Ghys and De Vylder win centenary edition, Keisse ends his career with a spot on the podium

Robbe Ghys and Lindsay De Vylder have won the centenary edition of the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent. After a thrilling finale, they took care of Fabio Van Den Bossche and Yoeri Havik. Jasper De Buyst and retiring Iljo Keisse finished third.

Fabio Van Den Bossche and Yoeri Havik started the final day with a one-lap lead over Lindsay De Vylder/Robbe Ghys, Jules Hesters/Tim Torn Teutenberg and Iljo Keisse/Jasper De Buyst. The sixth and last day began with two points races, which were a triumph for the Vincent Hoppezak/Philip Heijnen team. Heijnen won the first, Hoppezak the second.

The first important battle in the fight for the overall victory was won in the 500-metre time trial. By finishing third, Robbe Ghys and Lindsay De Vylder gathered enough points to round the 300-point mark, which earned them a bonus lap. It allowed them to leapfrog Yoeri Havik and Fabio Van Den Bossche into first place. Jan-Willem van Schip and Tuur ‘Tuurminator’ Dens won the time trial.

Honours for retiring Keisse

The Derny races created a ‘Ghent Festival’ atmosphere in the Kuipke. In the first series, Ghent rider Jules Hesters gave everyone the slip and in the second Iljo Keisse, also from Ghent, put the finishing touches to it. In between the Derny series, Fred Wright won the Supersprint. Keisse, the retiring Emperor of the Kuipke, received the flowers for his Derny victory from the hands of his father Ronie.

Moments later, Keisse was in the spotlight again. Teammate Jasper De Buyst and the other Six Day riders formed a guard of honour for their retiring colleague. Iljo’s wife and two sons were also waiting for him. “This place is so special to me,” Keisse addressed the packed Kuipke. “Everything started here. 30 years ago, I sat here behind the railing dreaming of becoming a track rider. It took a long time to get there. (…) The public has always given me a lot and I have always tried my best to give a lot back. I want to thank you all.”

Suspense in final Madison

After this beautiful and emotional tribute, it was back to the sporting battle. Before the all-decisive final test of the centenary edition of the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent – the Madison – the programme featured two more events: the team elimination was won by Jules Hesters and Tim Torn Teutenberg, and in the track lap there was no limit on Lindsay De Vylder again.

De Vylder and Ghys went into the Madison as leaders with 324 points. Van Den Bossche and Havik were the only team still on the same lap, but must have been disappointed with their 297 points, 3 points short of grabbing a bonus lap. After all, no more bonus laps get awarded in the final Madison for exceeding a ‘hundred-point mark’. Hesters/Teutenberg and Keisse/De Buyst went into the Madison one lap behind and were therefore still in the running for the overall win.

Hesters/Teutenberg immediately took a winning lap, but the competition did the same moments later. The crowd at the Kuipke went wild when Keisse and De Buyst looked to be on their way to the overall win about 10 minutes from the end, but that was just the prelude to an unlikely thriller. Van Den Bossche and Havik took over and were close to a victory lap that would catapult them into first place, but with a furious counterattack, Ghys and De Vylder finally put the finishing touches to the race.

Third time Ghys, first time De Vylder

Ghys and De Vylder finished with 356 points. On the same lap, Van Den Bossche and Havik finished second with 337 points. Keisse and De Buyst stranded in third place, also on the same lap, with 181 points. Hesters/Teutenberg (253 points + 1r) and Hoppezak/Heijnen (250 points + 8r) completed the top five. This is already the third victory for Robbe Ghys in the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent, for De Vylder it is the first triumph.