Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse have teamed up in Belgium for next week’s Ghent Six, with the veteran Belgian quick to joke that the Manxman “changes bikes like underwear” after they tested their equipment but promising not to shout at him as they compete in another edition of the historic race on the technically difficult, 166m Ghent ’t Kuipke track.
The 2020 Ghent Six was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but returns from November 17-22 with special rules and COVID-19 passes needed to be amongst the 6,400 spectators allowed into the velodrome. Spectators will be kept apart from the riders, with extra ventilation and limitations on movement between the stands and the track centre. The beer is still expected to flow as usual and the racing set to be as entertaining as ever.
Cavendish and Keisse were described as the royal couple of the 2021 Ghent Six when the teams were announced on Monday afternoon. Local resident Keisse has won the event seven times, while Cavendish won in 2016 with Bradley Wiggins but his best result with Keisse is second in 2014.
They will race against their Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate and new Madison World Champion Michael Mørkøv, who is paired with Lasse Norman Hansen. Some of the best track riders in the world complete the 12-team field.
Cavendish and Keisse will travel to Copenhagen on Wednesday to ride the 3 Days DBC event on the Ballerup velodrome and prepare their legs for the six days of racing on the 't Kuipke velodrome.
It will be Keisse’s penultimate ride in the Ghent Six before he plans to retire after next year’s event.
Keisse has kept training during the offseason and is hoping Cavendish will have the form to compete in the Ghent Six after taking his bike on holiday to Abu Dhabi.
“We trained together on Monday and he had some speed, he seemed OK,” Keisse told the Belgian media at the Ghent Six presentation, joking how Cavendish is a perfectionist, even about his new track bikes for this block of racing.
“They're pretty good, but they’re not quite right yet. Cav changes bikes like underwear. He has decided to ride on a different frame and they’re being set-up and finished at the service course in Wevelgem.
“When he stopped after 15 laps on Monday, I thought: here we go again. In the end he was only off the bike for five minutes and finished the rest of the training.”
Keisse insisted he will no longer shout at Cavendish during the Ghent Six as he has done during the past. He has no regrets about not being paired with Mørkøv and just wants to enjoy racing on his home track.
“I've resolved not to bark at Cav again in the six-day race. I’ve done it before but Cavendish has a track record that doesn't fit into the Ghent town hall. His palmares are a hundred times bigger than mine, who am I to tell him what to do?” Keisse asked.
“I want to enjoy it more now than in years past, without gigantic pressure on my shoulders. Sometimes I could no longer see the beauty of the Six Days. Or I saw it, but I didn't enjoy it. That was all unnecessary. Cav and I are going to start and do our best. We'll see where we end up.”
Teams for the 2021 Ghent Six Day
- 1 - Michael Mørkøv/Lasse Norman Hansen (Den/Den) Schneider Electric
- 2 - Yoeri Havik/Jan-Willem van Schip (Ned/Ned) Callant/MHC Mobility
- 3 - Kenny De Ketele/Robbe Ghys (Bel/Bel) Baloise Insurance
- 4 - Iljo Keisse/Mark Cavendish (Bel/GBr) The Wolfpack
- 5 - Otto Vergaerde/Jules Hesters (Bel/Bel) Caruur
- 6 - Roger Kluge/Jasper De Buyst (Ger/Bel) Lotto
- 7 - Fabio Van den Bossche/Lindsay De Vylder (Bel/Bel) Sport Vlaanderen
- 8 - Michele Scartezzini/Gerben Thijssen (Ita/Bel) Soudal
- 9 - Jonas Rickaert/Silvan Dillier (Bel/Swi) Super 8
- 10 - Roy Pieters/Maikel Zijlaard (Ned/Ned) De Feestarchitect
- 11 - Marc Hester/Tuur Dens (Den/Bel) Etixx
- 12 - Morgan Kneisky/Matias Malmberg (Fra/Den) Vanreusel
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