Rob Hayles looks back on London Six Day where Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish just missed out on the win
Rob Hayles secured one of his two rainbow jerseys when riding to Madison gold with a 20-year-old Mark Cavendish in 2005.
A year earlier he had won Olympic bronze, in the same event, with Wiggins, and also rode Six Day races with the Belgian-born ‘knight rider’ – including a second place finish in the Six Days of Grenoble in 2000.
With the bittersweet smell of Wiggins’s second-place champagne still wafting from Hayles soaked shirt after he taunted Cavendish by saying ‘another second place’ in the post-race interviews, the triple Olympic medallist tried to sum up how his former colleagues would be feeling.
“It’ll hurt, it really will hurt,” said the 43-year-old. “But that said the team that won, it’s never a lucky team that wins, and [Kenny] de Ketele and [Moreno] de Pauw retained their title from 12 months ago.
“They are the Six Day pairing to shoot at. They are the top dogs who ride the whole series. Brad and Mark can take something from it, that’s for sure, but they will be disappointed.
“In cycling, and in sport, you lose more than you win, unfortunately. But you have to use those defeats as your fuel for the next one.
“For Cavendish he’ll certainly move forward with this, and Bradley also. They should be riding together in the Ghent Six and who knows what’s going to happen there. They both like that track.”
The Belgians’ victory was their second consecutive on British soil, and saw them mirror last year’s triumph by denying a home pairing the win in the closing stages of the final Madison chase.
Last year it was Ollie Wood and Chris Latham that succumbed on the final lap, and this year’s men’s competition was no different.
The women’s event, on the other hand, was a show of imperious strength from Olympic team pursuit champion Katie Archibald.
Winning eight of the ten events, the Scot showed no sign of a dip in the form which took her to Olympic gold, then two European titles and one silver medal a fortnight ago.
Hayles could not help but be impressed by the 22-year-old, whose rivalry with fellow Scot Neah Evans – who finished second to Archibald in all eight events her rival won, before grabbing the final 10km scratch for herself – produced a series of scintillating races.
“She was absolutely untouchable by anybody,” added Hayles. “It was a runaway victory. Everybody else was fighting for second or third place.
“Just to watch that girl go round the track, doing what she does, play to her strengths and everybody fighting for her wheel and then just follow in and come second behind her on nearly every occasion, was brilliant.
“But Neah Evan kept fighting. Obviously Katie Archibald was the stronger rider, the quicker rider, but Neah Evans, she didn’t give up.
“She just pushed all the way and then she eventually got that win. If you knock on the door enough times it’s going to open and it did for the final event.”
In the sprinters’ event it was world keirin and 1km time trial champion Joachim Eilers that eased to victory with a series of imperious performances in the 200m flying time trial.
The German put the gloss on his win with a commanding keirin victory on the final night of competition, lifting his jersey in celebration to show off his rainbow stripes hiding underneath.
“The sprinters, they did their usual thing,” continued Hayles. “They played up to the crowd but when they put their heads down it was all about racing and it was the best man who won.
“A double world champion, he loves this track. He won his titles here earlier in the year and he went out there and, again, everyone was just trying to fight for his wheel, but he came out victorious. A worthy winner of that in the end.”
Look back at the London Six Day
With the lights of the Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome raised, confetti from the presentations still littering the track centre and awestruck crowds reluctantly heading for the exit doors, Hayles struggled to comprehend the six days that had gone before him.
“It’s very difficult at this moment to absorb exactly what’s happened,” he concluded. “The crowds have been unimaginable. The racing has been frenetic all the way through. The drama, as always in a Six Day, right to those final few laps, was there.
“I think in one word, success, and in another few words, would be ‘please bring it back next year’.”
Six Day London took place between October 25 and 30 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 ticketmaster.co.uk/sixdaylondon