Iljo Keisse and Elia Viviani – who rode under the Deceuninck – Quick-Step Team banner this week – won the 78th Six Days of Gent, an edition which came down to the wire, with three pairs fighting for the trophy until the last lap.
Despite slipping to second overall on the penultimate night, Keisse and Viviani’s hopes weren’t deterred by this blow, which motivated them even more on the six day, when they made their appearance in the legendary Kuipke Velodrome. A spectacular victory in the team elimination race brought by Viviani served as a huge boost of confidence for the duo, who leapfrogged their rivals in the general classification.
With three races to go, the leaders changed again, but Keisse had something to say about that and powered to an emphatic victory in the scratch, which ensured them a six-point advantage ahead of the final Madison. There, the rival teams tried to put the Deceuninck – Quick-Step pair under pressure, firing attack after attack, but their actions were to no avail, as Keisse and Viviani covered every single one of these moves and kept things together until halfway through the race, when Robbie Ghys and Kenny De Ketele finally escaped from their clutches and managed to take a lap.
A response from the team came just a few minutes later, prompting a new offensive from their closest opponents, who once again took command of the competition and even looked to be on the verge of going home with the title. A short armistice followed shortly, before Keisse went like a rocket and gained a lap which put the Deceuninck – Quick-Step Team back in the driving seat.
The home favourite and Viviani grabbed as many points as possible at the intermediate sprints, in order to extend their buffer, and tracked down a fresh series of attacks, thus dealing a significant psychological blow to the other teams, who found it impossible to turn things into their favour. Eventually, the race concluded with Iljo and Elia celebrating a hard-fought and memorable triumph.
“Gent is the most beautiful six-day race in the world! Ask every rider and you’ll get the same response, they all love the public and the incredible atmosphere”, said Keisse after his seventh victory in 15 participations. “It’s been three years since my previous win and I was super motivated to get the job done together with the amazing rider that Elia is. We gave everything day after day and to be rewarded with the trophy and the fans’ applause and cheers makes us very happy and proud.”
For Viviani, Sunday’s victory capped off a truly remarkable year in which he won no less that 18 road races (including seven Grand Tour stages and the National Title) and the European Team Pursuit Championships.
“I fell in love with this superb race and the fantastic atmosphere ever since my first participation, a few years ago. This victory, which I’m glad I could claim together with such a six-day racing legend as Iljo, comes after an amazing season for me and it’s something I will always remember”, said the first Italian in 18 years to win the Six Days of Gent.