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Belgium's Iljo Keisse (Quick Step)
Belgian secures a one-year extension despite court date
Iljo Keisse will be given another chance to prove his road credentials after signing a one-year contract extension with the Quick Step team in Belgium on Thursday.
His new deal comes despite a pending final decision in the legal saga surrounding his 2008 doping positive at the Gent Six-day. Last month the Belgian Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July, to re-instate his two-year ban. The Belgian decision means Keisse can race until a final decision is made next April.
If the ban is upheld, Keisse will find himself forced to serve the final nine months of his original suspension, however the 27-year-old is relieved for the meantime at least to have secured a third chance to race at the highest level. He recently won the Ghent six-day with Peter Schep.
"You cannot say I was the revelation of the season. My winter [last year] was not ideal because I signed a contract so late," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "And in March I broke my collarbone. I never really got into my stride until the summer. Then I was again put aside by the CAS. No wonder then, that I doubted whether I'd have a new chance."
Despite the drama that has swirled around Keisse in recent years, Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere believes he deserves a second chance.
"This contract is under the same conditions as last season," said Lefevere to Het Nieuwsblad. "I didn’t want to see Iljo out on the street after the year he's experienced. First, his collarbone broken and then the suspension: he didn't have many chances to prove himself. He deserves a second chance with us, even though I have not much to offer him."
Lefevere also acknowledged the pending court decision - due on April 11, 2010 - by saying, if Keisse "is again suspended, things will be difficult."
Keisse will join his Quick Step teammates for the squad's first training camp in Calpe, Spain next week where his race programme will be drawn up. Following his emotional win at the Gent six-day last month he will also continue his participation in the European Six-day season. He will also participate in the Revolution 31 in Manchester, England this weekend.
"This is a virtue, after all the misery. This confidence gives me a good feeling and I would like to give something back," said Keisse. "I know what I have to do: work."