Cavendish, Ganna to race in Keisse farewell track night

Iljo Keisse (left) rode with Mark Cavendish at the 2019 Gent Six Day
Iljo Keisse (left) rode with Mark Cavendish at the 2019 Gent Six Day (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mark Cavendish and Filippo Ganna are amongst big-name riders taking part in the ‘Merci Iljoo’ track meet in Gent on Thursday evening, the send-off event for Iljo Keisse as the veteran Belgian retires from the sport.

The evening of racing will be held in the legendary ‘t Kuipke velodrome, where Keisse recently took part in the Gent Six-Day. The QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl pro will lead an eight-man ‘Team Belgium’ squad against  eight rivals in ‘Team International.’

As well as Ganna and Cavendish, Team International will include Holland’s Niki Terpstra, the former Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders winner who is also set to retire at the end of the season. Other headline names in Team International will be Elia Viviani and Michael Morkov.

Locally born Keisse will be the star of Thursday evening’s three-hours Omnium event, which will include a Derny race, elimination race, scratch event, points race and 500-metre sprint.

Other highlights of Merci Iljoo will include a look back at Keisse’ career, which included a Giro d’Italia stage win in 2015 and victories in a notable 28 Six-Day events.

Remco Evenepoel is expected to travel back from his winter base in Spain to watch from the track side and join the celebrations of his now former QuickStep-AlphaVinyl teammate. Keisse is set to stay with the Belgian team, swapping his role as a domestique for that of a directeur sportif.

Evenepoel already showed his high esteem for Keisse when he dropped back from the peloton at Binche-Chimay-Binche, his first road race after taking the rainbow jersey in Australia and his last with Keisse, to  ensure they crossed the finish line together.

As Evenepoel later recounted, “It was our last race together so I wanted to finish it off well with him.”

“He was the most important rider in my career, at the start of my career.”

"I’ve learned a lot from him. After so much racing and so much time spent as my team hotel roommate, I couldn’t have ended the race in a better way.”

Just two days before Binche-Chimay-Binche, Keisse had been present in Brussels’ Grand Place as a privileged witness when Evenepoel celebrated his conquering of the World Championships in Australia. Thursday's 'Merci Iljoo' event in Gent, it will be the other way round and celebrate  Keisse career. 

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