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Iljo Keisse – Putting the Worst Time of His Life Behind Him

"The day that the test result was announced, there were five pages in one paper - but it really didn't say anything. In Belgium we say; 'they took me down to the ground'."

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The cheer from the cabin next door to ours – below the Grenoble velodrome – told us that the result Flanders had been holding its breath for, had arrived. Belgium’s number one six day man, Iljo Keisse’s ‘positif’ in the 2008 Gent six day race has been dismissed on the grounds of ‘insufficient evidence.’

“Cathine was not found in the ‘B’ sample and HCT was there in quantities so small as to have no effect on performance.”

VeloVeritas was granted the first face to face interview with Iljo, after the result was announced.

Keisse's fate is still up in the air too.
Keisse’s fate is still up in the air too.

Iljo, thank you for talking to us, you must be a happy man, today.

“Very happy!”

Grenoble, a special Six for you?

“Yes, it was here I had my first winter Six victory, I won Fiorenzola before Grenoble, but that’s a summer Six.

“Grenoble is a special Six for everyone, the points system here is different to other Sixes, the number of points you get dictates how much money you win, so the smaller races like the scratch and devils are much more important because of this.

“And it’s a 210 metre track but with only 11 teams, that tends to show the difference more between the big teams and the smaller teams.”

Your partner, Gianni Meersman, his first Six.

“Yes, it’s around five years since he last rode the track; he’s been pursuing a road career – first with Discovery and now with Francaise des Jeux.

“But he had good results on the track when he was young. It’s no problem for me to ride with him and teach him about the Sixes; it’s good to have a talented young Belgian rider coming in to ride them – it’s good for the sport.”

Iljo’s on a good day today.

Did you always want to be a pro?

“I had my little bike with race handlebars since I was six years old, cycling has always been the most important thing for me – it’s a family tradition.”

Iljo is only looking forward now.
Iljo is only looking forward now.

Why a Six Day man?

“My father was the manager of the Gent track, I grew up around the track, but at the same time, my father made us look after ourselves; I had to work for the money to buy my first bikes, and I had to search for people to drive me to my races – my father was always working!”

You had a lot of pressure on you as a young rider to fill the gap left by the retirement of Etienne De Wilde?

“When Etienne stopped, it left Matt Gilmore without a partner for the Worlds and the Sixes, the pressure was there for me to help Matt.

“I got my place in the Sixes because of Matt and yes, I was at a level a little too high for me before I was completely ready.”

You must miss riding with Matt?

“Yeah, for sure, he was very important in my career, he taught me everything. Then when it came to the point that I could help him, he had the bad crash which finished his career.

“He did a lot for me but that crash meant that I could never really pay him back. He was like a big brother, or even father to me – ten years older, from a different generation.”

Iljo with Matt Gilmore at the Berlin Six a few years ago.

You had a good kermis season.

“Yes, I had 11 wins, because of my problems this year I could not ride the big races – I missed the track Worlds – and it was difficult to find motivation to train, so four or five times each week, I would ride a kermesse.

“I think some years I have maybe done a little bit too much on the road, but it is part of my preparation for the Six Days.”

You made the podium at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a year or two ago.

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