Revolution 34: Iijo Keisse talks to Paul Burgoine

Given the fact that we are in the middle of the six day season, I couldn’t pass off the opportunity to have a chat with one of its biggest stars, Iijo Keisse

Link: Revolution 34 Report, Results & Photos

Without any doubt whatsoever, Revolution 34 was the most exciting meeting for years; boasting a top class group of riders headed by newly crowned World Champion Mark Cavendish. From the moment he entered the track he was given a standing ovation by an enthusiastic capacity crowd of 4000 in the Manchester Cycling Centre.  Cavendish seemed happy to be there, riding around with a cheeky grin on his face all the while shyly acknowledging his fans, looking extremely content and relaxed around the hoards of people and press that demanded his attention. The occasional cuddle and embrace from his fiancé Peta Todd seemed to lift Mark’s mood every time.

The first event of the evening was a 24 lap Motor Paced Scratch Race, which saw Cavendish and Belgian Six day rider Iijo Keisse jockeying for position behind the Derny bike (and jokingly head butting each other). After various attempts by riders to slip the field, the race finally came down to a sprint finish won by Steven Burke.

Given the fact that we are in the middle of the six day season, I couldn’t pass off the opportunity to have a chat with one of its biggest stars, Iijo Keisse who hasn’t signed for a team yet and hopes to re-sign with Quickstep. We spoke about last season’s ‘Ghent 6’, and the thrilling conclusion. When he won the 200m time trial, the roof in the velodrome was almost blown off, but this year he is unable to race in Ghent, unfortunately.

Iijo said he was extremely disappointed because it’s his home race and every year is a major goal for him. Missing it is a great pity, and it makes him very sad. He explained that since the 8th of August, he was not allowed to race in Belgium, so if things remained the same, racing in Ghent would not be possible. He did try to get the decision overturned through the Belgium courts but he said this next week would be extremely difficult. He just needs to look forward to next year because, “on January 27th ,this whole three year ordeal should be over”.

He will be free of all the restraints made by the courts and UCI. Iijo is currently looking for a new contract and is very busy with that. Rumours that he was joining Christina Watches are unfounded, and started when he was seen sharing a hotel in Denmark with members of the team. Recently the team announced they had signed a big name, and some Danish journalists assumed it was him, but it turned out to be untrue. Iijo explained that after the Beijing Olympics, he had planned to do more road racing, but the past three years have made this very difficult.

However, he is only 28, so a road career is still possible with some hard work and should not hamper his career on the track.  Iijo said there were no races for him at the Olympics, but it has always been a dream for him to take a World Championship and he has qualified for this in very convincing style by winning the European Madison with his partner Kenny De Ketele. I asked about that race and if it went the way the pair had planned it: Iijo said it was a fantastic race, but it did not go completely as they wanted.

They did, however, manage to pick up some early points as planned. They were unable to get the early lap. They tried again with about 40 to go but failed so on the next change he told Kenny to get to the back and he gave it one more go.  Kenny was very tired at this stage, but when he saw how well Iijo was doing it gave him more strength.  Iijo thinks that De Ketele could win Ghent this year especially riding with Iijo’s own favourite rider Robert Bartko.  It was great to have a chat with probably the best Six Day rider around at present, and I hope all things work out for him next season.

There was so much happening at this meeting it was hard to know where to look or who to chat to. The team elimination event was another thrilling race with the final coming down to a battle between the Rapha team and Keisse in the sprint.  Keisse crossed the line with one of his trade mark wheelies only to be piped on the line by Andy Tennent. Next up was the popular Australian pursuit where eight riders start at different stations around the track and have to catch the rider in front – this was dominated by Peter Kennaugh catching the whole field in emphatic style.

After that was a special presentation to celebrate the retirement of Rob Hayles. All the riders formed an avenue with their bikes on the back wheels and spinning the front wheel while Rod rode a lap of honour and passed through the guard of honour to reach Hugh Porter. It was quite a touching moment with Hugh chatting about Rob’s career in the company of Mark Cavendish.

Mark was very humble and modest when the conversation turned to him and he immediately put the focus back on Rob although when asked how he felt about being World Champion he replied, “It’s alright” accompanied with a big grin.  Rob praised and thanked his family for all the support over the years and apologised for not being there for his wife on her swim across the channel as he was in Copenhagen watching Cavendish win the Worlds but he felt he wouldn’t have not been much use on the small fishing boat that accompanied her (seasick).  Hugh asked Rob what was next to which he replied, “I want your job Hugh”.

The final endurance race on the card was the 15km scratch race and the noise level inside the velodrome reached fever pitch, as first Alex Dowsett made a lone break and was joined by Geraint Thomas and eventually by the whole bunch with eight laps remaining Ed Clancy made a break but was dragged back by Iijo Keisse and it was left to Andy Fenn to set up World Champion Cavendish for the win and as in Ghent last year the roof was almost lifted off the Manchester Velodrome.

There was almost too many things to write about on this evening of cycling but one thing’s for sure, this was an outstanding event that I hope,’ Face Partnership’ and ‘Revolution UK’ can repeat on a regular basis. Although the racing was top draw, the whole night had a party atmosphere about it and felt like a celebration of all that is good about our sport.

Don’t miss the highlights on ITV4 at 7pm 23rd November

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