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The Belgians are back – two-time champions out for an unlikely hat-trick

04 October 2017

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Two-time champions Kenny de Ketele and Moreno de Pauw will be back to defend their title at Six Day London this month – but the Belgians insist this year they will be the underdogs.

De Ketele – the elder half of the all-conquering duo – sustained a fractured hip when riding a kermesse in Belgium last month, but is already back on the bike and targeting success in London.

With teammate de Pauw they have dominated Six Day racing around Europe since they paired up in London two years ago.

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They have gone on to win Six Day Berlin in 2016, defend their London title last year, win in Amsterdam, finish second in both Berlin and Copenhagen, and win the Six Day Series Final in Mallorca, in March.

But despite their success throughout Europe, London will forever hold a place in the Belgians’ heart.

“We’re very excited to be back in London, I really like the track,” said the 32-year-old.

“I did the Games in London and I always think about it when we walk into the venue or see the hotel – you pass the Olympic village and it brings back so many memories.

“Then the last two years London has been really special for me and Moreno. It’s where we first started as a team, it’s where it all began for us in the Madison.

“Then last year I don’t know how, but we did it again.

“I wonder how the public will react to us now. I think they will probably start to know us and maybe we can hopefully expect some cheering as well.”

De Ketele admits his hip injury may mean that the duo are not on top form for London, but he is still not ruling out a podium position.

“I’m quite confident that I will have some kind of base fitness level, and normally with me my recovery goes fast,” he added.

“It will be a different approach from the other years, so we’ll see.

“I expect that [Mark] Cavendish and [Pete] Kennaugh will be the top favourites now. Normally I would put me and Moreno next to them, but I think we are more like underdogs now and for sure the Aussies will be strong too.

“I hope that they get the story right and know I’m not in perfect shape, so that they battle each other and maybe at the end of the week we can take advantage of that – it could be interesting.”

Even in his dizzy heights of Six Day London champion, de Pauw still gets the feeling of playing with the big boys when he comes to the track.

That was none more so than the sheer experience of racing against Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins last year, though he is more than aware there are plenty of teams away from Britain that have to be watched out for.

But as he keeps his fingers crossed at his compadre’s health-status, de Pauw cannot wait to hear the roar of the crowd all over again – with the perfect hat-trick almost tantalisingly close.

“Beating Cav and Wiggo was great, they are examples for us and are the big names. It’s special racing with them so to beat them meant a lot,” he said.

“They started on the track, chose to go to the road and then came back, but showed what they can do with both which is really impressive. They really appreciate track cycling and having them race is good for us, the fans enjoy it more.

“We’ve won two years in a row, to get that third would be very special – I hope Kenny can be 100 per cent.

“We want to be there for the crowd, they are an amazing group and they really know a lot about cycling and track cycling in general – they cheer for everybody and after winning the first time they know about us.

“In the old days there were a lot of Six Days, but now everybody wants to win wherever they go so there is a lot of top competition in the week, that makes it really special when you win.

“The pressure comes with us, people start to know us and the riders do too – they won’t be giving us the lap anymore! They look after us, that was hard in the beginning but we managed to live with it and change the tactics to become used to it.”

Tickets for all six days of Six Day London are still available here

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