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67th Zesdaagse Vlaanderen - Gent - 6D
Gent, Belgium, November 20-25, 2007
The 67th edition of the Gent Six Day will see the tight-knit group of racers staff who make up the Six Day circuit work to overcome the horror and grief which followed the death of Issac Gálvez on the fifth night of last year's event. The organizers and racers will honour their fallen comrade with the placement of a memorial stone at the entrance to 'Het Kuipke' and commemorative lap, and then shake the emotions out of their legs with six nights of hard core racing.
"For nearly everyone the meet will bring back memories after the tragic accident last year with Isaac Gálvez," said last year's leader at the time of the accident, Iljo Keisse. "That will make for a nervous start, but don't think for a second that the riders will start any slower. Everyone will stand still for a moment and remember what happened 12 months ago, but after that it will be back to racing."
Keisse will start as the hot favourite for the 67th Gent Six Day, which starts tonight in his home town. The 24 year-old has already won the Amsterdam Six Day with German partner Robert Bartko. Keisse and Bartko will face stiff competition from a star studded field that includes the Dutch pairing of Robert Slippens and Danny Stam, as well as the British pair of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.
"The season so far has been going really well," Keisse told Sportwereld. "The win in Amsterdam was a surprise. We were actually only hoping to come into a bit of form in Munich with a view to the Gent six. Dortmund was with a sixth place good riding with the young Eric Mohs. In Munich we only missed the podium thanks to a flat tyre.
"We will be in top condition for Gent," he added. "Bartko is stronger than last year. Myself, I feel a lot fresher than 12 months ago too. I finished off the road season a bit easier because at the end of last season I felt too tired in Hasselt."
Despite being favourites to take out the title, the Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen road rider isn't underestimating the threat posed by his rivals. "I am expecting the most competition to come from Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, but we can't underestimate Robert Slippen and Danny Stam either," he said. "The biggest question mark is going to be Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. Especially Cavendish, he is still young and has had a tough road season behind him."
In order to be one step of his competition, Keisse decided to train on Monday as though it was the first day of the event. "I want to have the first day of the six day behind me," he said. "The others will come good on Tuesday, and that's where I can get my advantage."
One rider who will not be present in Gent is the partner of Isaac Gálvez, Juan Llaneras. The 38 year-old has continued to ride since his friend and Madison partner's tragic death, winning the point championship at the Worlds in Mallorca this year. "I rode there on a cloud of enthusiasm. Everyone in the full-velodrome helped me achieve the win. Isaac gave me strength to pass Keisse and Ignatiev. ... On the podium, I pictured Gent. Joy and grief were joined together in one gold medal."
Llaneras still remembers every detail of the fatal accident. "A fall like that happens often on the track, I thought. But it immediately became clear to me that this was serious when everyone went into a panic. I stood by and looked on helplessly. I got in touch with Isaac's wife. It was hard but I found the right words. The memory of the applause as they carried Isaac off the track still cuts me like a knife.
"When I got word of his death, my world collapsed," he concluded sadly. He thought of retiring, but "that wouldn't have helped anybody." Since then, "I fight back. For myself, for my supporters and for Isaac. I dedicate every victory to him."
Certainly, the six nights of racing in Het Kuipke will be haunted by the memory of that fateful evening, but the life of Gálvez will be honoured by each cheering fan, each rumble of the boards under the weight of the riders' wheels, and in each clasp of hands as the riders sling their friends and partners into the action.
1 Bruno Risi / Franco Marvulli (Swi) Tartuffe-Labo Van Vooren 2 Iljo Keisse (Bel) / Robert Bartko (Ger) Chocolade Jacques 3 Danny Stam / Robert Slippens (Ned) VDK 4 Petr Lazar / Alois Kankovsky (Cze) Cécémel 5 Bradley Wiggins / Marc Cavendisch (GBr) Mercator 6 Andreas Beikirch / Erik Mohs (Ger) Callant verzekeringen – Q8 7 Dimitri De Fauw / Alexander Aeschbach (Bel/Swi) Mega Doe-Het-Zelf 8 Kenny De Ketele / Marco Villa (Bel/Ita) Capri-Sonne 9 Luke Roberts / Marc Hester (Aus/Den) RDM - JDK 10 Wim Stroetinga / Matthé Pronk (Ned) Geka kaas 11 Steve Schets / Ingmar Depoortere (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 12 Nicky Cocquyt / Steven Deneef (Bel) AVS 13 Tim Mertens / Andreas Muller (Bel/Ger) Passage Fitness First
2006 (no winner declared)