Keisse wants another Six Day title after he and Van Hoecke top standings at London Olympic Velodrome
Six Day legend Iljo Keisse admits he is desperate to add London to his already impressive collection of Six Day successes, after he and partner Gijs Van Hoecke overtook Britain’s Chris Latham and Ollie Wood at the end of Wednesday’s action.
Despite an early attack from Latham and Wood, the Spanish pairing of David Muntaner and Albert Torres came from nowhere to steal a lap and win the opening madison.
But Monday’s overnight leaders Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw also stole a lap to take charge of the overall standings once again, and De Ketele produced another brilliant performance to win his derny heat ahead of Lasse-Norman Hansen.
And in the other there was a stunning finish between Jespar Morkov and Mark Stewart, with the Dane pipping the home favourite by a matter of inches.
Supreme bike-control from Niki Terpstra saw team eight into into the final two of the team elimination and earned him the support of the crowd, but Alex Rasmussen and Marc Hester of Denmark hit top gear on the final lap to blow them away.
But after consistent performances all evening Keisse and Van Hoecke turned the screw in the final race of the night, pouncing early on to gain a lap before stealing another in the dying moments to take top spot away from their Belgian compatriots.
“It’s always better to be in the lead rather than having to chase the other guys down,” said Keisse.
“But sometimes it’s also not the best position with two days to go because then everyone is watching us, even more than they already do now. It will be harder racing tomorrow for us.
“In the final chase we tried to surprise everybody with taking two laps immediately after each other, and then we were lucky that Latham and Wood were with us and together we could take the lap with, I don’t know, four or five to go.
“Of course London isn’t on my honours yet, because it was 35 years ago that was the last Six Day here. I will try to win it for sure, and it would be nice to do that as I love the city.”
Manx Missile Mark Cavendish was also in attendance on Wednesday evening to take in the action.
And after witnessing the atmosphere first-hand and seeing a former Six Day partner in Keisse race, he admitted he wished he was fit to join them.
“I’d have loved to race here with Iljo,” he said. “He’s a good friend of mine – a teammate – and we won the Six Day together in Zurich last year.
“I would have loved to race with him here in London, so I’m sad about my shoulder and not to be able to ride here – although the racing looks hard.
“I really wish him my best. I like to see the British riders do well here of course, but secretly I want to see my friend do well too.”
Wednesday also saw the start of the Women’s Omnium competition, and all eyes from the British crowd were on Olympic champion Dani King and Paralympic legend Dame Sarah Storey.
Storey looked to set the pace, but Poland’s Malgorzata Wojtyra was the woman to watch as she claimed two of the three sprints to win overall, with Jarmila Machacova second and Alzbeta Pavlendova third.
King finished the first race back in sixth, and could not make much more of an impact in the elimination race.
Birthday girl Stephanie Pohl of Germany rode the final two laps to perfection and surged clear of Wojtyra around the last bend to land a deserved triumph.
And Wojtyra was still on song in the final contest, the 7.5km scratch race, as she took second place behind Charlotte Becker to lead the overall standings by five points ahead of the German.
But despite ending the evening placed ninth, King remained upbeat with two days still remaining.
She said: “It’s one of my favourite events I think that I’ve been to, for sure. I’m just getting stuck in to be honest. I’ve never been part of a Six Day before, so to be involved in one in London is incredible.
“All the racing is pretty fast and furious which is always good, hopefully the crowd are really enjoying the women’s racing as well as the men’s.
“Its always amazing to come back to this stadium. Every time I walk up the stairs into the track centre I get goosebumps; it’s awesome.”
Meanwhile, Eric Balzer was the main man for the sprinters as he overtook Matt Rotherham and Denis Dmitriev to lead the overall standings with a sprint final victory as well as second place in the keirin.
Six Day London is at Lee Valley VeloPark between 18-23 Oct – tickets now on sale at www.sixday.com. Come and see the world’s best track cyclists in action and be part of an electric party atmosphere at London’s Olympic Velodrome.