MARK CAVENDISH AND ILJO KEISSE BEGIN TRAINING FOR SIX DAYS OF FLANDERS-GENT
OPQS riders Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse trained together with sport director Tom Steels at Vlaams Wielercentrum eddy merckx Gent on Friday through Monday, in anticipation of Lotto Six-Days Flanders-Gent, which takes place from November 18th until the 23rd of the month. The Manx Missile and the five-time Gent Six-Days winner Keisse will be teammates for the first time.
“training went quite well today,” OPQS sport director Tom Steels said on Monday. “It was two sessions of 45 minutes. We were all going pretty fast, about 55 kilometers per hour. Preparing for this event is a combination oftraining on the road, and also the track for the leg Speed and the technique. They both have a lot of experience with this discipline, so that comes back to them quickly, purely from memory. But still, they have to practice and I think that’s why these days of training in anticipation of the race is important. Especially for Iljo and Mark. They’ve rode with each other maybe once. So it’s important they practice. I think they’re going to be up there to go for the win. They’re both experienced and motivated, so we’ll see what this can bring with these two as teammates on the track as they have been on the road. It’s new to them riding together, but Iljo will give good guidelines to Mark about Gent. He’s got so much experience there, they will both know what to expect.”
Cavendish said he is honored to ride with the five-time winner, and is looking forward to his first track event in years.
“I like to ride the Gent Six-Days,” Cavendish said. “Last year I had a long season, but this year my season ended pretty early. So, it made sense to start with the six-days and give me short-term focus in anticipation of next year. I’m incredibly lucky. This year we’ve got a legend in the six-days world on the track with Iljo. He’ll get to start in his home of Gent. Gent is also known as a British six-day, because so many fans come over. I’ve done it twice before, it’s really the hardest one. But I’m in good company with Iljo. He’s incredibly focused and he keeps me focused. It’s an honor to ride with him on this team and I know we can go away with a good result. To me I never like to go into the race without trying to win. Iljo has won here so many times and for sure we want to do well. I haven’t ridden in six or seven years, but we’ll give our best. I want to be in the best condition possible and do Iljo and the team proud. Track racing is different and something to get used to. It’s different technique and you use muscles that you don’t necessarily use on the road. We’ve been here the past few days behind the derny ridden by Tom Steels, getting used to the high pace and high cadence and adapting our muscles to riding. We haven’t done full gas efforts quite yet until our bodies adapt to the track, but we will.”
Keisse looks forward to opening his track season at his home race, his favorite Cycling event, where he is known for so much success.
“It’s still one month away but I’m absolutely looking forward to it,” Keisse said. “We will need that time to get back into the rhythm of track racing, but I’m excited about Gent Six-Days as I always am with it being a home race for me. I’m happy about riding with Cavendish. I’m very proud and honored to ride with him. It’s always been a dream to ride with him. Last year we talked about it but it didn’t work out. This year in agreement with the team we are now working hard and training for Gent. It’s pretty difficult because it’s in the middle of winter. I’m trying to work as hard as possible for next season and do specific training for Gent. This is not negative, it’s part of the build up. We’ll do short efforts on the track and when weather is not too bad, long and easy efforts on the road. As for what it takes to do well on the track, experience and Speed are important, but the chemistry between the teammates has to be there. Chemistry is the most important thing. What one rider lacks, the other rider must have extra. Mark is one of the fastest guys in the world and with me, who is one of the most experienced on the field that is riding the Gent Six-Days, it’s a good combination. We’re also friends, which makes it easier when you’re riding with someone for the first time on the track.
Keisse noted that the six-days events are special, but especially in Gent where it is world renowned.
“There’s a big difference between six-days and world championships,” Keisse said. “World Championships are big gear, short races. Six-days are more like stage races on the road. You do between 100 kilometers and 120 kilometers every evening, with 10 or 12 different events. They go from 8 at night until 1 or 2 in the morning sometimes. All those points and laps come together for the classification. But it’s mostly about the atmosphere. In Gent it’s a full house every day. It’s special to be a part of that. For six-day riders I think Gent is the best event in the world at this moment. I think that’s why Cav wanted to do it. He’s been in Gent before, he knows what this event is like. I think it’s big for him to come back and try and win an event like the Gent Six. We’ll try our best to do that.”