Mark Cavendish prepared for November’s Ghent Six-Day with Omega Pharma - Quick-Step teammate Iljo Keisse over the weekend in Belgium.
The British rider may have one eye on the Rio 2016 Olympics as he turns his attentions, at least in the short term, to the track. An Olympic gold is the stand-out missing feature in his otherwise incredible palmarès.
“I haven’t ridden in six or seven years, but we’ll give our best,” Cavendish said. “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.”
Cavendish and Belgium’s Keisse, a five-time Ghent Six-Day winner, trained at the bigger Eddy Merckx velodrome outside of town. They spent time riding behind the derny with Tom Steels to adapt their muscles to the track.
“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 Ghent,” Cavendish continued.
“Ghent 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. 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.”
The Ghent Six-Day takes place next month, November 18 to 23, on a 167-metre track in the city’s centre. Bradley Wiggins won with Matthew Gilmore in 2003. He partnered with Cavendish in 2007 and placed 10th.
Cavendish and Wiggins also won the 2008 Worlds gold medal in the Madison. They went to the Beijing Olympics that year and placed ninth.
Last year, team Omega Pharma General Manager Patrick Lefevere prevented Cavendish from racing the Ghent Six-Day. “We pay him to perform on the road, and he must fully concentrate on that,” Lefevere told Belgium’s Sporza TV at the time.
The race fits into Cavendish’s off-season schedule this year after a crash in the Tour de France on day one, where he separated his right shoulder, prevented him from racing much.
“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.”