With six nights and over a thousand kilometres to race against 11 other pairs, it will be a tough ask for the Brits to win. Belgian track superstar Iljo Keisse has partnered with Viviani, and he looks in fine form. A natural showman, Keisse is a much–loved local boy whose dad owns a pub within spitting distance of the velodrome. During the madison he takes a crucial lap of the field with just two to go, wheelies across the line, coasts past the field and then takes the final sprint for good measure. By the end of the night, his beaming mother has enough flower bouquets to decorate a wedding reception.
The sense of theatre continues as the lights dim and the Ride of the Valkyries crowns the arrival of the derny bikes. Wiggins rides away from the field, but then gesticulates wildly to his oblivious driver to go faster. In the confusion, Kenny De Ketele catches and pips him on the line, leaving Wiggins shaking his fist. Was it a little pre-arranged drama befitting six day racing’s reputation for jiggery-pokery? Regardless, the jeering Belgian crowd plays its role in the pantomime. By the end of the night, Wiggins and Cavendish have moved from 3rd to 2nd position overall behind Keisse and Viviani. It’s been a good first two days.
When the racing does end on Sunday, the two won’t even be able to celebrate together – Cavendish has to drive straight home to swap suitcases and hop on a flight to his Dimension Data team training camp in South Africa. Wiggins has his own team to think about, with new riders, new ideas and what to achieve next in the sport he loves, over a few Belgian brews of course: “I’ve got into one called Omer; a really nice beer. I’ll be taking a load home in the car, too.