After his on-again, off-again suspension, Iljo Keisse will return to his home Six Day in Ghent, Belgium with a new partner and new motivation to add another victory to his palmares.
The Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider will pair up with young Australian Glenn O'Shea in the event, which begins November 20.
Keisse first won the Six Day at 't Kuipke, which takes place just down the road from his father's pub De Karper in the medieval Flandrian town, in 2005. But the subsequent years have been filled with ups and downs for the now 29-year-old. In 2006, he and his partner Robert Bartko were in the lead when the race was called following the fatal crash of Isaac Galvez on night five.
He and Bartko went on to win the overall in 2007 and then, just weeks after their victory in 2008, it was announced that Keisse had tested positive for two different substances during the race: cathine and hydrochlorothiazide (HCT). After arguing to the Belgian federation that the first was due to a cold medicine and the second from a contaminated supplement, the charges were dismissed just ahead of the 2009 Ghent Six day.
Keisse rode the 2009 edition with German Roger Kluge, but was not victorious. Then, in 2009, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reversed the decision of the Belgian federation, and suspended Keisse for two years.
A court of appeals temporarily lifted the suspension, allowing Keisse to take part in the 2010 race with Dutch rider Peter Schep, and the two rode to an emphatic victory.
But the UCI won in the end, preventing him from competing in last year's event as his suspension was still in effect inside Belgium.
Now, his road and track career back on course with the legal battles behind him, Keisse is looking forward to riding with his new partner and taking on his expected competitors. The field for the 72nd Zesdaagse van Vlaanderen Gent was announced today.
"We have a very nice field assembled here," Keisse said to Het Nieuwsblad. "I expect a battle between the world champions Kenny De Ketele / Gijs Van Hoecke and myself with the Australian Glenn O'Shea. As outsiders, the Dutch team of Peter Schep and Wim Stroetinga will also be balanced."
Keisse will also keep an eye on the team of Frenchman Morgan Kneisky, who is paired with Vivien Brisse, and Danish Olympic Omnium champion Lasse Norman Hansen, who teams up with his compatriot Marc Hester, an experienced Six Day pilot.
"I also cannot write off Robert Bartko. That big old German has a huge engine, a true V8. I just want to win again. It is not easy after a tough road season, I have some 130 race days behind me, and more to come on the track.
"Most of the riders are sitting in the sun in Curacao, while I was on my bike doing training rides in the rain and cold to prepare the track season. However, this is my 'home Six Day'," Keisse said. "I get the crowd's support so much that I really want to give everything back."
Riders of the 72nd Ghent Six Day
Kenny De Ketele/Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel)
Peter Schep/Wim Stroetinga (Ned)
Morgan Kneisky/Vivien Brisse (Fra)
Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel)/Leif Lampater (Ger)
Lasse Norman Hansen/Marc Hester (Den)
Iljo Keisse (Bel)/Glenn O'Shea (Aus)
Franco Marvulli /Tristan Marguet (Swi)
Christian Grassman (Ger)/Nolan Hoffman (RSA)
Robert Bartko (Ger)/Silvan Dillier (Swi)
Jasper De Buyst/Tim Mertens (Bel)
Jonathan Breyne /Steve Schets (Bel)
Nicky Cocquyt/Moreno De Pauw (Bel)
Max Stahr/Andreas Muller (Ger)