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Iljo Keisse ready to make return to the track with Mark Cavendish at Gent Six

Iljo Keisse (right) and partner Elia Viviani on their way to winning the title at the 2018 Gent Six
Iljo Keisse (right) and partner Elia Viviani on their way to winning the title at the 2018 Gent Six (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish will hope to improve upon his second place from the Six Day London last week when he partners former teammate Iljo Keisse at the Gent Six next week.

Keisse has not yet ridden on the track this winter, but is ready to test out the elbow he injured earlier this year in a crash at Paris-Roubiax with some Madison hand-slings at the famous Kuipke velodrome.

The Belgian is a seven-time winner of the Gent Six, and rode the race as Cavendish's partner back in 2014, when the pair finished second overall behind Belgium's Jasper De Buyst and Kenny De Ketele. Cavendish and Keisse were also teammates on the road at QuickStep for three seasons from 2013 to 2015.

Thirty-six-year-old Keisse won his seventh title last year partnering Italy's Elia Viviani – the rider who, with partner Simone Consonni, beat Cavendish and his partner, Owain Doull, in London. Cavendish, meanwhile, took the Gent crown together with Bradley Wiggins in 2016, with Keisse and Viviani relegated to third place that year.

"Cavendish is ready for Gent," Keisse told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad on Tuesday. "After London, he's hyper-motivated to shine.

"As for me, I'm a little less keen, but only because I haven't yet been on the track this year, and fell heavily on my elbow at Paris-Roubaix [in April]. That injury took longer to recover from than I'd hoped and, although I have recovered, it's another matter having to use it on the track.

"I have to launch that little Brit quite a few times each night," Keisse explained, referring to the hand-sling changeovers between the Six Day pairs in the Madison events. "That's going to be a huge burden on the joint, but I'm going to have to hope for the best."

The 2019 Gent Six takes place between November 12 and 17, and on top of the usual programme of racing will be an attempt by World Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts on the final afternoon to try to beat the track's longstanding 5,000-metre record, set at 6:13:56 by Dirk Baert in 1981.

Campenaerts will leave current team Lotto Soudal at the end of the season to join Dimension Data, which in 2020 will be known as Team NTT.

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