by Steve Penny
British 6-Day Correspondent
25 November 2012
The final day of the Ghent Six promised a big tussle between the Belgian World Madison Champions De Ketele / Van Hoecke and local hero Iljo Keisse with Glenn O'Shea. They didn't disappoint.
That fight started in the very first race with Keisse getting the edge over Van Hoecke in the final sprint. Perhaps a pointer to what lies ahead in the big final when sprints are held every 10 laps over the last 50.
It was once again 'on' between Keisse / O'Shea and De Ketele / Van Hoecke and it was again Keisse who won the sprint. At this time the points where building up in their favour.
After breaking the track record twice this week 8.67 almost felt like an anti-climax for Tristan Marguet. It wasn't of course. Again 8 teams went under 9 seconds and that, along with the track records, completed a remarkable Six in the popular flying lap.
Retiring motor pacer, Joop Zijlaard got a big formal send off from the crowd, organization and riders before the first heat. Following that, it was no surprise when he led Iljo Keisse home for a win in the first race. The 2nd and 3rd heats went to Kenny De Ketele wrapping up the Derny racing at the 72nd Ghent Six.
Young Gijs Van Hoecke was able to claw a few points back in this one beating Glenn O'Shea, continuing the Belgian monopoly of the Sunday programme to this point.
Yet another TT victory for Marguet and Marvulli in 27.30, again ahead of Dillier / Bartko (27.87). The Swiss rider Marguet was brought here to entertain against the clock, he certainly did that going back home for the 'Zurich Six-Day Nights', with both Kuipke track records.
This one was just keeping the legs turning over before the final, but provided Nolan Hoffman his first win of the week. The South African has enjoyed his time here describing it as 'his own Tour De France'; compliments indeed.
The Belgian press had been hyping the rivalry between Iljo Keisse, Kenny De Ketele and Gijs Van Hoecke all week, even calling it the 'Battle of Ghent'.
The battle did have a dramatic conclusion, but for the first 30 minutes it looked as if Robert Bartko and Silvan Dillier might throw a spanner in the works and take a surprise win. They led for the first half as De Ketele / Van Hoecke covered moves made by the more attacking riding of Keisse / O'Shea. The Danish team of Hansen / Hester had been close to the lead all week, but lost a few laps early and were never in contention for the final podium.
Once the sprints started, it was clear Bartko / Dillier wouldn't be able to go the lap clear, as they'd need to, and it was all about the top 2, the bonus and the 5th and final sprints. Starting the chase 12 points behind, De Ketele / Van Hoecke took the initiative and won the first 2 sprints to get within 4 points of the lead. But O'Shea came back and won the 3rd, and even though De Ketele took the 4th, he and Van Hoecke where still behind and needing to win the last sprint. With just under 3 laps to go disaster struck, as Van Hoecke fell on the back straight as he was being thrown into the chase by De Ketele. Someone said there may have been water, but it looked to me as if he just lost control a little and he fell onto the carpet above the rider's cabins, not onto the track itself. That meant De Ketele had to stay in the chase alone, and of course with no break before the final sprint, he wasn't able to contest it. All that was left was for Keisse to roll across the finish line alone with his arms aloft to take the applause from his adoring public.
Iljo Keisse (Winner):
"This one has been a little different as the press has been calling it the 'Battle of Ghent' as me, Kenny and Gijs are all from the Ghent area. So this was more than just the fight for the Six Days, they went full gas from the first to the very last minute. It feels good to be back and yes it feels good to win at home, but this was a warning for me, that with Gijs and Kenny over the coming years it's going to be hard to stay on top. But the fight was only on the bike, we all respect each other and I showed that on the podium as I tipped my cap to them showing my appreciation for the way they went full gas all week. I have a big respect for the way they raced. Normally off the bike we get on really well with each other, but this week the press made it a little more intense with the hype."Glenn O'Shea (Winner - talks about joining the great Aussie Six Day riders as a winner here):
"Before today I looked at the programme at the past winners and I thought about what it'd mean and how exciting it'd be to be on the same list as those guys. So it feels great to now be on that list with guys like Danny Clark, Graeme Gilmore and Matt Gilmore - although he is half Belgian (laughs) - etc. Australia has always had at least one rider in the Six Days. Our national coach is Matt Gilmore so he is of course interested in the Sixes and the national programme promoted me coming over here in the past as it's good hard racing."Kenny De Ketele (2nd with Van Hoecke):
"This week it has been intense with all the press and of course you try to avoid the pressure, but eventually it does get to you. The longer the race went on it got better, but as the race was evolving that the pressure level went up and up. But I think we created a great battle for the public. Of course I would rather have won myself, but things happen in sport and I know that the result was an honest one and in sport we should be honest about what happens."On his partnership with Van Hoecke he said:
"As its always been difficult to get me and Iljo together in Ghent so it really was like a gift from heaven when I met Gijs on the national team as we raced together and fulfilled the dream of becoming World Champions. We race really well together so if all is ok we will be back again next year... racing together."Lasse Norman Hansen (4th - The 20 year old Olympic Omnium Champion acquitted himself well in his first ever ride on this track):
"When I arrived I couldn't believe the size of the track, I was a bit shocked, but once I did an hours training on it then it felt bigger than it looked!!! During the week I've gotten better and better, as has my technique riding this track. The racing has been action packed, up and down. There were a few crashes, but like I said, it has been action packed. Overall it has been a positive and really fun experience for me. After this I'm doing Zurich and the Copenhagen Six which is of course a big objective for me early next year."Tim Mertens (6th with De Buyst):
"It was the first time my partner (De Buyst) ever rode here and I think if we rode again he'd know the track and how to ride and be even better. We'd be able to compete even more with the other guys. So I hope next year to be up there even closer, but it was a good Six for us... we both rode well."Jaspar De Buyst (6th with Mertens)
"It was a big experience for me as I didn't expect these results one week ago. I'm normally a road rider, but I know I can also do something on the track in the future, if it works with my road racing. But I'll be back here next year and during my career I hope I can win or at least get a podium place."Tristan Marguet (7th broke both track records riding here with Marvulli):
"I didn't just come for the Time Trials, but I knew I was fast and my form was good, I'd won the World Cup Scratch race in Glasgow last week. It's been nice taking the track records of course and this has been good keeping the form going, as Zurich in a few days is the big objective. It's our home race!!!"Leif Lampater (9th with a disappointing Tosh Van Der Sande):
"The first 4 days it was really hard. Tosh was disappointed himself that he didn't have the form of last year, but it was great in the last 2 days to see him getting much better. He had a long hard road season, so it's difficult to stay in top condition as he has gone sometime without any racing, which is hard. But I believe he is going to be a really good rider. I have good form and condition myself to take to Zurich, so as always it's a new race, with new luck and a new opportunity for me."
1. Keisse (Bel) - O'Shea (Aus) 484 points 2. De Ketele - Van Hoecke (Bel) 472 3. Bartko (Ger) - Dillier (Swi) 335 At 4 Laps: 4. Hansen - Hester (Den) 247 At 5 Laps: 5. Schep - Stroetinga (Ned) 136 At 10 Laps: 6. De Buyst - Mertens (Bel) 239 At 11 Laps: 7. Marvulli - Marguet (Ski) 282 At 13 Laps 8. Kneisky - Brisse (Fra) 202 9. Van der Sande (Bel) - Lampater (Ger) 160 At 37 Laps: 10. Grasmann (Ger) - Hoffman (RSA) 95 At 41 Laps: 11. Coquyt - De Pauw (Bel) 113 At 43 Laps: 12. Stahr (Ger) - Müller (Aut) 60 At 45 Laps: 13. Breyne - Schets (Bel) 135
The organizations annual review confirmed that the turn out from the public was more than favourable; 5 sell outs is testament to that. Despite the decline of other Sixes, this one stands alone as being a success on all fronts.
Sporting wise, Patrick Sercu (Sports Director), was happy with most of the riders and the intensity of the racing. He was excited by the performances of young Belgian debutants Jasper De Buyst and Gijs Van Hoecke. The latter confirming, in his first Ghent Six, that he has a great engine, but Sercu noted that he has a good future with the road teams, so hopes they allow him to continue to ride the track as well. The Danes, Hansen / Hester have impressed, as has Silvan Dillier who followed up on his strong debut last year to contend with Robert Bartko. Obviously the track records for Marguet / Marvulli are plus points too. The illness of Stroetinga cost the Dutch team a chance to contend and the lack of a few more strong 'international' riders was the only disappointment for Sercu. Reasons for that are well known, it was an Olympic year, plus the commitment to road teams for many. Sercu noted that with no Sixes before Ghent, it is becoming difficult for riders to continue directly from the road season to the track, as in the past.
The only negative point raised by a colleague was feedback about the DJ (the 4th in 5 years). He was not in sync with the racing and therefore the crowd... plus it was very loud. Comments had been made that this had at times killed the atmosphere. The music should work with the spectacle, not over ride it.
The 'Wiggo' craze was in evidence in Het Kuipke too as a group of guys arrived, Belgians, wearing their Wiggins masks. Franco Marvulli rode up to the start line of a Derny race wearing one, much to everybody's amusement, he certainly seems like the old Franco this year. Talking of Wiggins, I personally first met him in 1998 when he was just returning from winning the World Junior Pursuit Championships and was sitting reading 'Cycling Weekly' in (London) Euston railway station, far from public property at that time. It is well known Bradley was born in Ghent and he made his professional debut right here back in 1999. Over the years I watched him race the Ghent, Munich and Dortmund Sixes. Although when he won this Six in 2003, with Matt Gilmore, no one would have predicted that 9 years later he'd be a Tour winner, one of the faces of 2012 in the UK with numerous books about him on the shelves and a TV special celebrating his success.
As always the main race is preceded by the UIV Under-23 Cup race, this was formerly better known as the Amateur Six (Toekomstzesdaagse in Flemish). This week saw the usual nightly crash, although fortunately it was just bumps and bruises rather than broken bones. The winning team where the Czechs Jan Kraus and Denis Rugovac, they proved to be the strongest guys in the chases as they held the lead for much of the week on laps rather than points. In 5th was Jacob Morkov, youngest brother of Michael.
1. Jan Kraus - Denis Rugovac (Cz) 40 points 2. Nico Hesslich - Samuel Horstmann (Ger) 17 At 1 Lap: 3. Jonas Rickaert - Otto Vergaerde (Bel) 88 4. Arne Van Snick - Gert-Jan Van Immerseel (Bel) 53 At 2 Laps: 5. Jacob Morkov - Bigum (Den) 64 At 3 Laps: 6. Thomas Boudat - Clement Barbeau (Fra) 100 7. Sebastian Wotschke - Hans Pirius (Ger) 53 8. Melvin Van Zijl - Didier Caspers (Ned) 48 At 12 Laps: 9. Chris Latham - Sam Lowe (GB) 33 At 15 Laps: 10. Ken De Fauw - Kevin Rasschaert (Bel) 8 At 17 Laps: 11. Niels Vanderaerden - Joris Cornet (Bel) 57 At 21 Laps: 12. Alex Maes (Bel) - Kevin Feiereisen (Lux) 8