Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have confirmed that they will line out together at the Ghent Six in November, which is set to be the final event of Wiggins' professional career. The pair previously rode the Ghent Six together in 2007, and are the reigning world champions in the Madison.
Wiggins was born in Ghent in 1981 and can remember watching his late father Gary compete in 't Kuipke velodrome when he was a child. The Briton won the Ghent Six in 2003, when he was partnered by Matthew Gilmore.
"My earliest memory of watching a cycle race was in Ghent in 1986 when I was six," Wiggins said. "I rode my first Ghent Six Day when I was 19 so it's kind of fitting that that's where the last one will be. I think also, because of the nostalgia involved with it, the history of the velodrome, it is a special place: Merckx, Sercu and all the rest used to race there. For me Ghent was always going to be the end."
Wiggins was part of Great Britain's gold medal-winning quartet in the team pursuit at the Rio 2016 Olympics, bringing his total tally of Olympic medals to eight. He is set to line out at the upcoming Tour of Britain with his WIGGINS team, but will call time on his career at the end of this season, with the Ghent Six his swansong.
Cavendish placed second in the 2014 Ghent Six, where he was partnered by Iljo Keisse. The race served as an early testing ground as he built towards competing in the omnium at the 2016 Olympics, and the Manxman went on to take the silver medal in Rio.
"It's always exciting to ride at an event as historic as Ghent 6, but to be riding as World Champion with Brad, in his final year, will be something very sentimental. After a close 2nd place in my last appearance with Iljo, a win would be the perfect way to close out Brad and my partnership on the bike," Cavendish said.
In addition to his omnium challenge, Cavendish travelled to Rio as a reserve for the British team pursuit effort, but was deemed surplus to requirements and played no part in any of the rounds, missing out on a medal in the discipline. Speaking last week, Wiggins dismissed the idea of a rift between the two men following the decision not to include Cavendish in the team pursuit qualifying.
"We all thought that he was capable of doing it physically but just didn't have enough time. We had been working on this for 18 months – trying to go that fast – so he was disappointed naturally and I think that came across in some of the things he said," Wiggins said at a Rapha event in London.
"That's not me freezing him out by the way. If I take our relationship aside, as much as I'd love him in there with me, I have to be brutally honest about this as it's about winning. We've worked out arses off for this so are we going to just accommodate someone? That's not just me saying it, it's Ed Clancy who is a huge leader in the team but it makes more of a story if 'Brad has frozen him out'."
Gent Six organiser Rob Discart, meanwhile, welcomed the presence of Cavendish and Wiggins at the event, which takes place from November 15-20.
"Teaming up for Ghent was their own idea. At the end of last year we had already been in touch with Cavendish and this spring we'd been informed about interest from Wiggins to compete as well," Discart said. "After their success at the world championships in London they confirmed their ambitions and things gained traction."