Iljo Keisse is intimately acquainted with the Eddy Merckx velodrome in Gent, utilised as part of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team launch.
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Riders race on velodrome at team presentation
Following the introductions of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's 2013 roster at the team launch in Gent's Eddy Merckx velodrome, the riders took to the track for some friendly competition. Several members of the team have considerable track pedigrees which were showcased in events such as the flying lap time trial, match sprint, elimination, derny race and team sprint.
One of the highlights was Iljo Keisse going head-to-head with Dutch road champion and frequent Six-Day partner Niki Terpstra in a 30-lap derny race. Keisse, paced by trainer Tom Steels, came out with a victory while racing in his hometown.
"It was the perfect race," Keisse said. "It was a good start, and the last 10 laps were great. It is really fantastic to do the presentation on the track. Track is really the foundation of cycling and I think the fans will appreciate it."
Perhaps the most anticipated battle of the night was the match sprint final, which came down to Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen. The two battled neck-and-neck in the final stretch, but it was Boonen who managed to get the win.
In the team sprint final, it was the "Challenger" team — Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Iljo Keisse, and Mark Cavendish — who won. Cavendish raised his hands in victory as he was the final rider for his victorious team.
Cavendish was also the fastest rider in the flying lap competition over Keisse.
"For me, Omega Pharma-Quick Step is the most traditional team out there, with the most historical roots," said Cavendish. "This team is steeped in the culture of cycling. Ask any young rider, especially the young Classics rider what team they want to ride with. They will say OPQS without hesitation. To be a part of this dynasty is something. I am so excited for this opportunity."
Cavendish said he watched the team "in awe" last year.
"The Classics, the wins at the World TTT and the ITT — they were the most dominant team in the world," Cavendish said. "All that was missing was the Grand Tour stages, so that was the perfect opportunity for me to fit in this year."
World time trial champion Tony Martin was happy with the unique team presentation.
"I had a lot of fun," Martin said. "I like to be in my natural element on the bike like this, competing on the track with my teammates. We all took it very seriously. We practiced this morning. This turned out to be a very nice day! I hope the supporters enjoyed it as we riders enjoyed the time we had."
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