Recently overturned suspension allows hometown star to start
Belgian Iljo Keisse is set to return to his hometown Six Day in Gent, Belgium next week, and will be paired up with Dutch rider Peter Schep.
Schep, 33, has two Six Day victories to his name, one in 2006 in Amsterdam with Danny Stam, and the 2009 Rotterdam Six Day with Juan Llaneras.
Keisse, who signed with Quick Step for the road season, has been out since July, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reversed the Belgian Federation's decision to dismiss doping charges against him. Last week, a Belgian appeals court temporarily reversed the CAS decision, opening the door for Keisse to return to competition until a final decision is issued in April.
The case stems from the 2008 Gent Six Day, which Keisse won with German Robert Bartko. On the final day, Keisse submitted a doping control sample which later tested positive for two banned substances, Cathine and Hydrochlorothiazide (HCT), but blamed the positives on cold medicine and a dietary supplement.
"A burden was lifted from my shoulders when I heard that my suspension had been suspended," Keisse said during the presentation of the Gent Six Day. "But another burden is now in its place, that of having to perform. That was never much of a problem in the past, but the situation is different now because I've had so little preparation.
"Keep in mind that I have not raced since June, and Gent is my first Six Day," Keisse said, warning that he was unsure of how his form would be. "After the first Madison next Tuesday, no, after the first hour, I'll know more."
Keisse is immensely popular in his hometown, despite the protracted doping case. The 27-year-old first won the Gent Six Day in 2005, when paired with Mathew Gilmore. The next year, he was on his way to victory with Robert Bartko when the final night was canceled because of the death of Isaac Galvez.
He and Bartko won in 2007, and their victory in 2008 is still pending the outcome of Keisse's doping case.
Keisse placed second, paired with German Roger Kluge, in last year's edition of the race.