Sunday, October 17, 2021
HomeInterviewsKenny De Ketele, World Madison Champ - "Track racing is my passion"

Kenny De Ketele, World Madison Champ – “Track racing is my passion”

-

Kenny De Ketele
World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele.

Just before his dominant performance in the Four Days of Grenoble finale with Iljo Keisse, World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele took time to talk to VeloVeritas.

De Ketele has been around the track scene for a long time, always there and knocking on the door.

But it was the winter of 2011/12 when the man from Oudenaarde finally arrived.

The European Madison Championship went his in the autumn when he paired with QuickStep star Iljo Keisse; the Ghent Six fell to him in November, this time paired with Germany’s ‘Potsdam Bear,’ Robert Bartko – with the jewel in the crown coming when De Ketele paired with youngster Gils Van Hoecke to pull on the rainbow jerseys in the World Madison Championship in Melbourne in the spring.

His first results of note came back in 2003 with second in the European Junior Points Championship – behind Dutch flyer Wim Stroetinga – and second in the Junior Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

The following season he was on top of the European podium – winning the U23 Madison with a certain Iljo Keisse.

That year he also part realised a dream – winning the UiV U23 race at the Gent Six Day with Steve Schets.

For 2005 the top spot of the European U23 Madison podium was to be denied De Ketele and Schets by a team that’s now one of the very best – Michael Mørkøv and Alex Rasmussen of Denmark, with the Belgians taking home silver.

But the Flandrians did take the Munich UiV race.

A year later and the Belgians were crowned European U23 Madison Champions.

In 2007 De Ketele became European U23 points champion – endorsing the versatility which has seen him win Belgian titles in the pursuit, team pursuit, scratch, kilometre, points, omnium, madison and omnium.

Kenny De Ketele
Kenny with partner Mertens at the Copenhagen Six earlier this year.

The Olympics saw him just miss a medal – finishing in fourth spot with Keisse behind the Argentinean duo of Curuchet and Perez, who produced a surprise but dogged win in the madison.

But the Belgians did take an Elite European Madison title.

A win in the Hasselt Six Day and European Derny Championships were the highlights of 2009.

It was a change of partners for the 2010 European Madison – where he took silver with Tim Mertens.

Last winter saw him re-take the European Madison title with Keisse, then his win at Gent which set things up nicely for the win of his life in April 2012 in Melbourne.

Kenny De Ketele
Kenny celebrates victory in the Grenoble Four Days with partner Iljo Keisse.

Has becoming world champion changed your life, Kenny?

“Yes, in a positive way I think I’ve become more confident, less modest.

“I think I can deal with the ‘stuff’ that goes on around cycling much better, now. Maybe I’m a little bit harder – and it’s easier to get contracts with a rainbow jersey!”

How was your road season, Kenny?

“My road season was designed to prepare for the Olympics, where I rode in the team pursuit.

“I rode the Tours of Norway, Luxembourg and Slovenia before London – and then after the Olympics, I didn’t get a lot of rest with three stage races in Italy.

“But then I broke my hand and had to take two weeks off the bike.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason and I needed the physical and mental rest.

“Maybe it set me back a little and I’m not at quite as high a level as I’d like but I think that preparing for the World Cup in Glasgow will see me reach the level I want for the Ghent Six.”

Isn’t it difficult to find your track legs after a long road season?

“It’s not a big problem; I always ride lower gears than most on the road so I don’t find the transition too hard.

“The positions on my track and road bikes are very similar now too.

“The track bike is just a little bit lower than my road bike – but higher than it used to be with the bigger gears we ride these days.

“When I started riding in the Six Days, we rode 52 x 16, really spun the gear – but in the Berlin Six I was riding 51 x 15, which used to be my World Championship gearing.

How’s your Six Day programme looking, this year?

“I ride in Zürich after Ghent then for the month of December I’m in Australia – riding criteriums, the Aussie Open Madison Champs and the Tassie carnivals over Xmas.

“I’ll ride Rotterdam and Berlin – but not Bremen, we have a team training camp.

“Copenhagen is out too, due to road commitments.”

You didn’t defend your European Madison crown, this year?

“It wasn’t possible; last year it was because the championships were in Apeldoorn, not so far from Amsterdam – we went directly from the Six Day and won!

“Whoever set the track calendar needs to have a think about what they are doing; there are not so many track races but we had the Cali World Cup, Amsterdam Six Day and European Track Champs all within 10 days of each other.”

You’ll want to be in your best shape to defend your title in Ghent?

“It’s coming together; I had really good legs in Amsterdam which boosted my confidence after the time off through breaking my hand.

“I trained with the Belgian Team Pursuit squad for the Cali World Cup and from past experience I know that team pursuit training is good for my Six Day form.

“I have more team pursuit training for the Glasgow World Cup – I’ll combine that with some endurance work and I’ll be in good shape for Ghent.”

Kenny De Ketele
Kenny looked sharp at Ghent last November, and proved to be the strongest.

Grenoble is much different from the other Six Days – what do you think of it?

“I enjoy it – I like racing here; the system is good with the primes for the points you win.

“If you combine the racing with road training during the day, it’s good for your fitness – and you can make some money!”

The Worlds must be a big objective, again?

“Of course – they’re very early, this year – 20th to 24th February, in Belarus.

“I’ll take a rest after the Worlds and start back racing in late April or early May – I don’t like training in the shitty weather!”

How is your Worlds and Ghent partner, Gils Van Hoecke keeping in shape?

“He’s in Spain, training with the National Track Team, there are five of them – they’ll be doing endurance and interval work.

“We’ll get back together when we prepare for the Glasgow World Cup team pursuit.”

Kenny De Ketele
Kenny and Gils take ownership of their Rainbow Jerseys. Photo©VeloNews/Casey Gibson.

How is your 2013 road programme looking?

“It will be similar to 2012 – Norway, Slovenia; then try to peak for the Belgian Elite Road Nationals.

“The course is for Gilbert – but you never know…

“After that we have the Lombardy Week in Italy and the Tour of Burgos, in Spain.”

Have you ever considered a 100% road programme?

“I have thought about it, but at this point I couldn’t.

“Track racing is my passion – the Six Days are in my heart, I love them.”

What about going the other way – a privately sponsored track rider, like Marvulli, Aeschbach or Müller?

“I like to be part of a team and besides, it would be hard to get that kind of sponsorship in Belgium – if people are putting money in then they want a team, not just a single rider.”

Kenny De Ketele
He’s got the rainbow jersey of World Champion, but it’s not enough.

What’s still left to win?

“An Olympic medal – they’re the hardest to win.

“I’ve been Regional, National, European and World Champion – I want an Olympic medal.

“You have to have new challenges – Rio is a long way away, but I’ll set myself goals along the way to keep my motivation.”

Lance?

“To be honest, I don’t follow the story so closely, I don’t give a shit.

“I do my stuff and know what I have to do to do – I have nothing to do with taking anything I shouldn’t. I think the sport is much purer, now – but there will always be cheaters who are prepared to take the risks.

“As for Armstrong – the teams in that era were all fighting with the same weapons and it’s too late to do anything about that, now.”

Kenny De Ketele
The strong men in action at Grenoble last weekend, Iljo Keisse and Kenny go for the double lap.

Tell us about your ride up l’Alpe d’Huez.

“This is my third ride in Grenoble and the city is so close to the Alps.

“When I rode it before with Tim Mertens, we thought about going to l’Alpe, but we hesitated.

“But now, I’m more confident and decided I wanted to do it – then I mentioned it to my soigneur and he was really keen; ‘yeah, let’s do it!’

“I’ve never climbed one of the legendary mountains before – so I can tick that off my list.

“It was good training too – but my legs hurt a little, that night!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Then and Now – Wembley 1980 and London Six Day 2015, According to Top Soigneur Kris Tolmie

Prior to the recent ‘five plus one’ it’s 35 years since a Six Day string made the London boards hum – albeit different times, riders and venue. We thought it would be interesting to fire a few questions at a man who’s worked both races; 1980 AND 2015 – VeloVeritas’s ‘man on the inside’ and over the years soigneur to some of the biggest names in Six Day bike racing; Kris Tolmie.

Grenoble Six Day 2009 – Day Three; Sprinters

Them sprinters are big guys-I passed them in the tunnel tonight, they looked cool, cocky, stylish. The public here love the sprinters; at intro time, they actually get their big build up from Daniel Mangeas after the Six Day riders. Bauge did a standstill for more than half-an-hour, in Gent there would be bricks getting lobbed at him, but in Grenoble-they love it.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Day Three

'Just Another Tequila Sunrise,' it's ironic that the covers band who kick off as soon as the racing finishes at gone 01:00AM aren't half bad - but it's time for me to disappear down the tunnel to hang up the washing etc. etc.

A Pictorial Look Back at the Berlin Six Day 2014

Watched by 75,000 spectators over the course of the event in the velodrome Landsberger Allee, Andreas Müller and Kenny de Ketele won the 103rd edition of the Berlin Six Day. On the last day and the last race they overtook the long-time leaders Leif Lampater and Jasper de Buyst with a race winning attack - exciting stuff. Third place went to Robert Bartko, which was his last time in Berlin at the Six with his young partner Theo Reinhardt.

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 – Day 1

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007. Kris picked me up at Dusseldorf Weeze airport at tea time yesterday (Wednesday), it's actually only about two kilometres from Holland so it wasn't long before we found a frites stand. Hasselt is in the Limburg region of Belgium, Flemish speaking and with a population of about 70,000. The local tourist office brochure tries hard to talk the town up but there's not much to say - a nice-enough place though.

Amsterdam Six Day 2014 – Part Two; a Race and Rider Review

Kris maybe summed it up best; 'it felt like a Monday night at any another Six Day.' There was none of the tension or expectation which usually precedes the final chase in a Six. Granted, we weren't looking after riders who were in the mix for the win but it was indeed, 'just another chase.' Maybe it was because it was clear from the start that Terpstra was the strongest man on the track and there was only going to be one winner.

At Random

Le Tour de France 2016 – Les Chiffres (the Numbers)

I know, I said I’d penned my last Tour piece for the year but I was in the area, there was a parking space and I thought; ‘I’ll have a quick look’ – and to my joy there it was, Monday’s L’Équipe in pride of place outside the International Newsagents. A sad 40 minutes in the City Cafe ensued as I distilled les chiffres (that’s numbers) you need to make you the font of all knowledge on the club run.

Mark Stewart – “The GB Academy is pretty intense”

It’s wee while since top Scottish trackman, Mark Stewart featured in our pages but he was home recently from GB squad duties and his base in ‘la Bella Italia’ for his brother’s wedding and has been taking in a few local time trials in preparation for next Thursday’s British Cycling Time Trial Championships at Stockton-on-Tees. We thought we best ‘have a word’ before he’s off around Europe, again.

Fabian Cancellara Again

All of the tension has finally left the peloton as they’ve finally started the race. Haha!! Or more accurately, the early tension of anticipation has been replaced by the tension to gain time/hold place/maintain position/get in the break/follow the right wheel/avoid the crashes/etc etc etc! Fabian Cancellara did what he does so well.

A Preview of the 101st Berlin Six Day 2012

The Berlin Six Day reached a golden milestone last January with its 100th edition, and the annual festivities will return to the German Capital for the 101st Berlin Six Day 2012 on Thursday.

Rotterdam Six Day 2020 Finale

Ed parachuted in to the Rotterdam Six Day 2020 on Tuesday afternoon to help Kris break camp and load the camper in anticipation of driving up to Bremen and the Six Day which started there on Thursday evening. When you wander up the tunnel stairs and into the track centre at Rotterdam with the u23’s hurtling round, the lights blazing and the PA pumping it’s still damn cool...

Matthias Barnet – British Under 16 Criterium Champion 2014

Le Tour, The Commonwealth Games, The Tam Gordon interview – there’s just been so much going on at VeloVeritas recently that we must have missed something? Ah yes, of course, Edinburgh Road Club’s Matthias Barnet winning the British Under 16 Criterium Championship on the technical Hog Hill circuit at Redbridge, London in July, for one thing.