Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeInterviewsKenny De Ketele - "Now the young guys just push me out...

Kenny De Ketele – “Now the young guys just push me out of the way!”

"I’m not comparing myself to Bruno Risi but I think I can say safely say that I’ve been the most successful rider on the boards for the last few years – but there’s so much less respect."


Third in London with Moreno De Pauw; winner in Gent again with De Pauw; encore in Rotterdam with De Pauw; the win in Bremen with Home Boy, Theo Reinhardt; second in Berlin with De Pauw and looking well on the way to the top of the podium here in Copenhagen with Michael Mørkøv – it can only be Topsport and Belgium’s Mr. Kenny De Ketele.

The undisputed current King of the Six Day Boards took time to chat to VeloVeritas, between races here in the city with the mermaid.

Kenny De Ketele

Tell us a little about Kenny De Ketele, the man.

“I’m from Oudenaarde and have a daughter from my marriage but I’m divorced for four years now and have been with my girlfriend that length of time – almost like being married I think?”

What about when you’re not ripping round the boards?

“I have too much to do!

“I coach the National Junior Team from May until the end of August but outside of cycling I enjoy watching football.

“I support Gent but find myself going more to Anderlecht games, Tino my soigneur works as a masseur with the team so it’s easy for him to get tickets at short notice.”

Do you remember your first bike race?


“It was an omnium for kids at the Kuipke track in Gent, 1999 – there were too many entries so they had a 500 metre time trial to select who could ride.

“I wasn’t fast enough- so that was that!”

Kenny De Ketele
Photo©Ed Hood

You started in the days of Bruno Risi, the Sixes have slipped since so much since then – why?

“A question I get asked a lot!

“The world economic crisis didn’t help – the last thing there was money for was Six Days.

“The German doping scandals was another reason; so many German race disappeared including the most famous of all – Munich.

“But fortunately we still have Bremen and Berlin.

“And there’s a big change in mentality; when I started the young riders like me were scared to upset the big riders like Bruno and Marco Villa.

“Now the young guys just push me out of the way!

“I’m not comparing myself to Bruno but I think I can say safely say that I’ve been the most successful rider on the boards for the last few years – but there’s so much less respect.

“I also think that the young riders are much less conscious of their responsibility to entertain the public.

“I fully approve of hard, fair racing – but big gear negative chases where everyone is marking and no laps are taken are not what the crowd wants to watch.”

Gears; here in Copenhagen you’re restricted to 51 x 15, what’s your opinion on that?

“I don’t mind it, if you’re a good rider then you should be able to cope with it.

“It’s also much healthier on the body, big gears take a lot out of you, especially in the last few days of a Six.

“I also think it makes for better racing; on the big gears you can ‘surge’ and close a gap quickly but you can’t do that on a smaller gear – it makes for better racing to watch.”

Kenny De Ketele
Photo©Ed Hood

How do you cope with the jump from Six Day to World Cup gears, which are much higher, 100” plus.

“It’s not so much trouble for me because I train on the big gears and I’ve ridden the road enough to have built a good engine to handle the big ratios.”

How did you prepare for London, the first Six Day?

“I have a rest in the summer then start my build up after the Belgian Elite Road Race Championships with the European Championships as my first goal then from there straight into the Six Days and World Cup series.”

I’m guessing Gent will be your favourite race – why does it retain it’s popularity when many Sixes struggle to fill the seats?

“I think a big reason is that the public can get so close to the riders; in the track centre the people can talk to the riders over the fence – in many Six Days the centre is just for the V.i.P’s

“Also the stands are right beside the track so the public’s relationship with the riders is close and special.

“If you look here, in Copenhagen the track is so big and wide, the public can’t really get up close to the riders.”

Kenny De Ketele
Kenny and Michael exchange. Photo©Ed Hood

After Gent, which is your favourite race?

“Rotterdam, we have a special bond with the sponsors – it took me few years to win there but I was something I always wanted to do.

“The public speak the same language which is nice and I just like to ride there.

“I hope we can win here in Copenhagen, it’s the only one of the current races which I haven’t won.

“I would love to have won in Munich but I wasn’t at the level to be capable of doing that before the race finished up.”

You and Moreno have become a formidable pair.

“It’s just a natural bond we have, that’s four years we’ve been roommates and raced together – I chose Moreno as my partner for the first London Six Day and it was a good decision!”

What’s it like riding with Michael Mørkøv?

“We’ve connected well, we’re the same kind of rider, he has more speed than me but like I say we’re a very similar kind of rider in that we like to attack, to dominate rather than follow.

“I’m understanding now how important the number seven tricot is in terms of history – it’s an honour to wear it.

“The public here were pretty ambivalent about me in years gone past but this year because I wear number seven they have embraced me much more.”

Kenny De Ketele
Photo©Ed Hood

Do you have a coach?

“No, I do my own thing.

“After Copenhagen I go to Portugal to prepare for the Worlds, riding on the road and track.

“I hope to ride the Madison, points and team pursuit.

“We’re starting to get somewhere with the team pursuit, we’ve twice dipped under four minutes in the last year.

“We’ve broken the national record something like 10 or 15 times, I’ve lost count but I’ve been in the team every time we’ve done it.

“The objective is to qualify for the Olympics.

“I’ll have a rest after the Worlds but haven’t decided how long I’ll take.”

What’s still ‘to do’ for Kenny De Ketele?

“As a rider I’d like to ride the Olympic Madison and team pursuit.

“After my racing career is over I would like to remain in cycling as a coach, helping the young guys avoid the mistakes I’ve made and the struggles I’ve gone through.”

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a 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 for some of the world's top riders. 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

Grenoble Six Day 2006 – Third Night and Franco Marvulli is stressed

Sometimes, you wonder why you are doing this - OK, it's great being around guys like Franco Marvulli and having an insight into the inner-sanctum, but it's hard work, often boring and stressed guys aren't fun to be around.

Grenoble Four Day 2012, Day Two: Folies and Crashes Galore

The trouble here at the Grenoble Four Day 2012 is that when folks see you with a camera and hear you write for a website, you've had it. I spent a chunk of the afternoon taking pictures of Gunther, one of Iljo Keisse's soigneurs. He's back on the bike as a 'master' and has the track bike down here with him, he trains on the boards in the afternoon and actually looks good on the bike.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Familientag

Sundays at German Sixes are and have always been 'family day' (Familientag) when the programme of sport and entertainment is held during the afternoon rather than in the evening or night. On a cold wind-chilled winter afternoon, local families came along to the Landsberger Allee Velodrome to enjoy the racing and pass on the tradition from one generation to the next.

Peter Traynor – The Man Behind the Madison Music

If you ever decide to promote a Six Day race there's a check list you'll have to go through. Start with a short steep indoor track; the best riders you can afford; food and drink concessions; a cool light show; a good 'speaker'; maybe some live acts-but one of your key ingredients will be music. Enter Peter Traynor, originally from the Wirral Peninsula across the Mersey River from Liverpool - the city that gave us the Beatles and the 'Mersey Sound'.

Luke Roberts – Former World, Commonwealth and Olympic Champion Winds Down

Two decades, twenty years, it's a long time - especially to ride a bike at world level. But it was 1994 when Australia's Luke Roberts won his first world title in the junior team pursuit. The following year he twinned another victory in the team event with the world junior individual championship for good measure. Two Commonwealth, three world and an Olympic team pursuit title followed. He's ridden Pro Tour with CSC, Milram, Saxo, the Grand Tours, Classics and just about everything there is to ride - including the Six Days.

Copenhagen Six Day 2012 – Day Three

Danny Clark; in a world where the word ‘legend’ is used too often, it’s wholly appropriate in the case of the Australian. He holds the record for the number of six day starts at 236 and he’s second in the all time winner ranks with 74 — unsurprisingly he’s ‘double Recordman’ here at the Copenhagen Six Day with eight wins off 21 starts.

At Random

Under-23 Het Volk 2007

Continental TV may be dire, but there's a good choice of radio stations; Percy Sledge is telling us about "When a man loves a woman", as we jump back into the VW after paying homage at the Karl Buyse monument in sleepy Wontergem, heading for the Under-23 Het Volk 2007. Buyse was a son of the Flanders sod who won the Tour de France in 1926. A long time ago maybe, but not forgotten here in the heartland.

The VV View: It’s Easy to Join ‘the Black List’

The Black List... It's been a good week if you read the Guardian's cycling coverage and like a rant. 'I'm better than Armstrong now,' says Wiggins - reads the headline; of all the bike riders in the world that one should not make that statement about, Lance Armstrong is the absolute top of the list.

Kasper Keeps Cool in Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2020

I love the drive from Gent up to Kuurne for the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classic... staring out of the car window at the fields, the canals, tree-lined avenues, the steeples, tiny concrete roads that would be great to explore on the bike. There was a little rain on the way up but by the time we got to Kuurne it was a mild, sunny morning; ideal for wandering down the main drag where the busses line up and checking out 2020’s new hardware.

Scottish Riders in Le Tour de France

With le Grande Boucle set to depart on Saturday June 26th from Brittany – which shares Celtic culture with Scotland - we thought we should have a look at the Scottish riders who have participated in the biggest race on the planet, over the years.

Scottish 10 Mile Time Trial Championship 2009

Scottish 10 Mile Time Trial Championship 2009 - Scottish time trialling came within ten seconds of a major upset on the wind swept tarmac of the A77 near Newton Mearns on Saturday morning as 45 year-old Peter Ettles (Forres) thrashed his 104" fixed gear to within that many seconds of defending 10 mile champion and current short distance king, Arthur Doyle (Dooleys).

Tyler Hamilton – Victim or Villain?

This interview was first published in December 2009, but in light of current events, we thought it would be interesting to re-read it and compare it's contents with what's in Tyler's book 'The Secret Race'... Now that the initial furore has died down following the shocking news of Tyler Hamilton's positive doping test, VeloVeritas thought we should hear what the man himself has to say. It took us a long time and a lot of patience, but eventually he came back to us with the answers to our questions.