Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse have spent the last four days on the track in Gent, training for the Gent Six Day that will be held between November 18-23. The two Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders are both accomplished track riders but the Gent Six is the first time they will race together and take on the expert six-day riders, who compete in the full Six Day winter calendar.
Cavendish is using the Gent Six to boost his winter training as he recovers from his shoulder injury caused by his high-speed crash on the opening stage of the Tour de France. He made a rapid recovery to win some minor races in August and rode well at the Tour of Britain but the Manxman is keen to be back to his best for the 2015 road season.
"Last year I had a long season, but this year my season ended pretty early. So, it made sense to start with the six-days and give me short-term focus in anticipation of next year,” Cavendish said in a interview on the Omega Pharma-QuickStep website.
“I'm incredibly lucky. This year we've got a legend in the six-days world on the track with Iljo. He'll get to start in his home of Gent. Gent is also known as a British six-day, because so many fans come over. I've done it twice before, it's really the hardest one. But I'm in good company with Iljo. He's incredibly focused and he keeps me focused. It's an honor to ride with him on this team and I know we can go away with a good result.”
Cavendish is a former two-time Madison world champion on the track but has been doing specific training on the Gent track with Keisse and sprint coach Tom Steels.
“Iljo has won here so many times and for sure we want to do well. I haven't ridden in six or seven years, but we'll give our best. I want to be in the best condition possible and do Iljo and the team proud,” he said.
“Track racing is different and something to get used to. It's different technique and you use muscles that you don't necessarily use on the road. We've been here the past few days behind the derny ridden by Tom Steels, getting used to the high pace and high cadence and adapting our muscles to riding. We haven't done full gas efforts quite yet until our bodies adapt to the track, but we will."
Keisse will be racing on his home town track in Gent and the Keisse-Cavendish pairing will be the big-name favourites to win the Gent Six.
"We will need that time to get back into the rhythm of track racing, but I'm excited about the Gent Six as I always am with it being a home race for me,” Keisse said.
I'm happy about riding with Cavendish. I'm very proud and honored to ride with him. It's always been a dream to ride with him. Last year we talked about it but it didn't work out. This year in agreement with the team we are now working hard and training for Gent. It's pretty difficult because it's in the middle of winter. I'm trying to work as hard as possible for next season and do specific training for Gent.”
“We'll do short efforts on the track and when the weather is not too bad, long and easy efforts on the road. As for what it takes to do well on the track, experience and speed are important, but the chemistry between the teammates has to be there. Chemistry is the most important thing. What one rider lacks, the other rider must have extra. Mark is one of the fastest guys in the world and with me, who is one of the most experienced on the field that is riding the Gent Six-Days, it's a good combination. We're also friends, which makes it easier when you're riding with someone for the first time on the track.”
"In Gent it's a full house every day. It's special to be a part of that. For six-day riders I think Gent is the best event in the world at this moment. I think that's why Cav wanted to do it. He's been in Gent before, he knows what this event is like. I think it's big for him to come back and try and win an event like the Gent Six. We'll try our best to do that."