Sunday turned out to be an intense, emotional and adrenaline-filled day for Iljo Keisse, who made his final outing at the competition he loved heart and soul ever since discovering it as a small kid, three decades ago. The man who, since turning pro, has become synonymous with the prestigious event, winning it seven times and finishing it on the podium on six other occasions, went out with a bang in front of his family and the hundreds of supporters who couldn’t conceive not being present and showing their support for Iljo one more time.
“The King of ‘t Kuipke”, whose glistening career on the track includes four European titles and 28 triumphs in six-day races, bowed out in spectacular fashion, winning his very last individual race – the Derny – before receiving a guard of honor from the rest of the Gent competitors.
This set up the scene for Iljo’s final triumph at the competition which this year celebrated a century since its inception, a resounding victory that came in the very last outing of the evening, the Madison. Together with teammate Jasper De Buyst, Keisse lapped the rest of the teams in astounding fashion and retained that advantage, taking a vital win that not only sent the fans into delirium, but also vaulted the duo onto the overall podium.
“I don’t know where to start… Everything began here. I was dreaming of riding the Six Days as a little kid, while sitting here and watching the riders from the stands”, a visibly emotional Iljo said after the finish. “I came a long way, and then, in 2005 I won it for the first time. That was a dream that came true, a really magnificent moment. Since then, everything came faster and faster, and I enjoyed every single moment of winning Six Day races. I got so much from the amazing public and, at the same time, I tried to give back a lot. It was an unbelievable journey and I am grateful for everything. I want to thank everybody: my wife, children and my family, Patrick, and all the people who always stood close to me. Thank you all for your support!”