Iljo Keisse won his hometown Gent Six for the fifth time in his career on Sunday, but he and partner Glenn O'Shea faced fierce competition from Madison world champions Kenny De Ketele and Gijs Van Hoecke in a contest which went down to the final sprint in the closing Madison on Sunday.
The two teams traded the lead throughout the week, but entering Sunday afternoon's hour-long Madison finale De Ketele and Van Hoecke trailed Keisse and O'Shea by 12 points. The Madison world champions cut their deficit back to six points entering the final sprint, but disaster struck with three laps to go during an exchange. As De Ketele was slinging his partner into the fray on the back straight, Van Hoecke crashed. De Ketele was no match for a fresher Keisse, who won the final sprint to seal overall victory, 484 points to 472.
"It was a great race! Of course it was unfortunate that Gijs fell. That really was an anti-climax because I would rather have won the final sprint in a straight duel to win," said Keisse.
The 29-year-old Belgian was quick to praise his young Australian partner Glenn O'Shea, 23, who proved his mettle on the steeply banked, 166-metre Kuipke velodrome. O'Shea is the fourth partner Keisse has had in his five Gent Six victories, joining Matthew Gilmore (2005), Robert Bartko (2007, 2008) and Peter Schep (2010).
"I want to thank my teammate for all that he did during this race," said Keisse. "We didn't race together before, so we had to get used to each other. But we did it. There was some doubt about our 'team,' but I think that Glenn showed some great skills."
"In June I asked him if he wanted to ride with me, but I told him that he had to be in top shape at the start because I wanted to win. He promised me that I didn't have to worry and last weekend in the World Cup in Glasgow I saw that he was ready."
O'Shea won the Omnium world championship plus a team pursuit silver medal in April on home soil, finished fifth in the Omnium's debut at the London Olympics, and then finished a close second to Germany's Lucas Liss in the Omnium at the recent Glasgow World Cup.
"We had a hard fight against Kenny [De Ketele] and Gijs [Van Hoecke], two great champions who will achieve much success," said Keisse. "I take my hat off to the way they raced here.
"I would like to thank also my team for the support they give always. Last but not least let me thank the great public of Gent. They make the Six Days of Gent the best track race of the world!"
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