Van Den Bossche and Havik first leaders at ‘t Kuipke

Fabio Van Den Bossche and Yoeri Havik have taken the lead after the first day of the centenary edition of the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent. Retiring Iljo Keisse and his companion Jasper De Buyst can be found in fifth place, on the same lap.

The Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent was officially started at 8:25pm on Tuesday, not with a classic starting shot but with a push on the start button followed by a loud siren. Belgian Federal Minster Vincent Van Peteghem, Flemish Minister Ben Weyts, Ghent Councillor Sofie Bracke and nine-time winner Etienne De Wilde had the honour of officially inaugurating the Ghent Six Days, which celebrates its centenary this year.

Retiring Iljo Keisse and his teammate Jasper De Buyst were seeing which way the wind blows in the first trials, but the same could not be said of the Dutch. Vincent Hoppezak, paired with his compatriot Philip Heijnen this week, pocketed a win in the first points race, World Champion Yoeri Havik then won the second. Havik continued his momentum and, together with his teammate Fabio Van Den Bossche, also won the team elimination after a thrilling final sprint against Robbe Ghys.

New track record

In the ensuing time trial – the track lap with flying start – Ghys and his teammate Lindsay De Vylder gave everyone a run for their money. Ghys, last year’s winner of the Lotto Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent with Kenny De Ketele, launched De Vylder to a winning time of 8.450. That is just 17 thousandths above the 2017 track record set by Moreno De Pauw (and Kenny De Ketele).

Later in the evening, another track record by De Pauw and De Ketele did crumble. Tuur Dens, launched by Jan Willem van Schip, powered to a time of 26.496 in the 500 metres, improving the five-year-old track record by 99 thousandths. Earlier in the evening, Dens had also won the supersprint.

Steels is eliminated

The first madison of the evening was very incident-prone. After a failed switch between Jules Hesters and Tim Torn Teutenberg, Fabio Van Den Bossche and Stijn Steels went down. Unfortunately, this meant an early exit for the latter; Steels was carried off on a stretcher. Luckily, Van Den Bossche was able to continue. Ghys and De Vylder won the first madison and shared the overall lead in the ranking with Van Den Bossche and Havik halfway through the evening.

Iljooo!

The Derny races made the decibel meter in the sold-out Kuipke peak as usual. In the first Derny race, Van Den Bossche sidled up to Hesters and in the end overtook him, but the second Derny race really lifted the roof off the velodrome. Crowd favourite Iljo Keisse advanced from the backfield all the way to first place in the closing laps. “Iljooo, Iljooo, Iljoo!” echoed through the roaring Kuipke. The Emperor of the Kuipke clearly lapped it up.

Philip Heijnen won the scratch in between and then it was time for the second, concluding team race of the evening.

6 teams on the same lap

As the only team, Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright managed to take a lap. They took back the lap they had lost in the first madison. Yoeri Havik and Fabio Van Den Bossche gathered precious points in the final sprint, taking over the lead from Ghys and De Vylder at the last minute. The difference is a mere five points: 69 versus 64.

Hesters/Teutenberg (51 points), Hayter/Wright (37), Keisse/De Buyst (25) and Kluge/Reinhardt (9) are also still on the same lap.