By Brecht Decaluwé
The 66th edition of the "Zesdaagse Vlaanderen Gent" was presented on Wednesday in Ghent, Belgium. The main tenor was that although the event is very successful, it needs some more excitement. "Last year, I felt that the sporting aspects of the race were pretty sad. That's why I launched a new formula with twenty teams competing with each other during four days," Patrick Sercu said. "Afterward, the best twelve teams will compete in the finale, two Madison races over 50km held during the weekend." Organizer Patrick Sercu had a hard time finding competitive Belgian teams. "I wouldn't hesitate to start with no riders but foreigners," the eleven-time winner made a clear statement about young Belgian riders.
Last year's winning team Gilmore-Keisse will not compete in Ghent because Matthew Gilmore is injured. Belgian and local favorite Iljo Keisse will race together with German Robert Bartko. They will be one of the teams to watch because this is the race of the year for Keisse; he was ill in Dortmund and pulled himself from the race not wanting to risk his health for Ghent.
With four current world champions, the starting field looks attractive: Spanish Galvez and Llaneras are Madison masters, Bartko has an individual pursuit title, and Dutch rider Peter Schep has won the points race. "All together the starting field in Ghent has more than hundred victories in six day events under its belt," Sercu highlighted the quality of the riders who will race November 21-26, 2006.
The six day event in Ghent has grown in popularity every year, and more people are expected fro this edition. "We have already sold 35,000 tickets and that puts us ten days ahead of last year's advanced sales," organizer Rob Discart said. "We've calculated a rise of 22% in business sales."
The teams are listed below:
Isaac Galvez (Esp) - Juan Llaneras (Esp)
Iljo Keisse (Bel) - Robert Bartko (Ger)
Danny Stam (Ned) - Peter Schep (Ned)
Bruno Risi (Sui) - Leif Lampater (Ger)
Franco Marvulli (Sui) - Alexander Aeschbach (Sui)
Andreas Beikirch (Ger) - Sebastian Frey (Ger)
Kenny De Ketele (Bel) - Steve Schets (Bel)
Matthé Pronk (Ned) - Aart Vierhouten (Ned)
Dimitri De Fauw (Bel) - Wouter Van Mechelen (Bel)
Marco Vila (Ita) - Marc Hester (Den)
Steven De Neef (Bel) - Ingmar De Poortere (Bel)
Andreas Müller (Ger) - Christian Grasman (Ger)
Martin Liska (Cze) - Jozef Zabka (Cze)