Iljo Keisse will line up at the Gent Six Day with Italian omnium Olympic champion Elia Viviani this week, aiming to add a seventh victory to his palmares. The Belgian Etixx-QuickStep rider won the event last year with Michael Mørkøv, having also partnered with Glenn O'Shea, Peter Schep, Robert Bartko, Matthew Gilmore to victories.
Since 2004, Keisse has been the most consistent rider at the event either winning or placing second in all but one year. The 33-year-old's 2014 partner Mark Cavendish is riding the Gent Six Day with Bradley Wiggins as the reigning madison world champion and it is the British duo that in particular he would like to get the better of as he explained.
"It would be a pretty picture when I'm on the top step of the podium with Wiggins and Cavendish and De Ketele and De Pauw next to and below me," said Keisse according to Sporza. "That picture would deserve a nice place in my house. But so far we do not have it. It will not be easy to beat these guys."
While the pairing of Cavendish and Wiggins has become a key narrative in the 2016 running of the event, Keisse is quick to point out that the Belgian duo of Kenny de Ketele and Moreno de Pauw are equally as dangerous. De Ketele is a two-time winner of the Gent Six Day but will be riding with De Pauw for the first time this year.
"I already tipped De Ketele and De Pauw," he said of the recent London Six Day winners ahead of Cavendish and Wiggins. "They have already ridden for a long time together and can rely on automatic response and experience. Of course Cavendish and Wiggins will fire as world champions. I know "Cav" and he is very eager and will go full gas. With Wiggins, he has a very strong man at his side."
With Viviani making his debut appearance on the 't Kuipke velodrome, Keisse is hoping the Sky rider will be quick learner and be raring to go for the all important final two days.
"It the first time that Viviani rides the Ghent Six Day. There will therefore be some getting used to at first," added Keisse who is also known as 'De keizer van 't Kuipke' for his successes in Gent. "The important thing is that he is familiar by the weekend, because that's when the real prizes are distributed."
Competition for the overall win is also likely to also come from Australian duo Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson who recently finished third at the London Six Day and second in the Track World Cup madison. Former winners Alex Rasmussen and Leif Lampater are also named starters with Youri Havik and Lindsay De Vylder their respective teammates.
The racing start Tuesday November 15 and concludes Sunday November 20.