Kenny de Ketele believed his Derny race experience proved vital as he and fellow 2015 champion Moreno de Pauw extended their lead at the top of the rankings at the half way stage of London Six Day.
The overnight leaders had only prevailed in one event heading into the final race of the night, but de Ketele showed off his Derny prowess to overcome home favourite Sir Bradley Wiggins – extending their Six Day lead to 41 points in the process.
It seemed as though Wiggins would be roared home by another capacity crowd in the Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome, but the Belgian pulled it out of the bag with a scintillating pass on the home straight.
It completed an exceptional day for the London Six Day holders, with consistency the name of their game as they retained top spot.
Wiggins and Mark Cavendish are second, while Australian pair Callum Scotson and Cameron Meyer rounded off the top three, one lap and 51 points down.
Six Day cycling starts at the Olympic velodrome on Tuesday and here is your guide to the action
Starting the night with a 19-point lead, the Belgians opened day three with a solid second place behind Meyer and Scotson in the Madison chase, beaten only in the final sprint.
And with two fifth-placed finishes to follow, in both team elimination and the 250 metre Madison time trial, the Belgian pair were delighted to take their lead to 41 points at the halfway point of competition.
“We have a nice gap now, on points, but every single event delivers so many points that one mistake in the elimination, and the other team wins it, then bang, you’re 30 points behind,” said de Ketele.
“The lead can go really quickly so we need to stay focussed, keep gaining points, keep it up the front and don’t make any mistakes.
“Brad was at the front for the whole time, and I know from experience that, behind your pacer in third position, as I was the whole race, you get the slipstream of the Derny and the riders in front of you, as well.
“So it was always a little bit easier for me.”
And for de Pauw, there’s no better place to be than top spot, with three more days of intense competition to come.
“We’re tired, but good, leading is always the best thing you can do, but still three days to go,” he said.
“We keep repeating it but that’s the way it is, you can lose one lap fast so you have to stay focussed, stay concentrated and take it day by day.”
London Six Day: so far
The night started in frantic fashion as world champions Cavendish and Wiggins wasted no time getting their evening underway, taking a lap from the opposition in just eight minutes in the Madison chase.
They were to be pegged back, but alongside Meyer and Scotson, the two launched an immediate assault, raising the roof before eventually crossing the line in fifth.
And their crowd-pleasing was not to be done just yet, delivering a sprint masterclass across 250m, with their time of 12.993 seconds enough to take fourth position in the event to go second overall in the standings.
But hot on the heels of the British pair are Meyer and Six Day debutant Scotson, trailing by ten points – although Cavendish and Wiggins have the benefit of an extra lap to their advantage.
Starting as they meant to go on, the Australians stormed to Madison chase victory, finishing the day on 192 points after ending sixth in the team elimination.
But Scotson – winner of the Top Banana award from host Rob Hayles after day three – admitted his impressive performance on his first Six Day appearance was starting to have an impact on his body.
“The legs are starting to get used to the racing. I’m getting a little bit tired but the next three nights will be the real hard times,” said Scotson.
“It was close, we were really trying to get the lap in the Madison chase. Then with 15 laps go we realised that wasn’t possible, so we were trying to hang on to the end.”
In other London Six Day 2016 competition, Marc Hester showed the perfect blend of balance and speed to take the crowd-favourite Longest Lap, a victory which puts he and Jesper Morkov seventh in the overall standings.
And it was Swiss pair Tristan Marguet and Claudio Imhof who showed the true need for speed, hitting average speeds above 70km/h in winning the 250 Madison TT in 12.805 seconds.
Learn about the team sprint
Elsewhere at Six Day London, Joachim Eilers extended his sprint competition lead to four points after yet another scintillating run in the flying 200m TT.
The German stole the show in his heat, crossing in just 10.366 seconds before overcoming compatriot Max Levy and Trinidad and Tobago’s Njisane Phillip in the final.
And there was plenty more for the home crowd to cheer too, with Mathew Rotherham winning an absorbing Keirin final.
The Bolton man had been cut adrift as Nate Koch unleashed a sprint from almost three laps back, but Rotherham – supported by his brother, Tom – came back to take the spoils to sit third overall in the rankings, five points behind Eilers.
Day three of Six Day action saw the 1878 Cup come to its own frantic finish, with Grant Martin and Andy Brown fighting back from a mid-race crash to finish sixth in the last of three 40km Madisons and take the overall title.
Six Day London takes place between October 25 and 30 at Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Half term fun, with or without the kids. Tickets on sale now at sixday.com