Defending champions Moreno de Pauw and Kenny de Ketele declared their Six Day London win as their biggest ever after denying home favourites Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins a fairytale victory.
The Belgians overhauled their illustrious British rivals with a lap in the closing stages of the final Madison chase, and took the sprint to the line to take the victory on points.
De Ketele and de Pauw, winners of multiple Six Day titles across Europe in recent years, led the competition from midway through the second day until midway through the fifth.
But an enthralling Madison victory for Cavendish and Wiggins on day five meant they leapfrogged the Belgians heading into the last day.
However, a powerful final-day performance ensured de Ketele and de Pauw leave for the second round of the Six Day Series, in Amsterdam, in December, as London champions and series leaders.
And de Ketele was left in no doubt about where this victory stands in their palmarès.
“With all respect to everybody, this victory is the biggest Six Day victory by far, it’s amazing,” said the 31-year-old.
“The last sprint was just a mental thing, the gap was already big enough on points, it was all about gaining that lap back.
“Honestly I think we were a bit lucky, but it’s amazing.”
After an early exit in the elimination race, fourth in the derny final – which was won in style by Cavendish and Wiggins – the Belgians went all out for the win in the final hour-long Madison chase.
Entering the race a lap down but a point ahead, the two teams were level heading into the final 40 laps, with de Ketele and de Pauw launching the race-winning solo attack in the final 30 circuits, making the junction with just ten to go.
“It was so hard, it was the hardest 20 laps of our careers,” said de Pauw, 25. “We knew it would be difficult to gain a lap but we had to because we were a lap behind.
“So we were easy on our efforts in the elimination and derny to save energy, then in the final chase we went all-or-nothing with 30 laps to go.
“We quickly got half a lap, then it was just the last mental part to get the half a lap, then with ten laps to go we did it.”
Defeat left Cavendish and Wiggins downbeat, but respectful of their opponents.
The event is scheduled to be Wiggins’ final race on British soil, with just one more opportunity for him to get a final win before retirement, at the Ghent Six in Belgium.
“I’m disappointed but, at the same time, pleased it’s over,” said the seven-time world track champion.
“It’s no mean feat losing to those guys. They’re real specialists at this. They nearly won the worlds off of us back in March, they took a lap right at the end similar to that.”
And Cavendish, who missed Six Day London last year when recovering through injury, said he could look back on the event with pride.
“It’s been brilliant,” said the reigning Madison world champion. “Crowds have been phenomenal every night and that’s what it’s about.
“The noise was just like when we won the World Championships back in March. We fought and we’re happy we could be in this position.
“We didn’t know how we’d be, so to be fighting for the win was incredible.
“We’re majorly disappointed that we didn’t just win that after all the people who turned out for it, but to lose to Kenny and Moreno – it’s not like we haven’t lost to the best Six Day riders in the world, we’re world champions and we got to ride in front of our home crowd, so we’re happy with that.”
The night’s racing did see some British success, with Chris Latham and Andy Tennant taking the team elimination race, while Marc Hester won the Longest Lap race.
Australia’s Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson finished in third place, one lap down on the leading pairs, with the two other British pairs in 10th and 11th places, respectively.
The other competitions saw Britain’s Katie Archibald take the women’s omnium crown and Germany’s Joachim Eilers win the sprinter’s event ahead of ahead of compatriot Max Levy.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Eilers. “It’s my first Six Day ride here in London, where I won two world titles. It’s unbelievable, I like it very much.
“The crowds have been unbelievable. Every time, every day, full house and the crowd makes so much noise. It’s unbelievable, great, I love it.”
Six Day London took place between 25-30 October 2016 at Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Six Day London 2017 tickets go on general sale at 11am on Wednesday, November 2 at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/sixdaylondon
1 Kenny de Ketele & Moreno de Pauw (Bel) 391 pts
2 Mark Cavendish & Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBr) 380
3 Cameron Meyer & Callum Scotson (Aus) 344, + 1 lap
4 Leif Lampater & Marcel Kalz (Ger) 321
5 Yoeri Havik & Wim Stroetinga (Ned) 246
6 Albert Torres & Sebastian Mora Vedri (Esp) 288
7 Morgan Kneisky & Benjamin Thomas (Fra) 250
8 Marc Hester & Jesper Morkov (Den) 208
9 Andreas Muller & Andreas Graf (Aut) 134
10 Andy Tennant & Chris Latham (GBr) 319
11 Ollie Wood & Jon Dibben (GBr) 223
12 Christian Grasmann & Max Beyer (Ger) 167
13 Tristan Marguet & Claudio Imhoff (Sui) 230
14 Jens Mouris & Pim Ligthart (Ned) 165
15 Alex Buttazzoni & Fracesco Lamon (Ita) 140
16 Casper Pederson & Alex Rasmussen (Den) 133