Friday, July 19, 2024

Ron Webb


It was with sadness that we learned of the death of Mr. Ron Webb, professional bike rider, father of the modern Six Day format and track builder of renown.

His friend, Phillip, ‘Pip’ Taylor has written a comprehensive and eloquent tribute which we reproduce below.

There have also been many tributes sent to us by his friends around the globe, including former world champion riders, and we’ve added some of these here.

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Obituary of Mr Ron Webb – OAM 29/06/1932 – 01/03/2020

Ronald Vincent Webb – OAM, died peacefully on the 1st March 2020 at Farnham Mill Care Home in Surrey, England.

Ron Webb
Ron Webb at work building the velodrome for the London Olympics. Photo©supplied

Ron was a former Australian junior track national champion, a top class international track rider and a professional motor-paced rider (stayer), a leading Six Day promoter/race director/track owner and a successful cycle track designer and builder.

He was born in Penshurst, New South Wales, Australia in 1932 and he came to Europe in 1953 aged 21 to settle in Amsterdam.

He raced and trained with an elite group including World Sprint Champion Arie Van Vliet.

He showed great versatility as a track rider particularly in Madison and the art of motor-pacing.

It is interesting to note that the great Six Day rider, Peter Post (Ned) won his first amateur Madison partnered with Ron Webb in 1955 in Rotterdam.

Ron turned professional in 1958 and rode extensively in stayer races in Europe and particularly in the DDR and Eastern Bloc countries.

Ron Webb was a regular in the stayer events. Photo©supplied

He was twice a World Motor Paced Championship finalist and came fourth in the 1958 World Championships in 1958 in Leipzig DDR.

He then chose to settle in the UK living near Herne Hill and also on Southend and became involved in the organisational side of cycling and sports promotion after retiring as a rider in the mid 60’s.

He is probably best known in the UK as the race director and promoter of the Skol Six Day (London) over a 12 year period. He was Race Director of the Herning Six Day in Denmark for 10 years and Race Director of the Hannover Six Day in Germany, for three years.

He led the Allied Breweries sport promotion activities promoting events including Speedway, Wrestling and of course professional track cycling.

He was instrumental in the formation of the TI-Raleigh professional cycling team, mediating between the TI Investment/Raleigh Board of Directors and Director Sportive, Team Director Peter Post, the riders and the media.

It is a fascinating story in its own right.

Ron Webb
Ron Webb, with Peter Post (rainbow jersey), Arie Van Vliet (r) and Jan Derksen (l) at the SKOL Six. Photo©supplied

Ron owned the Herbert Schürmann design SKOL Six Day track which was installed in Wembley Arena from 1969, and it was used for the SKOL Six Day and Herning Six Day and other events held in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

His influence on Six Day racing is legendary and he is attributed as the inventor of the “Modern Six Day” format with a condensed shorter programme that created more intense racing.

He realised that spectators had jobs to go to and needed to catch public transport or drive home themselves each evening, so he devised a race programme that finished before 11.30 pm most nights, with matinee session on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Rider pairs rode continuously and the chases were long – often over an hour – with highly competitive Derny paced racing, sprinting and points racing. It was popular with spectators and riders alike.

His support for Aussie and GB cyclists never faulted as many will attest.

He coached riders of all abilities and ages on the Calshot UK track [the original 60’s London Six Day plywood track, relocated to an old aircraft hanger at the Activities Centre on the Calshot spit near Southampton, ed.] and his trips with riders abroad were ground-breaking.

He would put on support races for schoolboy, junior and senior amateur riders at his Six Day races and competition to participate was intense.

He sponsored and contracted British professionals enabling them to break into the world of Six Day racing and Londoner, Tony Gowland to win top class Six Day races in London and Montreal.

Ron Webb
Ron Webb (l) celebrating a win in a Madison. Photo©supplied

When his temporary 160 meter board track became too expensive to ship and rebuild, he gifted it to the cycling club in Herning Denmark.

His attention to detail was extraordinary as his tracks provide testimony, he taught many to ride board tracks, to ride behind the big motors, notably multiple national stayer champion Roy Cox and behind the Derny’s properly.

He was also pivotal in the organisation of The Tour Down Under in South Australia.

With experience he gained under the tutelage of third generation, renowned track architect, Herbert Schürmann and re-building his demount-able at Six Day races taught him about track design and track architecture.

Subsequently he became a world class velodrome architect and was responsible for the on-site construction of 64 cycle tracks around the world from 1970 onwards.

Some 47 of these were temporary Six Day tracks and 17 are permanent tracks that include:

  • Meadowbank, Edinburgh 1986 Commonwealth Games track
  • Seoul Olympic track, Korea
  • Athens Olympic track
  • Sydney Olympic track
  • British National Cycling Centre in Manchester
  • Welsh National Cycling centre in Newport.

He re-built a number of important historic tracks including Athens, Reading and Herne Hill.

His last design and build is a design award winning masterpiece; the beautiful 2012 London Olympic track at Lee Valley, London.

Ron Webb
Ron Webb at the Good Friday meeting at Herne Hill, London, 1957. Photo©supplied

In 2006 Ron Webb was awarded the Australian Order of Merit (OAM) and remained a technical advisor to the Olympic Organising Committee.

He devoted an amazing life of service to cycling.

Ron was clever, funny, a kind, dignified and generous man with a wicked sense of humour right to the end.

He will be greatly missed by all that knew him but he will never be forgotten.

RIP Ron Webb – OAM