The centenary edition of the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent, or Ghent Six, gets underway tomorrow in Belgium.
A British theme is already beginning to shine through for the 100th edition of the race with Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright both confirmed to race in the men’s elite category, and Sir Bradley Wiggins firing the official starting shot.
Along with Hayter and Wright, 39-year-old Iljo Keisse will compete in his final Ghent-Six after first racing the competition in 2002. Keisse has won the competition several times and will be partnered by his fellow Belgian Jasper De Buyst.
As well as Keisse and De Buyst, there are two other all-Belgian duos participating in the upcoming competition.
Here are four men that we think could help their team win the competition this week and become the 2022 Ghent-Six champions.
The South-London born rider has had an impressive season on the road despite not picking up a converted first pro win.
Fred Wright completed both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España and was continuously at the sharp end of the action in various stages across both. The 23-year-old came away from both grand tours without a stage win but showed all the signs of plenty to come in the future.
As well as impressing at the Vuelta and Tour, Wright took a silver medal in the men’s time trial at the Commonwealth Games behind winner Rohan Dennis. The Londoner followed up that good showing with fifth in the road race in which he was regularly on the attack.
His strong season will make Wright’s team a firm favourite for the Ghent-Six title this week.
Thirty-nine -year-old Iljo Keisse has been part of duos that have won the Belgian competition on seven separate occasions making him one of the most prolific winners in the competition's history. He first won the competition in 2005 with the most recent overall victory coming in 2018.
The prolific Belgian has also competed in multiple grand tours throughout his career with the last one being the Giro d’Italia in 2021. Keisse won a stage of the Giro in 2015 and has spent the last 12 years on the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.
This year Keisse will be partnered by fellow Belgian Jasper De Buyst who has also previously won the competition.
De Buyst, who rides for Lotto-Soudal on the road, has spent most of his career focussed on the track. Keisse partnering with a rider of the 28-year-olds calibre will make them firm favourites for the overall win.
Swiss national road champion Dillier forms a partnership that will be considered relative outsiders compared to Wright & Hayter and Keisse with De Buyst. Although that could work in the Swiss rider's favour along with his Belgian teammate Stijn Steels.
Dillier, who rides for Alpecin-Deceuninck, has been part of teams that have finished third at the Ghent-Six on two separate occasions meaning that he knows what it takes to compete.
If Wright & Hayter or the other favourites have an off day then 2022 could be Dillier’s opportunity to finally improve his previous finishes.
On the road Dillier very nearly added a monument title to his palmares before eventually finishing second to Peter Sagan at the 2018 edition of Paris-Roubaix. He has competed in all three of cycling’s grand tours and won a stage at the 2017 edition of the Giro d’Italia.
Partnering Fred Wright in the Callant team will be fellow Londoner and British star rider Ethan Hayter.
Hayter has had a superb year on both the road and track, picking up several titles over the course of the last 12 months. The 24-year-old won the Omnium world title at the recent track world championships, which he also won in 2021, and was also part of the British squad that took the world team pursuit title in Paris.
On the road Hayter took part in his first grand tour at the Vuelta a Espana and won the Tour of Poland overall. He also successfully defended his title as British national time trial champion.
This was a continuation of Hayter’s scintillating form which saw him win the Tour of Norway as well as finish second to Belgium’s Wout Van Aert at the Tour of Britain.
Partnering with his fellow-Brit and housemate Fred Wright has all the makings of success at their first appearance in the Ghent-Six.
FABIO VAN DEN BOSSCHE
One part of the Belgaclima DS Plastics team is Belgian Fabio Van den Bossche.
The 22-year-old from Ghent will be a favourite amongst the home crowds, even if his team isn’t considered as being one of the favourites for the competition. On the road, the youngster’s career is only in its infancy with van den Bossche having only just signed for Alpecin-Deceuninck earlier this year.
However van den Bossche is already beginning to build a name for himself on the track. At the recent track world championships he was part of the Belgian madison team that finished third and van den Bossche scored himself 3rd place in the points race.
At the European track championships in August took the bronze medal in the men’s Madison alongside Belgium’s Robbe Ghys.
WHAT IS THE GHENT-SIX?
The Ghent-Six is an annual track competition which is held in the north western city of Ghent.
It gets its name due to the fact that it's a competition spread over six days in the Kuipke velodrome in Ghent.
The format of six-day racing gained it's popularity in the late 1800s at New York's famous Madison Square Garden - this is where the name Madison comes from - with racing going on for 24 hours over the full six days.
A duo consisting of Belgian Marcel Buysse and Swiss rider Oscar Egg won the first ever edition of the Ghent-Six which was held in 1922.
Sir Bradley Wiggins has been part of the competition winning team on two occasions. In 2003 Wiggins took the victory with Matthew Gilmore of Belgium and in 2016 he raced alongside Mark Cavendish as they both took the title.
In 2021 the race was won by Belgians Kenny De Ketele and Robbe Ghys.
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