Six-Day track legend and Ghent race director Patrick Sercu says Mark Cavendish's track appearance is good for the event, and good for Cavendish too
“I’m sure that this will also be good for his road season next year,” Sercu told Cycling Weekly. “A little bit more winter training, speed training on the track. I see him going very well in 2015.”
Belgium’s Sercu raced through the 1960s and 1970s and won a record 88 six-day races while often paired with Eddy Merckx. Cavendish has raced little in comparison, but the 70-year-old Ghent race director explained that the intensity and speed will work wonders for the road season.
“He wasn’t as good in 2014, which didn’t have to do with the track. In fact, I’m sure he’ll be better next year because of a better winter. OK, if you race 10 six-days in the winter, that would not be good, but one or two will help. That’s good winter training that can be joined with the team’s winter camp.”
The 29-year-old Briton raced in Ghent twice as an amateur and twice as a professional. He last raced in 2007, when he partnered with Bradley Wiggins and placed 10th. In the same period, he won the Madison World Championships with Rob Hayles in 2005 and with Wiggins in 2008.
Cavendish trained regularly on the track in the last two months leading to the race. The organiser paired him with the best, five-time Ghent winner and Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate, Belgian Iljo Keisse. They sit second overall after three nights of racing behind leaders, Belgian locals Jasper de Buyst and Kenny De Ketele.
They will continue to race the Zurich Six-Day, November 26 to 29, this winter. As Sercu said, it could be ideal given Cavendish is fighting to get back up to speed to battle sprinters like Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
Cavendish crashed in the Tour de France’s first stage to Harrogate on July 5, separating his right shoulder, and was unable to race much afterwards.
“We can’t be fooled into thinking he’s going to become a track rider, though,” added Sercu. “His first obligation is racing on the road, all the rest is a function of that. It’s not like if he does one or two six-day races that he will automatically become a track rider.”
Cavendish’s participation, however, is bringing much needed attention to six-day races as they struggle to compete with road and cyclo-cross events. The Ghent Kuipke velodrome is packed as always, both in the stands and in the lively track centre, but Sercu noticed the attention is much greater with a road star in attendance.
“There are not many road stars who can race six-days. Cavendish, Niki Terpstra… Elia Viviani can, but he is not a top road star. It is normal those guys focus on the road, where there are bigger contracts with more money. Even rising star, Jasper De Buyst will switch to the road in the next three years,” Sercu added.
“With Cavendish’s participation, we had a lot of publicity in the newspapers and on TV beforehand. That helped and everyone wanted to come. However, the six-day races are not on TV, like cyclo-cross and road races, so it’s hard to ask for much money from sponsors.
“But his presence in 2014 will help in the years to come. He brings the public and an atmosphere to Ghent. Even if he doesn’t come back next year, it will help.”
More on the Ghent Six
Belgian duo Jasper De Buyst and Kenny De Ketele lead the Ghent Six-Day track event after the first night's action
Mark Cavendish and team-mate Iljo Keisse warm up for the Ghent Six
Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere resents having to pay for Mark Cavendish's participation in the Ghent Six