At the end of an intense Lotto Six Days of Flanders-Ghent two riders sporting a bright blue jersey were beside themselves with joy.
Local heroes Kenny De Ketele and Moreno De Pauw had led the entire event and took their first win as a duo. De Ketele brought his tally up to three, following earlier triumphs with Robert Bartko (2011) and Jasper De Buyst (2014). De Pauw celebrated his first Ghent win.
"From day one we showed we were a force to be reckoned with," a delighted De Pauw said. "We took the lead on the first night and we only had to give it up a couple of times. Our goal was to quickly build up a gap. Every day we managed to defend our spot, although we certainly didn't get any gifts from the other teams. I also managed to shine during the one-lap time trials and broke the track record. That was amazing."
"Maybe this wasn't the most exciting finale every in Ghent but I don't really care," De Ketele added. "We won the Six Days and that's all that matters. There's only six six-day races left on the calendar. This is what we live for. Maybe there should be more couples like us but it's not our fault that we dominated the event. This is our trade. Next year we will come back to defend our victory. The world championships are our next objective. Hopefully we can achieve another goal of ours and become world champions together."
Kenny De Ketele: Six Day Animal
Kenny De Ketele was born in the Flemish town of Oudenaarde on 5 June 1985. After a couple of national U23 titles he made his pro debut in 2007 with Topsport Vlaanderen, the team he's still a part of today under its current guise Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise.
Despite having to compete against another track cycling phenom, Iljo Keisse, De Ketele kept racking up the track cycling titles. With Keisse he won madison gold medals at the 2008 and 2011 European championships and took another gold in the 2009 derny race.
Alongside Swiss veteran Bruno Risi he won his first six-day race in 2009 in Hasselt. After his most recent win in Ghent his tally is up to 14 wins. Three of those wins came in Ghent: in 2011 with Germany's Robert Bartko, in 2014 with Jasper De Buyst and in 2017 with Moreno De Pauw.
De Pauw has been his most recent companion, the pair winning six six-day events in recent years, including two wins in London. With Gijs Van Hoecke De Ketele also won the 2012 madison world championship gold in Melbourne, following a bronze medal in the points race.
In 2017 De Ketele took silver in the points race and bronze in the madison of the world championships in Poland's Pruszkow.
The Lotto Six Days of Flanders-Ghent was another highlight. De Ketele propelled his teammate De Pauw to a new track record: 166 metres in 8.48 seconds at a speed of 71.1462 km/h. Together they also bested the 500-metre record in Ghent with a time of 26.59.
Moreno De Pauw: The fastest man in 't Kuipke
Moreno De Pauw was born on 12 August 1991 in Sint-Niklaas. In the junior categories he collected several titles on the track. At the 2008 junior world championships in Cape Town, he took a silver in the omnium. In 2014 he signed a professional contract with Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, still riding for the Flemish talent programme today.
In 2015 he won his first six-day race alongside Kenny De Ketele, the Six Days of London. The duo repeated their success a year later and took wins in Berlin and Amsterdam for a total of six six-day titles. On Sunday the pair added a victory on home soil in Ghent. In April 2017 they took a madison bronze at the Hong Kong world championships.