzzi. The final night at the Vel’ d’Hiv was on the 12th May 1959. The illustrations captured in this book by French illustrator Jacques Lem are some of the most beautiful drawings I have ever seen of riders. They have captured a mood that no photographs of the period could ever convey and the personalities not just of the riders but of the spectators and workers around the track.
I created a photo essay of the best of the illustrations from the book to show them in all their glory.