The Madison 1898
The Madison track race is the most spectacular, complex and inexplicable event in cycling. It not infrequently reaches a level of confusion that means no one in the track, including the riders, knows who is winning.
It was invented in New York in 1898, for an event in Madison Square Garden (and is known as the 'American' race in most of the rest of Europe). Six-day racing was at its lucrative height in the city in the late 1890s, and attracting a great deal of unwanted attention because of (pfft!) rider welfare.
There was a public outcry over the inhumanity of riders having to race non-stop for six days — hallucinations were not uncommon, including riders who turned round to ride the other way, riders who ran screaming from the track and riders who just stopped and stood, staring into the distance. The New York
Herald Times said, “It is not sport, it is brutality,” and the audience collectively said, “Knock-out. Bring it on.”
But the city passed legislation requiring riders to race for no more than 12 hours a day. A promoter at Madison Square Garden immediately spotted the loophole. If he put two-rider teams on the track 24 hours a day, and let them swap in and out of the race every lap or two, they’d do 12 hours each, but his race would still run 24 hours a day. As a bonus the racing was quite a lot more interesting than with single riders.
So in essence the most interesting race in the current track programme was the work of the sort of pedant who reads rules really, really closely.
Cycling mad: Madisons were the ultimate endurance event