“It was fun to race around here with Iljo Keisse, only sorry we did not win,” Cavendish said.
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“Of course, I’m disappointed. As a rider you always want to win. I wanted to get Iljo Keisse his sixth win and I also wanted to see my name on the list of winners of this prestigious six-day.”
Only two Brits have their names on the list that began in 1922. Bradley Wiggins won with partner Matthew Gilmore in 2003. Tony Doyle won twice, in 1991 with Etienne De Wilde and in 1986 with Danny Clark.
Cavendish raced twice as an amateur and twice in his first years as a professional. He paired with Rob Hayles in 2005 and Wiggins in 2007.
He and Ghent local, Keisse placed second to winners Jasper de Buyst and Kenny De Ketele on Sunday. They had 394 points, just shy of a bonus lap, to the winners’ 440 points.
“Today De Ketele and De Buyst were too vigilant,” added Cavendish. “At first we were on the defensive, trying to prevent them from getting a lap back. Then we had to go on the attack again. We tried everything.”
Cavendish last raced on the track seriously in 2008 when he won the Worlds Madison title and went to the Olympics with Wiggins. He returned briefly for a Revolution Series in 2011 and the International Belgian Open in 2013, but his focus has been on the road where he won 25 Tour de France stages, Milan-San Remo and the road race world title.
“It took me three or four days to get into a good rhythm after not racing track for seven years,” Cavendish said. “I was trying to get my track legs back. We couldn’t pick up the points early on that the other guys were, and in the end it put us on the back foot and chasing all week.”
Keisse is a regular six-day rider and has wins in his home six-day from 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. However, he switches for the road season to pull the sprint train for Cavendish or to lead Tom Boonen in the classics.
“I had the best partner and such a good friend of mine in Iljo. For me, it’s an honour to ride with him,” Cavendish said.
“Also, the fans are incredible here in Ghent. It’s a special place. It’s never been a secret I’m very fond of Belgium. I won my first pro race here at Scheldeprijs. I now ride for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, a Belgian based team. There’s such a history of cycling in Belgium and I’m super proud to be here.”
Cavendish is due to race the Zurich Six-Day, November 26 to 29, with Keisse before joining Omega Pharma in its December training camp and turning his attention to the 2015 road season.
More on the Ghent Six
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Belgian duo Jasper De Buyst and Kenny De Ketele lead the Ghent Six-Day track event after the first night's action
Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere resents having to pay for Mark Cavendish's participation in the Ghent Six